Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
While drones are an important part of today’s technology, they can be a threat in many ways. For example, they can halt many businesses or endanger people’s lives. Such was the case in January 2019. A drone was seen around Newark Liberty International Airport, ending air traffic abruptly.
It is for this and other reasons that anti-drone technology is vital. So, what are anti-drone technologies?
Anti-drone technologies detect or intercept rogue drones. They also intercept or detect unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Some of the best anti-drone systems are GPS Spoofers, High-Power Microwave (HPM) devices, Radio Frequency (RF) Jammers, and high-energy lasers.
Anti-drone technology is vital as it boosts security and safety.
I will discuss anti-drone technology, its importance, and some of the best options you could consider. So, read until the end.
Table of contents:
- What are Anti-Drone Technologies?
- How Does Counter-Drone Technology Work?
- Who Can Use Counter-Drone Technology?
- What Are the Challenges of the Anti-Drone System?
- What Is the Best Anti-Drone System?
- Drone Countermeasure Equipment:
- Why Is Anti-Drone Technology Important?
- Parting Shot:
What are Anti-Drone Technologies?
Anti-drone technologies intercept or detect any UAVs and unwanted drones. Anti-drone technology is commonly used in battlefield zones, airports, critical infrastructure, and military installations.
The technology is also used in stadiums and other large public areas.
Hostile drones have heightened smuggling contrabands and gathering intelligence on any sensitive asset. Also, the proliferation of cheap UAVs has made the deployment of explosives possible, hence security and safety are threatened.
So, the need for anti-drone technologies in the modern days is high. Why? When safety and security are at risk, anti-drone technologies help capture, jam, or disable unauthorized drones.
How Does Counter-Drone Technology Work?
To know how the counter-drone works, we need to know that it is classified into two:
Mitigation: Mitigation technology intercepts or repels the drone. This is made possible by, for instance, interfering with the drone signals to cause jamming.
Consequently, communication between the drone pilot and the drone fails.
Detection: Detection technology effectively counters drones by detecting the radio frequency from the drone’s remote controller, tracking the drone’s heat signatures, or through the acoustic method.
The acoustic method works by recognizing the drone’s unique motor sounds.
Who Can Use Counter-Drone Technology?
Despite the amount of damage that can be caused by unmanned aerial vehicles both to individuals and public sectors, not everyone can use counter-drone technologies. The only authorized people to use counter-drone technology are:
The Department of Justice: Several cases have been reported where drones were used to take illegal drugs to prisoners. For this and many other security threats, this department uses counter-drone technology to heighten security and prevent smuggling contraband within prisons.
The Department of Energy: The technology helps boost security in facilities highly sensitive to nuclear.
The Department of Homeland Security: Drones in this department enhance security when there are large gatherings.
The Department of Defense: The Ministry of Defense plays a key role in protecting the citizens. It also protects the countries’ territories, homes, and other areas.
Hence, it must track and counter any rogue drone as soon as possible. So, this department uses anti-drone technology to ensure that the safety and security of the nation are not at risk.
What Are the Challenges of the Anti-Drone System?
While anti-drone technology is essential, it also faces major challenges. These challenges include the following.
Detection range limitations: The mitigation systems sometimes face detection range limitations.
Consequently, the anti-drone system may fail to detect the drone if it is at a high range, meaning security and safety would still be threatened.
Collection of personal details: Anti-drone systems may unintentionally collect personal information.
Unintended harm: In other cases, it may disable nearby communication, which would inconvenience other sectors within that area. Worst still is that some drones may fall when countered or get damaged, which may cost the drone owners a lot.
Non-effective in some situations: Anti-drone systems are sometimes non-effective as they confuse a drone with a bird. Moreover, in case of any interference, the system will likely overlook the drone.
Most entities are locked out of the system: The Federal has locked out most entities from using the anti-drone system. So, apart from the ones I have listed above, other entities cannot use this technology, thereby exposing their businesses to threats by unmanned aerial vehicles.
However, the Federal government has a few counter-drones, which local agencies can use to respond to security and safety issues against UAVs.
What Is the Best Anti-Drone System?
The best anti-drone system includes monitoring equipment and countermeasures. The monitoring equipment includes:
- Optical Sensors (Cameras)
- Radio Frequency (RF) Analyzers
- Acoustic Sensors (Microphones)
All of the above are monitoring equipment.
While RADAR effectively detects UAVs, traditional aviation and military radar systems may have difficulty detecting smaller drones.
Every so often they have trouble differentiating between drones, birds, and other small objects.
In addition, when drones hover or move at a much slower speed, RADAR may also have difficulty detecting them.
