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This week marks the launch of DroneShield’s latest product offering – the DroneGun portable rifle-style jammer, which works independently or in conjunction with DroneShield’s acoustic drone detection technology to locate and neutralise potential threats by air.

 

With drone sales expected grow exponentially in the near future, and an increasing number and severity of drone incidents occurring daily, DroneShield launched DroneGun to respond to nefarious use of consumer and commercial drones and the resulting need for effective countermeasures to drone intrusions. DroneShield aims to help public and private sector customers, where allowed by law, take proactive measures against airborne threats to safety, security, and privacy.

 

How Do Drone Jammers Work?

 

Jammers are designed to disrupt a drone by blasting electromagnetic noise at radio frequencies that drones operate and transmit video at, and at a power level high enough to drown out any effective communication between the drone and its pilot. Generally, this is either 2.4Ghz or 5.8Ghz (“RF-jamming”), which are “non-assigned” public frequencies meaning that drone jammers will not interfere with manned aircraft, cell phones, public broadcasts, or other dedicated radio bands. In addition to RF-jamming, where legal for the customer (which depending on the jurisdiction, may include military, law enforcement, first responders and private users), GPS jamming may also be utilized, as a large number of drones rely on GPS either to balance against wind, or to go between pre-determined way-points.

 

When a drone is hit with a jammer’s signal, the drone usually returns back to its origin point (unless GPS is also jammed), giving the jammer user the option to track the drone back to the pilot. Sometimes the drones might even perform a vertical descent and land on the spot intact, which offers the option of performing a forensic investigation. Landing on the spot is also the general response from drones when both RF and GPS are jammed at the same time.

 

Jammers can be effective against drones over several kilometres away. Generally, jammers operate on a ratio of distance between a drone and the jammer compared to the drone with its pilot. The further away the drone is from the pilot and closer to the jammer, the better. A typical effective jammer direction is a cone of about 15-30 degrees, projecting forward from the gun (this is also influenced by the RF band and the power of the jammer).

 

Why Are Jammers A Safer Choice Than Other Countermeasures?

 

Jammers are effective against drones without destroying the drones and evidence. Other options often result in damage or destruction to the drone, which can destroy evidence and also result in private property destruction charges.

 

Another consideration is if a drone is carrying a bomb or another dangerous item. Using a jammer is likely the safest course of action, because the jammer will usually cause the drone to return to its point of origin. This is much safer than shooting down a drone equipped with a bomb, which could lead to detonation of the bomb, injury, or even death.

 

Are Drone Jammers Legal?

 

While jammers are generally restricted for use in many countries except by the military, police, and first responders depending on the laws, non-GPS jammers are legal in a number of countries. It is important to look into the laws and regulations of the country and state that you are in to determine whether the use of a drone jammer is legal before operating one. DroneGun has not been authorized as required by the United States Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”). This device is not, and may not be, offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, in the United States, other than to the United States government and its agencies, until such authorization is obtained. The use of DroneGun in the United States by other persons or entities, including state or local government agencies, is prohibited by federal law. Laws limiting the availability of DroneGun to certain types of users may apply in other jurisdictions, and any sales will be conducted only in compliance with the applicable laws.

 

Why Are Drone Jammers Needed?

 

Consumer and commercial drones come a dizzying array of shape, size, characteristics, features, and prices from $30 consumer drones to $30,000 military-grade weaponised drones. That means that drones can also be employed for a huge range of illegal uses including:

 

  • Carrying bombs and other terrorist threats
  • Use as biological weapon
  • Illegal surveillance
  • Drone swarms overwhelming a facility
  • Interfere with emergency responders
  • Interfere with manned aircraft or airports
  • Smuggling contraband into prisons or across borders
  • Hacking into sources such as datacentres

 

Security needs have changed, and traditional security methods are not effective against attacks by air with drones. In the last two months alone, terroristic drone incidents included:

 

This has prompted Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to state “A top priority for me at the moment is this emerging danger that we’re seeing in the Middle East in respect to unmanned aerial systems — these cheap, buy-them-over-the-internet, small drones and if explosives are placed on them, as we’ve seen a handful of times now in Syria and Iraq, they can do damage,” as reported by Defensetech.org on October 31, 2016.

 

Other incidents over the recent months have included:

 

What Makes DroneShield’s DroneGun Different?

 

DroneShield’s DroneGun is easy to use, lightweight, and the point-and-shoot functionality of it means there’s not extensive training required to successfully employ it under a broad range of weather conditions. It is effective against a wide range of drone models and provides controlled management of drone payloads, like explosive devices.

 

The DroneGun is rifle shaped and equipped with a backpack. It is equipped with a hard plastic carrying case for protection and easy transport. DroneShield’s DroneGun requires no calibration. It is ready to go right out of the box, and has no re-load time. It is a low maintenance product that only requires 90 minutes of charging for up to two hours of use.

