Irresponsibly-piloted drones can cause a lot of problems when they’re illegally flown into restricted airspaces. Increasing rogue drone sightings are a safety risk. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently receives more than 100 such reports each month. While anti-drone measures do exist, many cause the aircraft to fall to the ground, potentially harming bystanders.
Now newly jointly developed technology under a licensing agreement between Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Drone Defense Systems LLC of Daytona Beach will detect and commandeer unauthorized drones, guiding them to land safely. The company’s founder and CEO, Sotirios George Kaminis, will work with Song and Embry-Riddle to further refine the concept, build a prototype and pursue related products.
Existing strategies for combating rogue drones range from dispatching birds of prey to shooting bullets, nets or channel-jamming electromagnetic noise at unauthorized drones. Military and corporate drone-jamming technologies exist but are quite costly making them inaccessible for smaller airports or private venues.
Dr. Houbing Song faculty member at Embry and an assistant professor in the Electrical, Computer, Software and Systems Engineering program and director of the Security and Optimization for Networked Globe Laboratory (SONG Lab)- proposed system leverages a network of wireless acoustic sensors to identify a flying drone. To distinguish drones from birds, Song and his Ph.D. students – Yongxin Liu and Jian Wang – built a computer-based “brain” called a neural network that is continuously learning and therefore getting smarter. After the system confirms a drone, the acoustic sensors, working in tandem with beacon receivers, transmit information to a control center.
If the drone is on an unauthorized flight, Song’s system uses sophisticated pattern-recognition techniques to decipher the drone’s video-streaming channel and interrupt the broadcast with a warning message. “For each drone,” Liu explained, “the acoustic pattern might be a little different, but we can tell them apart, just as anyone can distinguish between a songbird and the noise of a crow.”
According to Dr. Song the system can also hijack the drone’s communication channel to trigger its pre-determined return flight, or otherwise trick the drone into leaving the area.
Kaminis explained the technology this way: “It disrupts communication between the pilot and the drone. It detects the drone, finds out what language the drone speaks, activates an emulation system that mimics the drone’s language, and snatches control away from the pilot.”
Song reiterates, “Our solution is friendly. Rather than destroying the drone, we guide it to a safe landing place.”
Kaminis adds, “My existing product is intrusive – it’s considered a weapon because it jams drones and makes them fall out of the sky. The Embry-Riddle technology is non-intrusive, so it is ideal for civilian applications and easy to export as it doesn’t fall under ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations).”
Under the newly inked licensing agreement, Drone Defense Systems LLC received exclusive rights to commercialize the technology according to Dr. Stephanie A. Miller, executive director of technology transfer for Embry-Riddle’s Research Park.
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