On the other hand, modern RADAR systems may feature various technologies, for example, staring RADAR, micro-doppler, and ESA (Electronically Scanned Array).
What RADAR technology to use boils down to the effectiveness of handling environmental clutter, protection zone size, and range requirements. The number of tracks (simultaneous targets) also matters.
The processing technique used is the sophisticated signal, and it provides airspace 3-dimensional (3D) tracking.
Consequently, they effectively detect and identify unwarranted drones.
Some several pros and cons come with this technology, as listed below:
Pros of RADAR anti-drone system:
- Tracks continuously
- Great for long range
- Tracks all drones, inclusive autonomous flights
- Incredibly accurate, hence dependable
- Capable of handling hundreds of targets concurrently
- It does not depend on the visual conditions such as the fog, day, or night
Cons of RADAR anti-drone technology:
- The drone’s size determines the detection range
- Most have difficulty differentiating between drones and birds
- You must have a frequency check and a transmission license to avoid interference incidences
Optical Sensors (Cameras):
While optical sensors may not be as effective as other counter-drone technologies, they could help when starting. Besides, they are also cost-effective compared to other high-end technologies. One of the major challenges of this technology is that it depends on weather conditions and lighting.
Consequently, darkness and fog may affect its effectiveness.
An optical camera can be thermal imaging or infrared, based on your preferences. However, as long as the weather conditions are great and there is good lighting, optical sensors will detect UAVs and help you to take the necessary measures.
- Records images, which could be used as forensic evidence in case of a prosecution
- Provides drone’s visuals and its payload
- Not solely used to detect drones
- Not effective when it is dark or when the weather conditions are not favorable
- Gives false alarms at a high rate
Radio Frequency (RF) Analyzers:
RF analyzers receive radio waves through an antenna. Some have two antennas.
They also analyze the RF spectrum through their processors. RF analyzers effectively detect communication between drones and their pilots.
Based on their quality, these analyzers may also provide additional information, for example, the drone’s and its controller’s MAC addresses, drone make, and model.
The MAC addresses would be vital during a court hearing as they would act as evidence since it would show that the controller and the drone were active at a particular time.
If you are using high-quality RF Analyzers, it could triangulate the drone and the pilot’s location. This happens when distantly spread multiple radio units are in use.
- Detects multiple drones and their pilots simultaneously
- Maybe a cost-effective option
- You do not need a license for it
- Using a high-quality (RF) Analyzer may triangulate the drone and its pilot’s position.
- Not always effective as sometimes it fails to track and locate the UAVs
- It does not detect an autonomous drone
- If the RF crowds the area, it becomes less effective
- It is mostly ideal for short-range drone counter
Acoustic Sensors (Microphones):
An acoustic sensor detects the drone’s sound. It can also calculate the drone’s direction. However, you can use many microphones (a microphone array) to detect the drones and calculate their direction.
For rough triangulation, several sets of arrays would be ideal.
- Effective in detecting drones at a close range, including those in the ground clutter and the autonomous ones
- Features fast deployment
- It is passive and incredibly mobile
- When out of the line of sight by other sensors, the Acoustic Sensors can be an excellent gap-filler
- Its effectiveness declines in noisy zones
- It has a range of about 300 to 500 meters
Drone Countermeasure Equipment:
I will categorize drone countermeasure equipment into three. Those that:
- Physically destroy the drone
- Control the drone
- Neutralize the drone
I would like to point out that while drone countermeasure equipment is effective, some countries may forbid the neutralization of drones. However, in some cases, law enforcement and military entities may be excepted.
Let us look at the most common equipment used in drone countermeasures.
- High-Power Microwave (HPM) Devices
- GPS Spoofers
- Radio Frequency (RF) Jammers
- Nets and Guns
- Birds of Prey
- High-Energy lasers
Let us discuss each at length and also look at their pros and cons.
High-Power Microwave (HPM) Devices:
HPM devices effectively disrupt drones and other electronic devices by generating an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).
The electromagnetic pulse creates currents and a damaging voltage that destroys or disrupts electronic circuitry in electronic devices, including drones.
Even so, to lower any possible collateral damage, the High-Power Microwave devices may have an antenna that switches the electromagnetic pulse to a particular direction.
- Effectively stops the drone when it is within range.
- The drone may crash as it instantly switches off, hitting the ground uncontrollably.
- May cut off (disrupt) other communications unintentionally
- Not cost-friendly
- It may destroy other electronic devices within its range
Radio Frequency (RF) Jammers:
RF jammers are mobile, handheld, or static devices that transmit high levels of RF energy to drones.