If you’re interested in more information about DroneShield’s DroneGun, please read our product information page here.

Flying drones isn’t as easy as it sounds – well legally speaking – there’s a whole lot of rules and regulations worldwide that any budding pilot needs to adhere to unless they want to end up in the ‘clink’.

That’s why DroneShield has spent the past months getting their team trained up as professionally qualified drone pilots - both in the USA (under the FAA’s new Part 107) and Australia (under the CASA’s new Part 101). But that’s not all, DroneShield has just completed the final step in the process to become a fully certified CASA compliant company (that’s a mouth full….) qualified to operate and oversee drone flights and operations… Confused? So were we at the start, so why don’t you check out this page – CASA - Doing it Safely

This is an important and proud step in our company’s progression and echo’s a clear commitment to the safe and secure operation of UAV’s worldwide.

The global consumer drone market is expected to reach US$14 billion by 2023 according to Goldman Sachs research. Since drones are a rapidly expanding, fledging market with an ever-increasing number of drones selling each year, it’s hard to nail down exact figures and we may see these numbers grow even faster than experts estimate.

With this surge of drone sales and grey legality of when and where drones can be flown, it stands to reason that the number of instance of illegal drone use will also rise. How do you know if you’ll be a target of illegal drone use? Here are the five most common ways drones are used illegally.

1) Terrorism
A Newsweek article from this year is chillingly titled “Terrorist Drone Attacks Are Not an ‘If’ But ‘When’.” There is a real threat of ISIS using hobbyist drones strapped chemicals or explosives to attack civilian populations. Drones have already been used in a variety of applications of the battlefield from filming propaganda videos for ISIS to scouting enemy positions, but the ease of availability, inexpensive models, and the fact that drones are highly portable makes them uniquely positioned to be used in acts of terrorism.

But its not just a threat overseas. Weaponizing drones is easy enough that an 18-year old from Connecticut mounted a semi-automatic handgun to a drone and put a video of it up on YouTube. 

Bombs are also not the only terrorism threat that drones pose. Loading a drone with radioactive or toxic material, and spraying a major city, is on the list of the risks. 

2) Prisons
Drones are the hot new thing to smuggle contraband – drugs, weapons, pornography, cell phones, etc. – into prisons, sometimes right to the prisoner’s window. Of course, smuggling contraband into prisons comes with some hefty fees and a potential jail sentence if caught, but it hasn’t stopped a marked rise in this tactic in the last few years. 

While there aren’t hard numbers on this, it’s happening all over the world. While prisons can simply wait for a drone carrying contraband to drop it to confiscate, it gets a little murkier when the drone is simply doing surveillance, tracking guard changes or taking pictures of the prison grounds itself to gather data to formulate an escape plan.

3) “Plane Watchers
Drones must be flown at or below 400 feet and unless the traffic control center is contacted, it’s illegal to fly a drone with five miles of an airport. These laws are set for very practical reasons – those being that if a drone were to get sucked into a 747 engine, it could end in tragedy (here is the sneak preview of the study of what happens to the engine - The speed of drone debris thrashing about inside the engine could reach speeds 715 miles per hour. Broken blades also would create more fragments as the fan crumbles and warps the engine block housing, contributing to catastrophic engine failure). However, drones flying too closely to manned aircraft is happening at dangerous levels. According to a report from the FAA, from August 22, 2015 to January 31, 2016, nearly 600 drones flew too close to airports or airplanes. 

These incidents were sometimes taken to a scary level when manned aircraft have been knocked off course or forced to take evasive action to avoid hitting a drone while flying, even at cruising altitudes. A report from Bard College estimates there have been 28 of these incidents from December 2013 to September 2015. 

4) Illegal Surveillance
The question of what constitutes illegal drone surveillance is something countries around the world are grappling with. Sweden recently outlawed the use of drones equipped with cameras, deeming it illegal surveillance unless the pilot applies for an expensive permit. The FAA guidelines specify that drones should not be flown over people, stadiums, or large crowds, but drone pilots could also get in trouble for flying over private property where the owners have a reasonable expectation to privacy. In 2014, California passed a paparazzi drone law to try to protect celebrity children. Meanwhile Kanye West is taking no chances by getting a pack of trained eagles to protect against paparazzi drones.

Illegal drone surveillance can be on a individual level, like drones flying over celebrity property, but it also happens on a large scale. Sports stadiums have struggled to find a solution to drones hovering over games and taking illegal video footage from the skies, and movie studios are learning to deal with drones flown by fans trying to predict the plot of the upcoming production.

5) Interfering with First Responders
Drones have quickly become a nuisance and danger to first responders, especially fire fighting pilots. The U.S. Forest Service has recorded 13 wildfires where drones have interfered with fire-fighting aircraft this year alone. Not only does this put first responders in danger, but it makes it harder for them to be effective and the wildfires could spread. This is such a serious threat that California just recently passed a law in September that allows first responders to damage or destroy drones that could interfere with emergency responses. 

