Countering the Drone Menace
Looking for a perfect solution in the imperfect security arena
In recent years the risk emanating from the misuse of drones has grown exponentially. The purpose of this short article is to examine the risk that should be taken while using drones counter measures.
The threat of drones is widespread, starting from the usage of drones by ISIS in fighting in various countries, through reconnaissance drone flights over military operations done by Iranian drones over US fleet in the Gulf, to simple usage of drones by civilians that penetrate unintentionally (most likely) to airports airspace.
The drone threat is divided into two main operational problems. The first one is detection which can be attained by many techniques, most likely by Radar, Passive RF detection, Camera and more. The second one is more acute and it is the counter measures. Till now very few methods has been introduced such as, praying birds, throwing nets, short range gun, hacking and spoofing but the most prevalent and cost-effective method of operation is inhibiting the RF signal of the drone and the controller.
When presenting the counter measure of inhibition to various security entities and airport authorities several questions immediately pop up as the main question is: “what if a drone would fall on somebody’s head ?. One security person even stated that he would prefer that a plane would crash rather the drone would fall on a child’s head.
Before answering this serious dilemma it is prudent to explore the reasons why in most countries today, the drone threat is well known but actual steps to mitigating this phenomenon is barely taken. Below are few reasons why the risk is not yet met with a response:
- A lack of a 9/11 event: every security measure taken is usually based on a tragedy where many people lost their lives such as the case of 9/11 and only afterwards, security measures have been taken. The question in our case is that we should ask ourselves ‘why do we always need a tragedy to deploy the required security measures? The reply to that lies in the second argument.
- The psychological factor: people rarely engage in preventive measures even when they are fully aware that danger exists. Examples are in abundance starting in people smoking, driving while drinking and much more. Furthermore, security organizations will struggle even more, to pursued their superior to allocate money for this threat because a 9/11 event has yet to occur. It may be even argued that due to their size, it is difficult to perceive that such a small thing can create a lot of damage.
- Regulations: in many countries, inhibition is illegal unless one has special permission from a state authority.
- Responsibility: using counter measures that may affect the environment and cause harm, turns the security agency liable to a law suit.
Overall speaking, many security agencies seem to be looking for a silver bullet solution, the 100% security solution, a counter measure system that will allow them to control every existing drone, from far away (few kilometers) and the cost of this system will be roughly the cost of a small luxury car (about $100,000).
So, how does one calculate the risk of using a counter measure such as RF Inhibition as opposed to the risk involved? The solutions lies as always in perception of the threat and a technological solution. The risk of a falling commercial from the sky is very real, near misses in the world are being counted every day and it is just a matter of time till a drone will cause an airplane to crash. Now, while the probability of a drone crashing into a commercial flight is on the rise (more drones are being used every day), the risk of a drone falling on somebody’s head is extremely low.
Let us explain why: first and foremost, most drones have a fly home feature, which means that once I inhibit the controller and the drone connection to the ground, I can leave the GPS connection unimpeded, thus causing the drone to fly home back to the controller.
This method of operations will most likely solve close to 100% of drones drifting away or falling from the sky. Second, once protecting a specific area, a thorough analysis can determine where inhibition is most likely to create a safe landing of the drone when the GPS is inhibited as well. In addition, various other techniques in the system’s method of operations, can be used while using the counter measure in order to disrupt drone flight and not causing it to fall to the ground.
Summary: after the 1993 attack against the world trade center which resulted in 6 people dead and more than 1,000 people injured, one of the terrorists said to his interrogator that ‘these buildings (the world trade center) will fall down’. As his warning/premonition has been unheeded, it appears that we are in the same situation today, the drone threat is very much familiar but security agencies all around the world are waiting for a disaster to happen rather than take current preventive measures.
VP Business Development and Marketing
(A manufacturer of Anti Drone systems).