Eye in the Sky: the General Range of the DJI AeroScope Sensor

Aerial Armor

As more and more drone technology comes to market, the skies have become an increasingly busy place. As of 2021, there are nearly 500,000 registered "hobby" drones in the US, and 376,000 commercial drones. Keeping low-altitude air traffic safe, efficient, and orderly requires an additional level of oversight to make it all work. While both commercial and private unmanned craft must be registered with the FAA, drone activity doesn't always reflect what's happening in your local airspace. Aerial Armor can help you keep your air traffic sorted, identified, and running smoothly with our range of AeroScope products.    

Before implementing drone security measures, it's helpful to understand the abilities —and limitations— of the current technology. How far can the typical AeroScope sensor see? It's one of the most common questions that Aerial Armor receives. We're going discuss typical ranges and range capabilities under ideal circumstances.

Potential Ranges of the DJI AeroScope

The commercial drone market exceeded $13 billion in revenue in 2020. With the ever-increasing number of drones in service, it has become a necessity to monitor industries who employ drones. Typical drone monitoring applications include:

  • Construction
  • Insurance
  • Oil and gas
  • Law enforcement
  • Real estate
  • Utilities management

But what is the typical range of the DJI AeroScope?  The DJI AeroScope can reliably detect drones up to 10-miles. With optimal environmental conditions, the viewing area can increase to 20-30 miles in range. Under exceptional conditions, our technology has been able to detect drones up to 100 miles away, but that range is far from the norm.

Below are some of the key factors that determine the AeroScope's sensing range.

RF Noise

Modern day airspace is awash in various radio signals, also known as radio frequency (RF) noise. From cell towers, to repeaters, to IoT networks, there are signals bouncing around us all the time. Although we can't see them, those frequencies combine to form a virtual "fog" that can affect sensor range. The higher the level of RF interference, the lower the AeroScope's effective range will be.  

This explanation is an extremely truncated version of the issue, however. The concept of RF noise is a highly technical topic best discussed elsewhere and in greater depth. It's not the intention of this article to discuss RF noise in its entirety, but instead to give the reader a general overview of how radio frequencies may affect sensor range.  

Drone Altitude

Drone altitude also plays a role in sensor range. Generally speaking, within a 5-mile radius a commercial drone can be picked up at any altitude. However, the further the pilot is from the AeroScope sensor, the more altitude affects the range. For example, if the commercial craft is at a significant enough distance, the sensor might not register anything below 300 feet in altitude.

The effect is similar to the human eye. We can only see so far when looking straight ahead due in part to the curvature of the earth, the way light interacts with that curvature, and any environmental interferences like buildings or foliage.  

Line of Sight

Line of sight and radio frequencies go hand-in-hand. In order to pick up a commercial drone's frequency, the aeroscope must have a direct line of sight with the craft. If buildings, trees, or other features of the landscape get in the way it can make sensing difficult.

Due to the technical nature of RF frequencies, both intentional and ancillary, there are advanced sensing techniques which harness the unique, reflective properties of radio signals to see around buildings, but this is a technical topic best saved for its own inquiry.

Securing the Skyway

Local airspace, especially around lager, metropolitan areas, is teeming with new types of low-altitude air traffic. New regulations and technologies —such as AeroScope sensors— have emerged to help control the flow of that traffic.

When implementing a drone-based security solution, it's critical to understand the limitations of the current technology. Most AeroScope sensors can reliably capture data from up to 10 miles away, with the potential to augment viewing range up to 20-30 miles dependent on the factors listed above.

For more information regarding drone security services, please contact Aerial Armor today.  

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