Consequently, the pilots’ signals are masked, thereby cutting the communication with the drone.
Resultantly, one of the following may happen:
- The drone flies away in another direction uncontrollably. This means the pilot could also lose control of the drone, and it could crash.
- The drone lands uncontrollably in its current position, which makes it crash.
- The drone returns to its ‘home’ (the location the user programs as home)
- The drone safely lands
- Features a non-kinetic drone neutralization
- Not highly priced
- May jam surrounding radio communications, thereby inconveniencing their businesses
- Not effective for long range
- Can cause the drone to behave in an unforeseen manner, for example, sending it to the targeted destination
You can overcome the drone’s effectiveness using a laser or light beam from an optical (high-powered) device. Lasers are effective in that they destroy the drone’s electronics or structure.
- Successfully stop the drone physically.
- It poses great collateral damage risk
- Not cost-effective
Spoofers are effective in replacing legitimate GPS signals with fake ones. Resultantly, it becomes easy to control or change the position of the UAV and direct it elsewhere to eliminate security and safety threats.
- Non-kinetic UAV neutralization
- Potentially jams radio communications within its range
- Non-suitable for long ranges
Nets and Guns:
You can successfully stop a drone by prohibiting its rotator blades when you fire a net at it.
You can fire a net cannon from the ground or another drone or install a hanging net on a ‘net drone.’
Firing net cannon from the ground: You can mount it on a turret, hold it by hand, or launch it on your shoulder. You can use it with a parachute (or without) to effectively counter drones at a range of 20 to 300 meters.
Firing a net cannon from another drone: It works well with a parachute, but capturing a rogue drone when it moves is not easy.
Installing a hanging net on a ‘net drone’: Allows the navigation of the drone net toward the rogue drone.
Nevertheless, if the drone’s weight is too high, then the drone is released with a parachute (sometimes without) for a safe landing.
- It successfully captures rogue drones.
- Firing net cannon from the ground results in a short-range
- Debris could be collected when the kinetic method is used, but it also depends on the parachute used
- When kinetic solutions are used, there could be a collection of debris. Moreover, the reload time could be longer, making the installed nets imperfect.
Birds of Prey:
An eagle’s vision is outstanding because it can see up to 2 miles. This makes it the best for countering unmanned aerial vehicles. Nevertheless, a lot of training is necessary, and it takes a lot of time, probably a year, before the eagle can effectively capture a drone successfully.
These birds use the same natural prey-hunting instincts to capture drones.
Once effectively trained, eagles can capture commercial off-the-shelf drones, abbreviated as COTS. They can also effectively counter small unmanned aircraft systems, abbreviated as SUAVs.
- There is minimal damage to the drone
- They are highly effective and fast in capturing drones
- Eagles may potentially be hazards in airports
- It is difficult to find professional eagle trainers or a trained eagle
- It takes about a year to train an eagle to capture a drone successfully
Why Is Anti-Drone Technology Important?
The increase of lowly priced drones has resulted in many security and safety issues for helicopters and airlines in the air and people on the ground, hence the need for anti-drone technology.
Below are more reasons why anti-drone technology is important:
- Prevention of Drone Damage and Accidents: Drones have been reported to cause various damages; for example, people have been hit and injured by drones that are flying too low. Sadly, when they fly too high, they also risk causing accidents by colliding with crewed airplanes. This is why anti-drone technology is essential in contouring drones that are too close to humanity or too high to cause plane crashes.
- Safeguarding Privacy Rights: Rogue drones fly above people’s homes, businesses, companies, and other entities. This is annoying and a major concern to the concerned entity’s privacy. Hence, anti-drone technologies come in handy in countering such rogue drones for prosecution purposes. You may get great evidence for prosecution based on the method you use to counter the drone.
Anti-drone technologies intercept or detect rogue drones. Also, anti-drone technology enhances safety and security in military entities, airports, battle zones, and other critical facilities.
So, anti-drone technology is important because it helps to jam, capture, or disable any rogue drone.
However, only some are allowed to use this technology. The Department of Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, and Defense can use anti-drone technologies to ensure that security and safety are not at risk.
Though there are various challenges paused by the technology, such as unintentional harm, some entities not being allowed to use it.
The collection of personal details which threatens privacy, and being ineffective in some scenarios, the anti-drone technology is a sure guard against rogue drones.
To increase the chances of the effectiveness of the anti-drone technology providing safety and security, consider using the best, for example, Radio Frequency (RF) Jammers, GPS Spoofers, Radio Frequency (RF) Analyzers, and RADAR.