‘Counter drone’ or ‘Anti-Drone’ solutions
A white paper by One Bright Cloud
One Bright Cloud
Drones are rapidly being adopted for commercial purposes around the globe. This can be seen more in the larger services such as in the mining industry, power and water services, digitization mapping, emergency services and in the Armed forces.
Within the Armed Forces comes the consequential acts of terrorism as they are utilised to survey, map and carry payloads of consequence.
A very different future is arriving as the drones are used for unlawful events and not just a simply tactical cost effective activity.
This paper discusses the options when considering purchasing of “Counter Drone technologies”.
DRONE TRACKERS: ONLY HALF THE JOB !!
Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA’s) or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, commonly referred to as Drones have been involved in thousands of unlawful incidents worldwide, and have caused a frenzy of activity and concern to security and risk managers. This as usual due to the theory of ‘escalation of force’, i.e. you use a knife I will use a gun, you use a gun I will use a tank, has created an industry dedicated to stopping the use of drones for unlawful purposes.
Don’t be conned ladies and gents, make sure you get the right advice before you spend your money on a substandard solution.
A 2016 Australian Defence White Paper confirmed the Australian Government would “introduce enhanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, including armed medium-altitude unmanned aircraft in the early 2020s, with regular capability upgrades to follow”.
“In 2015, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) began training on Reaper drones in the US.”
“Australia already uses drones for intelligence and surveillance, but adding weaponised Reapers would represent a new chapter for the Defence Force.
As part of the war on terror president Barack Obama approved drone strikes mainly in the Middle East, which are estimated to have killed around 7,000 people, some found to be innocent bystanders.”
“IAI, a state-owned company, does not publicly acknowledge its product as an armed drone but stresses the plane can carry “anything” up to 1,000 kilograms.”
“In 2015 Australian Terrorist Neil Prakash was the head of an Islamic State sub-cell plotting to use explosive-laden drones to carry out remote attacks, interrogators have discovered. The raid on Prakash’s apartment found drone capability to remotely guide drones with an explosive payload to a target from up to 30km away”
Counter drone’ or ‘Anti-Drone’ solutions:
There are two parts of the story to counteract the illicit use of drones.
DETECTION: Find the Drone acting unlawfully
NUTRALISATION: Stopping the drone from carrying out the unlawful act
There are many drone tracking systems on the market, which all operate using the following technology:
The Drones are located either by HD or IR Cameras, RADAR, or RF signal detection that utilise Radio Frequency signals to bounce off suspect drones.
- Camera detection systems have VERY short range, about 200-400m,
- IR cameras and RADAR can detect up to 20km away (manufacturer reports)
- RF usually operates within the maximum range of 10km (don’t get too excited I explain this further below).
1. Camera detection systems
This technology uses systems similar to those used in automated cars and trucks. In the automated vehicle scenario, they act in conjunction with other detection sensors such as LiDAR, and mimic the eyes of a human driver. This system is also used in some drones to avoid objects whilst airborne.
This solution is not ideal when detecting drones. Keep in mind at long distances even with an artificial intelligence the range of identification is determined by the light reflected by the object we are attempting to identify, so in adverse weather conditions (cloudy, low light) determining between a bird and a drones at long distances could get confusing for the AI and thus suitable identification significantly reduces the further away the object is.
2. IR cameras and Phased Array RADAR (Radio Detection and Ranging)
These systems are usually the best systems for range, but considering the average commercial drones have a maximum usability of 7 km with operator control, the need for this distance tends to be for military use and systems are generally over $5M including training and deployment. These however have proven to be very effective in war zones, and maritime due to a reduced number of obstacles in the path of the detection system.
3. RF signal transmitters and receivers
This solution is sometimes confused with the previously mentioned PARADAR, as it also uses Radio waves in the UHF band to transmit a signal from a base station, which is reflected then received by another base station or the original transmitting station, and using specific software assesses the drone for various identifying features such as:
Model of drone;
SSID (Service Set Identifier);
MAC address (media access control)
RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator)
This information, is then stored, so that it can be used later for forensic identification of the illicit drone operator, relative to the drone detected (using algorithms of the signal strength and direction). This location data is used at the time of the detection to direct public safety officials to the drone operator’s location.
Phased Array Radar, operates in the UHF and microwave bands, with hundreds or thousands of small transmitters, hence the huge cost (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phased_array )
So you have a terrific drone tracker!!
If you are willing to pay many millions of dollars for a counter drone solution, then sure go for the multimillion dollar alternative. But wait, there are many drawbacks to the above solutions, which manufacturers do not like to point out to potential clients:
- Drones are commonly programmed to operate autonomously: Even if you detect the drone through any of the above methods, what are you going to do about it? If the drone has been pre-programmed to fly a set route, by a criminal (requiring limited knowledge of programming and of the shelf parts) you may not have the option of locating the operator to stop the drone completing its mission.
- UAV’s can fly up to 120km/hr: At 120km per hour the drone could be launched from 7km away which takes 5 minutes to reach its target. So you better have a way of stopping it before it does its job!
- Without suitable well-advertised exclusion fly zones, how do you tell if the drone you are tracking is just by a nuisance operator trying to take photo’s which diverts your attention from a more serious threat from a drone loaded with an IED (Improvised Explosive Device – Homemade bomb) – OR they are in partnership to achieve same end result.
- Drone tracking systems ONLY track, and must be used in conjunction with other 3rd party technologies to actually stop the drone from achieving its task.
Make sure you not only purchase a drone tracking system, but a system which tracks and neutralises the offending drone. If you buy two separate systems: a ‘Tracker’ and a ‘Neutraliser’ from different manufacturers, make sure they are both compatible and proven to work both together and individually.
Word from the wise:
“Just because it costs a fortune, doesn’t mean it is the best for your specific needs !!!”
One Bright Cloud can provide this capability. It has been deployed and is operational in France.
- Safely Land for Forensic Investigation
Produced with thanks from the original article while the authors were working with One Bright Cloud