In a recent article, we looked at the Dronetag Mini Remote ID module. Now, the Dronetag Mini was designed and purposed more towards the commercial pilot and industrial applications than it was for the Hobbyist pilot.
It was really designed for aircraft such as the DJI M600 or M200, neither of which will be receiving onboard RID through firmware.
There are a few other enterprise systems it’s suitable for as well.
Dronetag did, however, tell us all that they were working on something more. Patience, they said! I can say, not one of my virtues, that patience thing. Wait though one must.
In this case, the wait wasn’t long, and the results, well, they were well worth waiting for. I think you’ll agree!
Some Quick Things
Before we continue, I have a correction or two to make – ok, three, in the aforementioned article, this one:
I made an error on Dronetag’s location. I know, right, that public school education.
No really, I’ve been working on a few of these RID articles and simply overlooked one location as another, a simple oversight that just needs correcting.
Although I will say when in school, none of the globes were from any later than 1930 or so, and this was the 80s and 90s. So, there is that.
Dronetag is located in the wonderful city of Prague in the Czech Republic. This is the location of their Headquarters and offices.
They also have a manufacturing facility also in the Czech Republic, as well as a second location in Taiwan.
This year, they hope to be launching a third manufacturing site, here in the US.
Another correction that needs to be stated is the name.
Dronetag! Not DroneTag! I know, it seems like a small thing, and it is. The difference between a lower-case t and an Upper-Case T.
You never know though; it may make a difference to a search engine. That small difference could easily take one to places they didn’t intend to go. We’ve all had that one happen when searching around.
Go on, I dare you. Type in Dinosaur and see what you get back. Some of that stuff has nothing to do with dinosaurs, come on!
The last correction I should point out is the price. This one is my bad completely, in making an assumption as opposed to just verifying things.
Dronetag has worked out fixed pricing on their modules. So, there is no weird conversion from pounds to US dollars.
It also means that you shouldn’t be seeing any weird price fluctuations. Their listed price is the price of their module.
Hey, I won’t defend an error, ok maybe just a little. As a drone pilot, you’ve probably purchased something from overseas or from a buyer using a different currency. We are, after all, global.
Sometimes when this type of sale happens there is an exchange rate that can make the price hard to figure out. Dronetag took care of that. Looking out for us public schoolers.
So, here’s the pricing, accurately.
- Dronetag Mini RID Module $299 or £299.
- Dronetag Beacon RID Module $199 or £199.
Now that we’ve gotten that bit of business out of the way, let’s get into just what Dronetag has dropped on us now. The Dronetag Beacon.
When we think of Remote ID modules, we’re seeing a trend in size and capabilities, giving us some idea of what our expectations should be for these types of products.
Then we have our friends at Dronetag breaking from that mold and bringing us something totally unexpected.
To say that Dronetag coming out with a module more in-line with hobbyist pilots was a surprise – it wasn’t. They made that intention known all along.
After being introduced to the Dronetag Mini and seeing what other manufacturers were coming out with, we thought we knew what to expect. That assumption thing again. Has a tendency to burn you, you know.
With what Dronetag delivered though, it is absolutely astounding. Consider one’s mind blown, and you’d think I learn. We’ll get into it all here shortly.
Before we do though, we’ll cover the most shocking feature of the Dronetag Beacon. The size!
The Dronetag Beacon is by far the smallest of the Remote ID modules we’ve seen to date and will probably see. It’s smaller than a Lumecube Strobe.
It really is tiny, when compared to what seems to be the accepted norm, measuring just 23.25mm by 36.8mm or .915inches by 1.449 inches. Yeah, like I said, tiny.
This diminutive size means it can go just about anywhere. GPS or FPV quad doesn’t matter – this small module can find a home on any aircraft you may fly.
It fits nicely right behind the action camera on most FPV quads, it really does. Right on top of the battery is a good spot.
The reason for comparing this module to a Lumecube Strobe is it can easily be placed right where your strobe would go for night operations.
For the home build drones, this is a perfect solution as well if you don’t want to wire in a RID module board similar to this one also offered by Dronetag.
This Dronetag DRI Module is offered for $49 or 49 pounds, for those who would like a directly wired unit.
Much like the other products offered by Dronetag, the DRI units like the Mini and Beacon all have fixed-rate pricing. So even if it’s marked in pounds, the price is the same in dollars.
Along with the small size of the Dronetag Beacon, it also is currently the lightest of all the RID modules we’ve looked at so far and most likely won’t be displaced anytime soon on its weight, much like its size.
Weighing in at only 16 grams, most of those arguments about weight may not hold up too well to this little black beauty. Although 16 grams is still 16 grams being added.