DroneShield provides the world leading drone detection solution combined with DroneGun (where legal for the customer to deploy) – a portable rifle-style jammer, to neutralise the intruding drones. Go here for more information.

Heading: Not ‘If’ But ‘When’: Terrorist Drone Attacks

Drones were novel and rare ten years ago, but now – thanks to leaps forward in technology – drones are cheap and easy to acquire for anyone. The militaries of 86 countries have some drone capability and at least seven countries have used drones in combat. In 2015, experts estimated that drone production would total $93 billion over the next ten years, more than tripling the current market value.

But it’s not just militaries that are considering the weaponized use of drones in combat. 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.

In short, drones are a game-changer.

Chris Abbott, research fellow at Bradford University’s School of Social and International Studies said, “The use of drones for surveillance and attack is no longer the purview of state militaries alone. A range of terrorist, insurgent, criminal, corporate, and activist groups have already shown their desire and ability to use drones … The government needs to take this threat seriously.”

We have already seen an elementary use of drones by armed groups on a range of applications from filming propaganda videos by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) to scouting enemy positions to now targeting artillery and mortar fire in Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and the Ukraine.

Drone_Terrorism_0.png

This is not a new threat.

Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, has repeatedly attempted to attack Israel using commercially-available drones modified to carry explosives and has an estimated fleet of over 200 drones. There have also been similar reports of ISIS and Jabat Al Nusra trying the same in Iraq and Syria.

For now, terrorist groups’ drone technology has not been very effective against military bases because the drones are slow, easy to shoot down, and can only carry a limited amount of cargo. These drones could, however, be very effective when turned against the general public and experts warn that it’s only a matter of time until ISIS and other terrorist organizations use drones to attack the U.S. or Europe.

Terrorist Applications for Drones

  • Battlefield Deployment

    • A report indicates that ISIS is in the process of developing its own drone fleet.

  • Swarming

    • Swarming involves a large amount of drones simultaneously attacking a military or civilian target from number of directions, carrying an explosive charge or similar. At a basic level, this can utilise same feature as makes drone to follow and film you while you ski or bike down a mountain.

    • This is a key threat, now taken very seriously by a number of government agencies, including a recent tender by DARPA inviting defence industry to submit anti-swarming solutions. Of course, DARPA is researching swarming offensives at the same time.

  • Bomb Delivery System

    • Targeting a stadium, concert venue, or other gathering place for a large number of people is highly likely but also so is targeting government buildings, nuclear power plants, dams, and foreign embassies.

  • Chemical Warfare

    • Adapting crop-spraying drones to deploy a biological agent. It’s not a new idea and unlikely to be lethal on a large scale, but it could have a negative psychological effort on the civilian population regardless. The recent discovery of an ISIS “drone factory” in Mosgul indicates potential “dirty bomb” drone deployments in Europe in the near future.

  • Sabotage

    • This could include deliberately flying a drone into an aircraft’s engine to cause catastrophic engine failure.

  • Spreading Propaganda

    • We have already seen this from both ISIS and the Taliban with drone-shot videos of skirmishes intended to promote their cause.

Drones Are Here to Stay

It isn’t possible to turn back the clock on drone technology. Drones are here to stay. It’s well documented that drones are a threat to national and world security when they fall into the wrong hands. It’s now time to turn the conversation to how to prevent these types of attacks.

While the technology of remote-controlled warfare is impossible to completely control, there are countermeasures that governments, militaries, and police around the world can take to minimize the opportunities that terrorists have to deploy weaponized commercially-available drones.

Currently, drones range from small toy drones up to large military models and their uses range from aerial filmography, industrial applications, journalism, and more. Just like any new technology that is released into the open market, there is a period of growing pains where regulations need to be put in place to prevent accidents and reduce criminal use.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the U.S. has been slow to implement drone regulations as have other governments around the world including the U.K. and Australia where the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) new rules only took effect in September.

The first step is likely a registry program and licenses, but that won’t stop terrorists from buying drones in other countries and importing them. Otherwise, there’s a need for countermeasure technologies to protect key areas like airports, embassies, power plants, and others. There are already a few technologies like this out there like DroneShield’s DroneGun as well as capturing them with nets, and even trained eagles.

One thing is clear – protection from drones will become imperative in the next few years.

While Amazon – the American ecommerce retail giant – might have to wait a little longer before it can deploy its drone delivery program, Amazon Prime Air, drone deliveries is a reality prisons around the world are facing today.

A New Frontier

As long as there have been prisons, there have been people finding new and inventive ways to smuggle contraband inside. From Hollywood’s favourite trope of smuggling files into jail cells in baked goods to melting drugs into artwork, combatting the problem of smuggling is nothing new to jails and prisons around the world.

