Drones can fight fires, transport emergency medications, canvas pest infestations found on crops and farmlands or simply capture stunning aerial shots of the earth below. Studies indicate their commercial market potential through 2020 at around EUR 100 billion worldwide. However, as their popularity grows, so, too, does the risk of accidents with them. Since April 2017 in Germany, owners are legally obligated to have identification labels on their flying machines to quickly determine whom they belong to in case of an accident. If you own an unmanned aircraft with a minimum take-off weight of 250 grams, you are required to place a permanent fireproof identification with your name and address.
In response, German company Roboterwerk has developed a splendid solution. Using a special process, the Bavarian-based company takes ultra-thin glass from SCHOTT to create labelling from a glass-titanium-carbon compound. The ceramic can withstand temperatures exceeding 1,000° Celsius. The labelled aluminosilicate glass SCHOTT AS 87 eco, in this instance hardened and with a thickness of less than 150 micrometers, keeps its shape by temperatures of up to 870 °C. It can also withstand the 660+ °C temperatures from lithium ion batteries, which provide the power supply to most of today’s drones.
In contrast, aluminum, the material most commonly sold for the production of labelled drone plates, begins to melt at 660.3 °C. “Lawmakers have not provided a clear definition for the term ‘fireproof’, nor have they come up with any binding verification for drone identification plates. With glass, we knew we had covered all the bases due to its ability to reliably keep its form under extreme conditions. Also, it has no impact on sensors or on flight attitude systems. Customers purchasing one of our identification plates can be certain they have a really permanent solution,” explains Moritz Aßmus-Hubrich, from media relations for Roboterwerk.
The company currently sells its engraved drone registration plates online through Amazon. They are also making plans to expand their sales activities to local electronics retail outlets. For SCHOTT, the new application simply reaffirms what the technology group already knew about its ultra-thin glass: the versatile range of its use. “We welcome this latest idea for our product and we invite engineers and product developers from all fields to think about new uses for glass,” says Dr. Thomas Werninghaus, a senior sales manager at SCHOTT Advanced Optics.
Regulating drones: from identification plates to flying licenses
In 2016 the German Air Traffic Services (Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH) reported 64 incidents involving drones, and that number has most likely risen in 2017. Yet, unmanned aircraft also offer a wide range of potential applications. Thus, the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) has introduced new regulations which cover both the obligations and operation of the aircraft. One of the first legal requirements to spring from the ministry’s stance was the placement of mandatory identification on drones as of April 2017. Owners of these flying machines and other unmanned aircraft which have a take-off weight of at least 0.25 kilograms must place their name and address on a permanent, fireproof identification plate somewhere on the machine. Six months later, in October, another regulation went into effect: mandatory possession of a certification. The flying license is legally required for the operation of all drones weighing at least 2 kilograms. Owners who cannot produce the certification face heavy fines of several hundred euros. All the new regulations for operating drones in Germany can be found at the website of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.