So, for those close to the 250-gram limit, eek! As the regulations state the take-off weight is the weight you need to go by for the 250-gram limit.
Before we move on, it should be pointed out that the Dronetag Beacon is also a good RID solution for Model flyers.
We don’t take nearly enough time to mention or think about these pilots. They are our brethren and RID will be affecting them as well. No flyer should be limited to just flying in a FRIA. No flyer!
Luckily this module that Dronetag has put out will work for those fellow Model Pilots as well. 16 grams is still 16 grams.
However, for most model aircraft, maybe not some of the foamy’s, this is a weight that can at least be used with only a minimal amount of change to the aircraft’s flight parameters and is small enough to be nestled in with the battery.
Upon gazing at the small little module within its packaging, it would be easy to assume a lousy battery time. After all, it’s pretty dang small, couldn’t have that good of a battery.
That’s the thing about those assumptions. The Dronetag Beacon offers an impressive 16 hours of battery life per charge. No, I’m serious. I also put his to the test, twice.
The actual battery time I got from both of those tests exceeded 16 hrs. with the first time being 16 hrs 37 minutes and the second time being 16 hrs and 38 minutes. So yeah, 16 hours.
Now I would assume again that this time would decrease over time and use. Here, that’s a safe assumption from what we know about the batteries being used.
It shows that Dronetag went through all of the steps to ensure their product is just as they have represented it.
Now to be fair, and to understand the test parameters, the two times I ran the battery longevity test, the unit was simply on.
I point this out, because, depending on the settings and the configuration of the Beacon, the battery life can differ.
The test I performed was designed to get the best battery life results possible and is not to be confused with real in-the-field use.
When operating this module while broadcasting, I was only able to get an operating time of around 15 hours and 22 minutes.
This was with the module operating as if in flight. That’s pretty accurate and better than we see with some of our other rechargeable systems.
What does it do?
The Dronetag Beacon is very similar to the Dronetag Mini, as it broadcasts the upcoming required Remote ID broadcast information and is a Direct Broadcast Module.
Yeah, I know that says a lot without saying a lot. Here’s what is needed for compliance with a Remote ID module.
Drone Remote Identification with Broadcast Module
- Remote ID capability through module attached to drone
- Limited to visual line-of-sight operations
- From takeoff to shutdown, drone broadcasts:
- Drone ID
- Drone location and altitude
- Drone velocity
- Takeoff location and elevation
- Time mark
So, the Dronetag Beacon does all of that and then some.
Utilizing some of the newest variants of Bluetooth, such as Bluetooth 4.2 and 5, these tiny little modules can broadcast up to 3 km or 1.86 miles. That’s a pretty great range. With the type of system being employed, that range is quite impressive.
Now to dispel some confusion that’s cropping up out there, these modules broadcast their signal from the unit, so even if you’re flying and have gone beyond the range of the Dronetag Beacon itself, it is still broadcasting to receivers in the range of the beacon.
These modules in no way inhibit your flying. You can still fly as far as your line of site.
In none of the RID regulations, does it state that your flight is restricted to the range of the RID module. It’s a nasty rumor, and how it got started, who knows.
Now we’re all familiar with Bluetooth. We use it all the time with our key fobs, our garage door openers, and our wireless devices such as headphones, and mics.
The list literally goes on and on and on. We’re surrounded by it at all times, even in places we don’t think about.
One of the key things we all know, is that I just like you, don’t get any type of kilometer plus range with my headphones, although that would be awesome, and it may be coming down the pipe at some point here in the future.
Although it surrounds us, many don’t know what Bluetooth is.
It’s a radio transmission system. What makes it unique is the way in which it encodes and decodes information by what is referred to as frequency-hopping spread spectrum.
Bluetooth has an amazing ability to shrink data into very small, easily transferred packets that can be quickly sent and be unpacked by the receiver, through adaptive frequency-hopping (AFH).
It seems like real-time data is being shared due to the limited amount of lag.
Although there is a short lag from the sender to the receiver, it isn’t noticeable to the viewer.
Also, like any other type of radio transmission system, be it Wi-Fi, Cellular, or DJI’s 03, there are certain ways one can increase range through power adjustments and antennas, and modulation.
This is how the Dronetag Beacon operates – by using the LE Long-Range Bluetooth connections over 40 channel spectrum and at 2MHz broadcast speed.
This can work in one of two ways, with the latter being how RID modules are set up to operate.
The LE Long-Range Bluetooth option allows one to either double the speed to a 2 Mbit/s burst at the expense of range by using more power, or, in the case of the Dronetag Beacon, by lowering the speed it is able to increase the range.
This provides up to four times the range at the expense of the data rate, so by lowering the data rate, the range can be increased with the current power rate. That is how these devices are able to reach ranges of 3km or 1.86 miles.