However, attack and infiltration by air is a new threat. Most prisons have elaborate security provisions on the ground – everything from razor wire, guards, security cameras, and more, but all of the space from the fence up is vulnerable to penetration by drones.

The drone market is growing at an exponential rate with experts estimating the market to reach $105.2 billion worldwide within the next four years including commercial, consumer, and military markets. The use of drones can range from aerial photography, crop monitoring, journalism, cinematography, border security, tactical reconnaissance, and criminal applications.

Prisons around the world have been noting incidents with drones smuggling contraband for the last few years. With the number of drones entering the market skyrocketing, it’s only a matter of time before prisons begin to experience these incidents with increasing regularity.

It’s a Global Problem

From the United States to the United Kingdom to Australia to Russia, prisons have reported altercations between prisons and drones for at least the last seven years.

Drones have been caught trying to drop off drugs, weapons, cell phones, cigarettes, porn, and weapons. Drones have also been documented hovering above prisons to perform escape route surveillance. Objects dropped by drones and gathered by inmates pose a serious threat to other inmates as well as the prison staff and employees.

Perhaps one of the first such incidents was in 2009 when a toy helicopter was used to make an ultimately unsuccessful drug drop in a UK prison. Two years later, staff at a Moscow prison confiscated 700 grams of heroin dropped by a drone. Western Australian prisons have been struggling with drone security as well. At Wooroloo Prison Farm, a minimum-security facility, accomplices used drones to deliver bundles of drugs to inmates at a housing pod repeatedly.

Just last year, a riot broke out over a package a drone dropped at Mansfield Correctional Institution, a prison in Ohio. Only a few months later, a drone was discovered dropping mobile phones, drugs, hacksaw blades, and other materials into a prison in Oklahoma.

In a New Era of Prison Security Necessities

Prison staff have always been vigilant about screening for contraband brought into prisons by visitors, employees, and even mail deliveries. Although smugglers can get very creative, generally the countermeasures were straightforward and easy to implement. A common technique in the past to breach walls have been tennis balls filled with illicit items – most commonly drugs – that are thrown over the prison fences to a waiting inmate.

Drone pose new difficulties. Drones can move quickly, hover, and make evasive manoeuvres. A remote pilot controls them from afar, which means the accomplice can more easily stay hidden and out of reach of prison officials.  

Officials at the Mansfield prison only realized the riot at their prison was spurned by a drone after the fact when they were reviewing surveillance video footage while investigating the fight and saw the drone on camera. 

Countermeasures For Prisons Against Drones

There are many different countermeasures that prison officials can take to combat attacks by air depending on what the situation calls for. These include:

  • Utilising drone detection sensors, such as DroneShield’s long range sensors and near range omnis. This way, the prison officials receive an advanced warning of an incoming drone, and the direction where it comes from, which enables them to observe the identity of the package recipient and conduct an internal investigation. They can also use this information to track the drone pilot.

  • Tracking the drone back to its pilot – using DroneShield’s DroneGun jammer (in the RF-only mode) will trigger the drone to fly back to its point of origin, enabling pilot tracking.

  • DroneGun could also be used to bring drones out of the sky before they can drop their packages via a vertical controlled descent (when both RF and GPS functions are utilised).

With jammer deployment, prison authorities need to be aware of the legislation. For example, under the current US legislation, state and local authorities may not deploy jammers.

DroneShield’s detection sensors work by a proprietary system which separates drone sounds from background clutter, and matches against a proprietary library of acoustic signatures. When a match is found, the system sends out an alert by text, email, or through an existing alarm system via an API.

 Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has deregulated drone use. The new regulations are designed to reduce cost and cut the red tape around operating drones in Australia, but many pilots and air traffic controllers worry that these relaxed regulations could lead to disastrous mid-air collisions.

The changes went into effect in October, which included eliminating the $1,400 fees charged to commercial drone operators and allowing landowners to operate drones up to 25 kilograms on their own property without a permit. Aviation special counsel for Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Joseph Wheeler, said the move towards deregulation would significantly increase the risk of a crash with a drone.

CASA has admitted that it doesn’t “have people going out there looking for drone.” A spokesperson said CASA simply does not have the resources to investigate drone pilots breaking the law. But experts have warned that drone use in Australia has already become more dangerous with amateur pilots unaware of or disregarding existing laws.

This is the intersection where airplane pilots fear the worst outcomes will result.

There have been no studies done on drone impacts.

Drone proponents have argued that there is a wealth of information and research done on the effect of birds colliding with airplanes and that we should be able to reasonably assume that a drone roughly the size of a bird should pose no greater threat, but this reasoning does not take into account mitigating factors or criminal intentions.

