Why We Need Counter-Drone Tech Now More Than Ever
By 2022, the FAA expects we’ll have 2. 9 million drones flying in the U. S. That’s because drones are enormously helpful; in Aerial Photography, scientific research, even farming and firefighting. But with so many drones in the sky, sometimes, things go wrong. It’s very public knowledge that airports are getting more and more incidents of drones in the sky threatening commercial aircraft.
The government says a drone, a couple of drones, loaded with C4, that’s an explosive, went off overhead. Prisons are daily targeted from drone deliveries and mainly delivering contraband into prisons. To let the good ones through and keep the bad ones out, counter-drone companies are popping up everywhere. They range from startups like Dedronein San Francisco to larger defense firms like Rafael and Israel or Leonardo in Rome.
The largest drone maker in the world, DJI, build geofencing into its drones so that operators aren’t likely to fly where they’re not permitted. The real wakeup call is the various use cases that drones have. What gets a lot of noise in the press is grenades dropping on the troops and harming people. But what you don’t see is a lot of the surveillance and reconnaissance techniques and the sophisticated ways that the adversary is starting to employ the technology.
Small consumer drones have been used as explosive devices. One carried a bottle of radioactive material onto the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s office. Drones have crashed into crowds at sporting events and they’re increasingly disrupting airports. It happened just this afternoon, a very close call between a drone and an airliner on approach to New York’s Kennedy Airport with one 159 people onboard.
The FAA said today this is becoming a very serious problem with several reports of close calls with drones every day. For years now airports have been protecting aircraft from wildlife; protecting aircraft from making contact with birds in the air, animals on the ground. Now, this is the high-tech equivalent of that. We don’t want drones to ever be in a situation where they might come into contact with aircraft.
The large companies, they fear IP loss and industrial espionage. Large events, they fear terrorism. They fear drones with bombs like what happened in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government, the government says there was an assassination attempt against Nicolas Maduro the country’s leader. The government says a drone, a couple of drones, loaded with C4, that’s an explosive, went off overhead.
The way to detect drones is like we as human beings would detect drones. We hear them, so we use microphones. We see them, we use cameras. We also feel them, what we call RF technology like radiofrequency technologies. Drones talk all the time to their base station and to their command center. If it sounds like a drone and looks like a drone and talks like a drone it probably is not a bird.
So the system can automatically and continuously track the drones as they fly around, calculate their speed, their heading and also alert security staff when they enter certain sectors that might be of critical interest. We’re installed at four U. K. airports so far. We’re installed at two more European airports and we’re installed at a lot of U. S. airports from the federal side.
Everybody saw after what happened at Gatwick in England at Heathrow that it is very easy to disrupt a multibillion-dollar business such as an airport with a $500 drone. But what happens once you detect a drone? That depends partly on local laws but there are ways to take a drone down with everything from shotgun shells to lasers, signal jammers, even nets.
What we’ve built with the DroneHunter is something that can work three or four miles away from your venue, patrol an area in the sky, flying thousands of feet. If there’s something coming into the airspace that you want to protect we can put eyes on it with our sensor fusion, our radar, and optics fused on the
Drone Hunter to capture that video. And then you can make a decision: do you want to let that drone go or you can make a decision to take it down safely. U. S. regulators are still scrambling to work out the rules around drones and counter-drone technology. Right now drones are considered aircraft. So the idea of capturing that aircraft really would expose an organization to air piracy regulations.
Trying to take over the control operation of a drone might put that organization in violation of FCC regulations. Widespread adoption of counter-drone tech at U. S. airports hasn’t happened yet, but they’re weighing the possibility seriously. We’re taking a look at a lot of the drone protection technologies, the drone detection technologies that are out there and that’s really probably going to be the first step for an airport like ours is securing our airports, securing our airspace.
It’s important to remember that dramatic incidents with drones are the exception, not the rule. You as a U. S. citizen have the ability to fly your drone around particular areas. You’re a Part 107 registered pilot, you have the authority and the freedoms this country offers to be able to fly your drone. What you don thave is the ability to fly it in restricted airspace.
Some of these solutions are really delivering I think what airports need and it’s not just knowing when it’s happening but knowing who’s doing it and where it’s happening. Quite frankly, laws will not keep drones away. It’s illegal to fly near an airport but that won’t stop drones. The only thing that will stop drones is technology and that’s what we’re here for.