As you may or may not know, Dronetag has two apps. One is for the Dronetag product and is for use with products like the Beacon and the Mini itself, so you can register the device and set it up.
This registration is for Dronetag and their product and should not be confused with the FAA module registration.
Once completing setting your module up in the app, you will still need to register the module with the FAA.
The App is very user-friendly and guides you through the set-up process, making it easy to quickly set up the Beacon for use.
For the Dronetag Beacon, the app offer have some customization to suit your flight’s needs. It allows you to configure various device parameters, which will help you optimize performance and battery usage.
It has a built-in flight planner and will be LAANC accessible. This makes it a one-stop app for all your flight needs
Here we have the Aircraft information page.
Here, you would input your aircraft’s information, with an extensive list of aircraft already entered with much of the required information that you, the user, would most likely need to look up.
Once again, Dronetag made every attempt to streamline the process.
As you can see by selecting the manufacturer, nearly every model that the manufacturer has is already listed. By selecting that model, such information as Aircraft weight, class, and endurance are filled in for us.
You can also see here, one can enter one or more aircraft into the app and then be able to select the aircraft that we’re flying at the time of using the RID Module.
The other App is called DroneScanner. This app was developed for those who want to monitor drone activity in their area. Which I’ve loving decreed to be the Karen App.
This is also a great app, well thought out, and easy to use. Works just as designed. This App will not only receive Dronetag modules, but it will also receive all RID broadcasts in the area it’s being used in.
So, what does this App do? Well, here it is.
- Discover more about drones flying nearby in real-time
- Examine detailed information broadcasted by drones via Bluetooth 4, Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi Beacon, and Wi-Fi NAN
- Browse a detailed map with your location and all nearby aircraft
- Check available data about drones, including real-time height, direction, pilot identification, pilot position, operation description, and location history
- Various flying zones are marked and highlighted on the map
- Easy export of collected data
- Continuously updated to reflect the latest EU & US regulations
This is what all the upcoming Drone monitoring Apps will be doing to one degree or another. It could be easy to find this as intrusive, sure. This is Remote ID.
Now this App is in constant development and will probably change somewhat prior to September 16th, 2023, with the most recent update being Feb 12, 2023.
I can only assume that as more RID-style modules are developed and as more and more companies make their Aircraft compliant, we’ll see many more updates.
For now, if you’re interested in what’s in the skies above you, you can download this app from the Play or App Store you use.
I have to say, for myself, this is the module for me. I like everything about it, as far as liking something you’re not sure you need but is required. So, one has to pick one.
The $199 price tag doesn’t seem too bad when considering that the cheapest RID module, out as of this date, is $129. This is the Bluemark db120 Beacon.
We’ve reviewed that as well, and that article can be found here.
In regard to the Bluemark Module, I recently heard from them to let me know that they heard the concerns I raised in their review, and they have since made these changes which they shared through an email.
- We updated the manual; among others added a trouble shooting section: (link)
- A quick start will be added to db120 orders next week (link)
- Also, new firmware is released that should improve the usability of the web interface with mobile devices.
Full list of changes:
So, this shows that Bluemark is trying to make a place for itself in the RID marketplace, and is indeed working to improve its product.
You know what? I think Roel and the gang at BlueTag have earned their silver metal rating. They provide excellent customer service and have proven to be receptive to change if needed to improve their product.
Back to the Dronetag Beacon though. The build of this unit is solid, constructed of quality plastic materials, with the integral components neatly protected by a sealed case.
It can easily handle that unfortunate crash here and there.
The fully functioning adjacent App does make using it a breeze. In a world where we already have so many things on our pre-flight checklist, the ease of use with any of Dronetags product lines is superb.
The small size is just mind-blowing after handling a few of these modules. It is easily half the size of anything else we’re seeing or even smaller. When size matters, you know, except the opposite in this case.
The Dronetag Beacon can be fitted to nearly every aircraft out there with only a negligible effect on performance and battery consumption.
Like I pointed out, the Dronetag Beacon can nestle right behind your action camera, and you don’t even know it’s there. Perfect for FPV pilots out there, where the size of a RID module can greatly impact the aircraft’s abilities.
In the article where we reviewed the Dronetag Mini, it was clearly established that Dronetag is really looking to be the Remote ID leader, and they are presenting themselves quite well.
With the addition of the Dronetag Beacon, they have shown us yet again the Gold Standard.
From the module’s ease of use, battery life, and its simply minuscule size, the Beacon is a gold medal winner for sure, and the competition is going to be very hard-pressed to deliver something better than this.
Dronetag, can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!
1. Frequency-hopping spread spectrum (link)