Steven Landells, flight safety specialist for the British Airline Pilots Association said, “There is currently a lot of scenario modelling happening to look in more detail at the severity of these impacts. The amount of damage caused depends on factors such as the size, direction of travel and speed of the drone, and the location of the collision.” He states that while there was a lot of data on the effects of bird strikes, specific drone research was needed because, “birds don’t have a big lump of lithium battery in them.”

Landells did state that there was one thing we know about drone strike. He said, “If one of those goes down an engine, it’ll stop the engine, there’s very little doubt about that. And as the drones get bigger and more capable, the potential if there is a mid-air collision is a lot worse.”

Australian Federation of Air Pilots’ president, David Booth, said that drones have the potential to cause a large amount of damage if one strikes a helicopter’s tail rotor or flies into a plane’s engine. “Birds are soft, they might destroy the engine, but with a drone there is the potential of impact fire and they’re reinforced with Kevlar composite. Two kilos at 250 kilometres an hour or potentially 400 kilometres an hour – there’s a lot of energy in that impact,” he said.

Drone strikes are no longer in theoretical territory.

In April, it finally happened – a drone collided with a plane that was landing at Heathrow Airport in London, England. The plane was carrying 132 passengers as well as five crewmembers when the pilot reported that the aircraft was struck by an “unmanned object” shortly before landing on the tarmac.

Fortunately, the airplane landed safely and was later cleared for its next flight, but impact with a drone could potentially be as catastrophic as uncontrolled engine failure or a shattered cockpit windshield.

This year, the Telegraph reported that the number of near collisions between airplanes and drones has quadrupled in just a year. The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority records over 100 reports of near misses with drones every month. One drone was seen flying over the Los Angeles Airport at 8,000 feet, which is over 7,000 feet higher than drone regulations currently allow and creeps into cruising altitude for commercial airliners. At the fifth busiest airport in the world, Istanbul Airport, there is a claim that a drone was found with a geo-fenced area – meaning a space that should have been protected from drones entering it. Even the White House – another no-fly zone for drones – has had drones land on the lawn.

Drone incidents at airports are not just restricted to the UK and US either. There is a report of a drone that came within 50 meters of striking a rescue helicopter on the Gold Coast in Australia. In France, an Airbus just narrowly avoided hitting a drone while landing at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in the same month that a drone struck the plane landing at Heathrow. The pilot disengaged autopilot and performed an evasive manoeuvre so that the drone passed five meters below the wing.

This is the first incident of its kind, but it seems unlikely that it is the last. Only time will tell if regulations can catch up to the reality of a world filled with drones.  

 

Small, incredibly agile, and increasingly more affordable, drones now come in tiny sizes, perfect for taking photos and videos as well as larger drones capable of carrying high-powered cameras with optical zoom lens made for spying and illegal surveillance.

In October, Civil Aviation Safety Authority relaxed rules about “remotely piloted aircraft” making it easier to fly a drone in Australia. What is notably absent are any restrictions about flying a drone over private property, which is a cause for concern since there is little recourse for Australians that have been filmed without consent on their own property.

While in the United States, most states do not have laws regarding drone surveillance. Only seven states explicitly outlaw peeping Tom drones and nearly half of states allow the use of drones for law enforcement surveillance, but do have laws limiting its use.

But the question still remains …

What right does an individual have to his or her privacy?

A voluntary code of conduct for drone use, which many from humanitarian communities have adopted, lays out guidelines for drone pilots that wish to preserve individuals’ privacy while gathering information. There is no binding law or statute that applies to private or commercial use of drones in most countries, but legal scholars argue that there should be, because airspace lies in a grey area that is neither entirely public nor entirely private.

Courts all over the world will be determining and interpreting privacy laws in regards to drone use. While courts can determine what is legal and what is not, they cannot legislate what is legal but “ill-advised.” Media companies, for one, have pushed back against any guidelines that might restrict drone surveillance use. “You don’t need a person’s permission to photograph them when they are out in public,” says Mickey Osterricher, general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association. “We should not be creating new laws based solely on the fact that it involves a new technology.”

Of course, an increase of cameras in public spaces is not only due to the use of drones. From CCTV cameras to wearable cameras on law enforcement officers to the ubiquitous use of mobile phone cameras, advances in technology are irrevocably changing the conversation about privacy.

You can’t put the cat back in the bag.

It is irrefutable that the number of drones in the sky is going to skyrocket in the next few years and with advances in drone technology, they will likely only get smaller and cheaper – a perfect storm for illegal drone surveillance.

Some countries have decided to take an extreme stance on drones and privacy concerns. Sweden recently passed legislation banning all cameras on drones deeming it illegal surveillance. There are no exemptions for anyone including journalists.

Illegal drone surveillance can be broken down into a few main types, three of which are covered below.

  • Footage shot from movie and television sets.

