(MarketWatch)– Vodafone Group PLC (VOD.LN) said on Tuesday that it plans to launch a new drone-tracking and control technology in 2019, to monitor the flights of drones and if necessary take control of the unmanned aircraft to prevent criminal activity.
The U.K. telecommunications company said it has started trials of a radio-positioning system it has developed for drones, using 4G modems and SIMs built into each aircraft. The company said the technology is a world-first aimed at preventing criminal incursions at sensitive locations such as airports and prisons.
The technology allows real-time tracking of each drone with an accuracy of up to 50 meters. It also provides authorities with the means of overriding a drone operator’s control of the aircraft to alter its flight path or force it to land, the company said. Users of the technology can also identify the owners of the aircraft using SIM-based registration, Vodafone said.
The company said it tested the technology near Seville, Spain, and further trials are being scheduled in Spain and Germany for this year, which will be coordinated with the relevant authorities, Vodafone said.
Commercial civilian drones are too small to be tracked by conventional radar and present a serious risk to pilots worldwide, the company said. Security and intelligence services are increasingly concerned about terrorists using drones to attack targeted locations, it said. Vodafone added that it has collaborated with the European Aviation Safety Agency, which is currently developing new regulations for drones.