Countering The Threat From Drones
Modern drones are fast becoming a household name as this new technology becomes an increasingly large part of our modern life. Whether used as a recreational hobby or revolutionizing the way we look at security, transportation and disaster management, it is hard to deny the important role drones will play in the future. However, as with any powerful technological revolution, drones have the potential to wreak havoc if their potential is used for more nefarious purposes. This necessitates developing systems that can detect and counter drones to ensure our safety.
The Growing Threat From Drones
The same factors that make drones an invaluable asset for businesses also makes them highly dangerous in the wrong hands. For example, high resolution cameras mounted on drones make them excellent tools for cinematography and recreational flying but also means they can just as easily be used for espionage and tracking people. Likewise, their excellent maneuverability and ever increasing payload capacities makes them great for transporting packages but also makes them prime candidates for carrying weapons, explosives and smuggling illegal contraband. Lastly, there is the ever present threat carelessly piloted drones pose to airplanes and commercial air passengers.
A System To Counter Drones
To counter this growing threat, companies are coming up with innovative solutions that can not only detect drones and alert security teams, but also feature the capability to disable them safely from a distance. Such systems feature a multi-tier approach that starts with a complex array of sensors to detect the presence of drones. Data from these sensors is then analyzed using ever-smarter algorithms to identify the types, location and speed of the drone. Simultaneously, security teams are also alerted either through SMS, emails or by direct integration with existing security systems. Lastly, these systems can also feature countermeasures, should the user choose to use them, that can disable rogue drones from a distance without damaging them.
Naturally, the foremost step to counter the misuse of drones is to detect their presence. Modern systems use a variety of sensors to collect data to accurately locate drones. Radar is a natural candidate for this, given its long history in being used to detect airborne vehicles. However, given the generally small size of drones as well the system’s proximity to the ground, radar systems have to be specially optimized for drone detection. This system also has to be impervious noise from background objects such as trees as well as being misled by birds.
To further improve accuracy, Radar detection is often complemented by RF (Radio frequency) systems. These systems can detect the communication between drones and their operators, scanning the frequency bands used by commercial drones. Drones need to be in constant communication with their operator, not only receiving input but also transmitting video back to pilot. Together, RF detection and radar can detect drones in a radius of 1.5km.
A variety of other systems are also used alongside these long range systems to make drone detection more accurate. The spinning propellers in drones have a very distinct sound, allowing appropriately tuned sound detectors to identify their presence even in a noisy urban environment. Lastly, high definition video cameras and thermal imaging cameras are also used to visually detect drones and their distinctive heat signatures and even identify the type of drone.
This multilevel approach to detecting drones ensures that such systems work almost flawlessly in any environment, detecting drones whether its rain or shine, night or day.
Analysis And Identification
Having such a range of sensors is excellent, but making sense of the huge amount of data they produce is a challenge in itself. Processing all the data from the radar, RF detector, audio sensors, optical and thermal cameras requires advanced algorithms. However, once analyzed, these systems can not only identify the location and speed of the incoming drone but also its type. They can then also zoom in with optical cameras to give security personnel a view of the intruder.
Making the job even harder is the fact that modern drones are constantly improving, getting faster and more compact. They are also getting quieter thanks to innovations such as DJI’s low noise propeller design. As a result, analysis and identification systems have to be constantly updated with acoustic, RF and optical data from new drones to make these systems perform seamlessly in the face of new threats.
Once the presence of a drone has been detected, alerting the security personnel is the next important step. Thankfully, modern drone detection systems can be easily integrated with existing security surveillance systems offered by companies such as Avigilon or Network Optix, giving the user a live feed of the intruding drone. In addition to this, these systems also feature easy to use interfaces that can display the exact location and movement of intruding drones on a graphical user interface. Lastly, email and SMS alerts can also be utilized to alert personnel about the presence of a drone in the vicinity.
The last step in countering the threat is to neutralize it. Modern systems use a two layered system to disable drones without damaging them or detonating any dangerous cargo they might be carrying. These systems use signal jamming antennas to block the communication between the pilot and the drone as well as GPS jamming antennas to incapacitate the drone’s navigation systems.
This approach makes it possible to disable drones without damaging them. Once a drone can not communicate with the operator, the default response is to land in a controlled descent or return to a predefined location. The loss of GPS signal also prompts a drone to return to the ground safely as it can no longer navigate accurately. Security personnel can then easily secure and inspect the disabled drone.
Unfortunately, the use of jamming technologies is heavily regulated and cannot be used for commercial purposes in some countries. Such cases prompt the use of more innovative solutions such as net guns as well as security drones designed to disable intruding drones.
As drones become cheaper, more capable and more accessible, their misuse is also increasingly widespread. This makes it necessary for sensitive locations such as airports, datacenters, military bases and large public gatherings to be secured from such attacks. Modern drone detection systems accomplish this securely and safely, not only detecting drones with high accuracy but also featuring capabilities to disable them without damaging them. This makes them our most capable weapon in the fight against the misuse of drones.