Movie sets were once considered off-limits to media and paparazzi, but recently people have been using drones to spy on such famous movies and television shows like Star Wars and Game of Thrones to take clandestine behind-the-scenes images of the cast and sets. Actors in Star Wars: The Force Awakens wore robes over their clothes to hide their faces and costumes from prying drones. Disney has gone so far as to try to purchase anti-drone technology and posted hundreds of guards during the filming of the 8th Star Wars movie to combat drones.

  • Dronerazzi” besieging celebrities and their children.

Kanye West asked, “Is your daughter stalked by drones? Are there drones flying where she’s trying to learn how to swim at age one?” after a paparazzo drone was used to spy on his family in their backyard.

California, home to Hollywood and celebrity elite, has taken a strict stance on drones by passing a new law that will make it illegal for paparazzi to use drones to take photos of celebrities. This comes on the heels of complaints by celebrities like Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, and Halle Berry.

  • Peeping Drones.

A man in the state of Kentucky was arrested after shooting down a drone that was hovering above his sunbathing under-age daughter. He said:

“You know, when you’re in your own property, within a six-foot privacy fence, you have the expectation of privacy. We don’t know if he was looking at the girls. We don’t know if he was looking for something to steal. To me, it was the same as trespassing.”

He’s not the only one that’s run into trouble with drones hovering over private property. A New Jersey man was arrested after shooting down a neighbour’s drone and a California man lost a small claims court case after shooting down a drone hovering over his property.

  • Military Surveillance

Civil drones now vastly outnumber military drones. While it is illegal in most countries for civilians to fly drones over military bases, illegal surveillance of military installations is likely to become a rising issue as this division grows and more and more civilians own and have access to drones. When a civilian drone is found on or hovering above a military base, it can be virtually impossible to locate the drone pilot. Without the pilot, there is no avenue for recourse regardless of whether the pilot is a careless local or a foreign agent with terroristic objectives, which could have far-reaching national security implications.

DroneShield provides comprehensive drone detection solutions for everyone and countermeasures for federal militaries and agencies suite of solutions (where legal) for situations where drones create threats to safety, security, or privacy.  

Militaries around the world – the United States in particular – have shown an increasing interest in the development of ever-smaller drones known as micro air vehicles (MAVs), like the drone pictured below. These micro drones’ purpose is to perform covert reconnaissance in areas that cannot be reached by other types of aerial equipment. The obvious application of these MAVs is intelligence gathering through the use of cameras or microphones, but another weaponized application is in the use of drone swarms against adversaries.

We saw this application of micro-drones in the movie ‘Eye in the Sky’, which features a micro-drone observing and gathering intelligence to capture terrorists. In the picture below we see the UK-based Colonel Katherine Powell, played by Helen Mirren, watching the images being captured by the micro-drone half a world away in Kenya.

The Current Reality of Insect-Sized Drones

The next likely step in this technology is to develop bug-sized drones; however, there is no evidence of these being produced just yet. Studying insects and birds to mimic their flight capabilities has led to the development of some MAV research. However, shrinking a bird-sized drone to the size of an insect is not simply a matter of manufacturing smaller pieces.

“You can’t make a conventional robot of metal and ball bearings and just shrink the design down,” said Ronal Fearing, a roboticist at the University of California at Berkeley. When creating the scale of a flying insect, the rules of drone aerodynamics change altogether. This size of drone requires different aerial propulsion compared to larger drone models, which is a massive feat of engineering.

Even if scientists are able to overcome the engineering challenges of developing fly-sized drones, “they can get eaten by a bird, they can get caught in a spider web,” Professor Fearing said

Fortunately for now, the image above is only an artist rendering of what an insect-sized drone could look like.

Militarized Micro Drones

While insect-sized drones remain firmly in the realm of science fiction for now, both the British and United States militaries are turning their attention toward small drones like the PD-100 Black Hornet 2. This drone model weighs 18 grams, including both regular and thermal cameras - equivalent to the weight of exactly four sheets of A4 paper. The Black Hornet can fly for up to 25 minutes and ranges up to two miles from its base.

This drone can be manually controlled or flown autonomously using the GPS autopilot feature. The device, small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, can be stored in a small pack to be easily carried and deployed in real-world battlefield situations.

The Black Hornet is not the only micro drone in production currently; one of its competitors is the “Cicada”, which stands for Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft. Named after the swarming insect, the Cicada drone is described as a “paper airplane with a circuit board.” The Cicada is intended to be deployed from an airplane to glide to impact. In one trial, the Cicada landed within 4.5 metres of its target from an 18-kilometer fall.

 

Drones are being used by terrorists for surveillance and bombing.

 

DroneGuns are an effective anti-drone measure.

DroneGuns are powered from a backpack.

DroneGuns are portable and can be carried by one person.

Sophisticated anti-drone technology, the DroneGun, was used by Swiss police to protect members of the high-profile World Economic Forum (WEF) from the threat of attack by drones at its annual gathering in January 2017.

