Safeguarding Against Weaponised Off-the-Shelf Rogue Drones
Consumer drones have been utilized on numerous occasions for nefarious reasons, from stalking individuals to delivering drugs in prisons. Now, a failed attempt at assassinating Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro on August 4, 2018, reminded us indeed how simple it is to turn off-the-shelf drones into deadly weapons.
For this situation, the culprits had stacked two automatons with 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of C4 explosives each. At that point they evidently endeavored to fly them as close as conceivable to the president while he was addressing officers.
How to protect from such dangers? The technology is there, in the form of drone ‘jammers’, nets and other counter drone technologies such as signal disruptors.
In this case, the military had “electronically” diverted one of the drones from its course, according to Interior Minister Nestor Reverol.
The second one slammed against the mass of a building some distance from the real target.
Detecting and neutralising drone threats
Particular organizations, for example, the Kassel-based counter drone company Dedrone, have developed counter drone technology which uses a range of passive and active measures from proprietary DroneTracker software to hardware in the form of sensors and other mitigation devices such as videos and jammers.
“What happened in Venezuela is a stark reminder of the power of drones as weapons. This isn’t the first time drones have been used for malicious purposes, and it won’t be the last,” DeDrone wrote in a statement regarding the attack on President Maduro.
Drones are here to stay, and technology can help identify where and when they fly, and how they can impact our safety. Counter-drone technology is critical to help provide warning of approaching, unauthorized drones, and identify or apprehend the pilot.”
DeDrone as a matter of first importance supports security organisations to reduce and respond to drone threats by incorporating a sensor framework that picks up electronic radio information and screens the airspace with cameras. The framework can distinguish drones entering a predefined airspace, detecting the flying device by means of recognisable command orders that are transmitted to the drones via radio or mobile phone.
It can instantly recognise and record the the drone make and model, distinguishing them from other small flying objects such as feathered creatures, kites or helicopters. The drone is then captured and tracked by video camera.
Working with the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental of the US DoD, DeDrone are well versed in assessing and responding to UAV threats.
“Counter-drone technology is a critical element of a proactive security ecosystem, which, if incorporated at/near the event site today, could have given security personnel an opportunity to assess and address the threat before the damage occurred,” writes DeDrone.
Yet, the risk isn’t over as long as the drone is airborne. As a second step, specialists such as police or law enforcement officers, can make use of drone jamming devices such as those made by Australian company DroneShield.
“In the wake of the Venezuela drone attack, officials from around the world are realising how vulnerable public events are,” writes DroneShield in a post on Twitter today.
While the Venezuela attack is by no means new – reports of armed groups using drones to scout enemy positions and better target military fire in Syria, Gaza and Iraq are many – DroneShield notes that, “Drones are finding much more traction from terrorist groups due to the facts they’re cheap, easy to acquire, and highly portable. Drones offer a distinct tactical advantage for armed militant groups looking to implement asymmetric warfare.”
Their drone jamming technology makes use of countermeasure technology to disrupt the flight of drones, forcing them to either land in a direct vertical path, or to return home to the pilot, allowing security personnel to locate perpetrators.
More recently, DroneShield have worked with Intelligent Security Integration Australia (ISI) to add their counterdrone technology to ISI’s on-vehicle and electro-optics surveillance system, the Rapid Scout® HQ.
Another type of drone safeguard is offered by Openworks Engineering, and is known as Skywall. The company has two versions of Skywall, the Skywall 100 and Skywall 300.
The first, a shoulder-held shooting device that launches a net to capture the rogue drone in mid air. Once the net is folded over the drone, it floats to the ground with a parachute to reduce chance of damage to the device and therefore the ability to retrieve valuable data.
For high security locations, the Skywall 300 is a permanent installation consisting of a gun in a rotatable turret that can be mounted on the top of a building, with a longer range than that of the handheld version.
Upon detecting and locating a target, the gun paralyses the flying device by capturing it in a net, mitigating risk without the need for electronic disruption and very low risk of collateral damage.
Skywall’s technology has been employed most recently at the Berlin Air Show, used by police as part of a system known as GUARDION, which alongside other European-developed counterdrone technologies stops confirmed threats in their tracks.