DroneGuns are deployed whenever there are concerns that airborne drones could be used by terrorists for surveillance or bombing. Developed by DroneShield, the leading drone detection and defense company with centers in the USA and Australia, DroneGuns enable security operators to deal with these threats if needed.

Effective over a 2km radius in a wide range of environmental conditions, DroneGuns consist of a rifle with stand and backpack which can be carried and operated by one person.

They neutralize drones by jamming radio communications between the drone and its operator, so that their payload, such as explosives or a biological agent, cannot be deployed. DroneGuns either trigger a drone to return to its starting point, allowing its operator to be found, or they force a drone to come down vertically in a controlled manner. Then the drone can be safely retrieved for an investigation.

In the event, such actions were not needed at the four-day WEF forum in Davos-Klosters in Switzerland, and it took place without incident.

More than 3,000 political, business, and other leaders of society shaped global, regional, and industry agendas untroubled and in safety.

These stringent security measures were in place at the WEF forum because of a recent string of terror attacks throughout Europe.

Walter Schlegel, the police chief in charge of security at the forum, said that although there were no concrete indications of a planned attack, it was best to be prepared. He said: “The bombings in Paris last November represent a new sort of threat of WEF, and require new measures.”

WEF spokesman, Georg Schmitt said, “While drones have great potential, they have – just as every new technology or aspect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – also a potential downside. The Forum takes the safety and security of its participants seriously. It is therefore normal that we take any potential issue into account and prepare for it.”

Oleg Vornik, CEO of DroneShield, said: “A high profile event with many VIPs attending is a potential target for such attacks, and with security traditionally designed to deal with threats from the ground, dealing with threats from above is a new era.”

Oleg Vornik continued: “The next major event at which DroneShield equipment will be deployed at is the Boston Marathon in April 2017. Security has been particularly stringent at this event since the terrorist bombing in 2013. This will be the third time DroneShield has secured the Boston Marathon, which draws over 530,000 spectators and participants.”

Weaponized drones are being used by Islamic State terrorists in attacks across the globe.

Islamic State documents, recovered in Iraq, provide an insight into how the Jihadist group uses drones. Image courtesy of the CTC.

Until recently, Islamic State has used drones purely for aerial photography and video surveillance, but now the Jihadist group has started to use drones as weapons.

Islamic State is one of four terrorist groups with a formal drone program, the others being Hezbollah, Hamas, and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of US forces in Iraq and Syria, warned that Islamic State makes extensive use of drones and “it’s not episodic or sporadic – it’s relatively constant and creative.” These drones are not bespoke weaponry, but enhanced consumer drones easily obtained through online stores such as Amazon.

Exploding Drones

Islamic State used a modified consumer drone to kill two Kurdish soldiers in October 2016. It contained an explosive device disguised as a battery. This detonated when the soldiers took the drone inside to study it. While not a large bomb, the explosion was enough to be fatal. This type of warfare is part of an ongoing strategy by Islamic State.

Bomb Drops from Drones

The Jihadist group released a video in January 2017 titled ‘The Knights of Dawawin,’ highlighting a new Islamic State drone capability – dropping small bomb-like munitions on enemies. The attack showed the munitions striking with relative accuracy, targeting crowds, stationary vehicles and tanks while filming the assault. Another video was released in January containing a clip of a drone bomb drop in Anbar, Iraq.

While these attacks appear impressive for the relatively low-tech drones used by Islamic State, it should be recognised that these videos are heavily edited propaganda. It is likely there were many unsuccessful previous attempts, which were neutralized by US and Iraqi forces. However these attacks are expected to continue to grow in sophistication going forward, as ISIS becomes more experienced in deploying drones for terrorism purposes.

Intelligence on Islamic State and Drones

A number of confidential Islamic State documents, recovered in Iraq, have been analyzed by theCombating Terrorism Center (CTC) and provide an insight into how the Jihadist group uses drones.

Reporting System on Drone Deployment

The documents reveal that after missions, drone controllers participate in a formal reporting system. They fill in forms to enable the leaders of Islamic State to capture operational intelligence to benefit future drone deployments.>

Weaponized Drones

The documents also reveal an Islamic State program to enhance the capabilities of consumer drones. The Jihadist group is attempting to acquire items like GoPro activity cameras, memory cards, GPS units, digital video recorders and extra propeller blades. The documents also reveal attempts to boost drone capabilities with encrypted video transmitters and receivers to secure video feeds. The CTC estimates that in the future unmodified consumer drones will be able to carry heavier payloads, fly longer, and venture further.

It is likely that Islamic State will continue to refine and hone its drone program for maximum carnage. While its drone bombs currently do not inflict mass casualties, they still cause fatalities in civilian streets.

Protection from Drones

If you have facilities that need protection from drone intruders, DroneShield provides a sophisticated array of drone detection systems. With operational centers in the USA and Australia, the company has sold more than 200 drone sensors to clients across the globe. Potential clients  include NATO, government departments, police forces, state penitentiaries and sporting arenas.

 

Drone swarms are a major new threat in warfare. Picture: expouav.com

Swarms of bird-sized drones are released in their hundreds from military aircraft and flock towards their target. >

They twist and turn as one entity, powered by artificial intelligence with flocking algorithms and equipped with on-board cameras, communication systems and weapons. This is not a scene from a Hollywood movie or a computer game, but reality.

Because of recent advances in technology, drone swarms can now be created at relatively low cost using retail drones available from high street stores and through mail order.

But this is a challenge that counter-drone experts at DroneShield are prepared for. DroneShield offers a set of products for detecting and stopping drones controlled by enemy militias and criminals.

In January, the company supplied its sophisticated anti-drone technology to protect a high-profile forum of global experts in Switzerland, the World Economic Forum (WEF).

DroneShield enabled Swiss police to have the capability to neutralize drones if they appeared in the skies above the conference center in Davos-Klosters.

Indeed, drone swarms were high on the agenda at the WEF, attended by senior politicians, policy makers, military experts and industry leaders.

In a discussion on the future of warfare, a combat scenario was discussed in which a drone swarm launched by ISIS could overwhelm and bring down the US military’s most advanced aircraft, such as the F35 stealth fighter.

The Pentagon is running its own drone swarm program. It has developed hundreds of specially equipped micro drones that can be released from fighter jets and fly like flocks of birds.

Using technology originally developed at MIT, the drones communicate with each other many times a second to achieve military objectives as a group.

The US is working with Iraqi troops to flush ISIS out of western Mosul, where the Jihadist group is already using single drones to drop bombs and guide explosive-laden cars from above.

An Iraqi spokesman in Mosul said on CBS News that they would like to have drone guns to remove drones safely from the sky.

US military leaders are concerned that it is only a matter of time before ISIS develops weaponized drone swarms.

Oleg Vornik, CEO of DroneShield, said: “We are seeing a great deal of interest in our drone stopping solutions from organizations worldwide. Compared with other systems, our devices are affordable and immediately available.”

To deal with drone swarms, the company offers DroneSentry, an integrated detection and stopping system. This enables 360-degree detection of swarms over a range of 1km.

The system automatically activates and locks onto multiple drones. The drones are then rendered ineffective by jamming their communication systems.

The client is immediately alerted through electronic systems such as SMS message.

Oleg Vornik continued: “We continuously invest in research and development to ensure that our technologies remain at the cutting edge. This is why we are receiving interest in our drone stopping technology from the military, government departments and national security agencies in the US and across the world.”

 

Illegal surveillance using drones is raising concerns about privacy.

Drones, available in high street stores and through mail order, are small, agile and can be precisely controlled from a distance. They can be fitted with powerful cameras equipped with zoom lenses which can feed video back to their operator.

This makes them popular with hobbyists, but also ideal for use as illegal surveillance tools by paparazzi, criminals, stalkers and private detectives.

In recent years, drones have made unwelcome appearances which have annoyed and alarmed ordinary people, celebrities, movie directors, and even security staff at the White House.

Policing such invasions of privacy is a relatively new issue with many ramifications which are being hotly debated in different countries across the globe.

THE UNITED STATES

In the USA, drones as unmanned aircraft are regulated by the federal government through the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) which controls airspace, while state, county and city governments deal with privacy issues locally

So, if you buy a drone, you are bound by FAA regulations. You are not allowed to fly drones over private property unless you have the consent of the property owner. But enforcing these rules locally is a grey area populated with debates about ethics, property and privacy rights, plus criminal and civil laws.

Many frustrated Americans are taking the law into their own hands, shooting drones down if they fly inside their property boundaries.

Most American states do not have laws regarding drone being used for surveillance by members of the public. Just seven states outlaw surveillance drones. Fifty percent of states permit the use of drones for surveillance by police, but also have laws controlling such activities.

The US Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is concerned that the FAA rules do not address privacy, so it has filed a legal challenge. EPIC wants the FAA to include privacy regulations, to stop stalkers making video recordings of people in their gardens and through the windows of their homes.

AUSTRALIA

The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority has relaxed rules regarding drones, and there is no legislation to stop people using a drone to spy on private property. Privacy groups in Australia are concerned about this, as are citizens who have had video cameras pointed at them from drones flown onto their properties.

SWEDEN

Recently passed legislation to prevent the installation of cameras on drones, even those used by the news media, because they enable illegal surveillance.

SOLUTIONS

As technology advances, drones are getting more powerful, sophisticated, and attractive as a means of surveillance by over-zealous hobbyists, enemy militias and criminal groups.
DroneShield is a leader in drone detection and countermeasure technologies, providing protection against prying ‘Eyes in the Sky’ and consequent threats to safety, security and privacy.