How can I Choose the Right Anti Drone Security System?

Airspace security is an extremely complex topic where a great number of factors need to be taken into consideration to provide the best possible solution for a given site. Given the depth of the topic and the enormous amount of competing anti-drone systems (also known as “CUAS” or “CUAV”) on the market, how can you choose a system that provides optimal airspace security at the best cost/efficiency ratio and over the longest possible period?

Qualities to Look For

Strangely enough, the same qualities that make a good friend are the same ones you should be looking for in a provider:  

  • Are they someone you can trust? Ask for references. Any serious counter UAV (“counter drone”) provider will be willing to provide client and partner references and most likely specific use cases to prove they know what they’re talking about. Also, be careful about maximum coverage ranges. Ask the provider if the drone detection ranges they’re giving you are under average or ideal conditions. The difference may be surprising.
  • Are they committed? Does the provider make the sale and that’s the end of the relationship? Just like a “friend” who disappears once they’ve got what they wanted, a provider who cuts all contact post-sale is someone to watch out for. Look for an anti drone security company that watches over you. Post-sale service, software updates, and troubleshooting are essential.
  • Are they knowledgeable? We’ve all seen that annoying guy who claims to know it all but can’t back it up. Test a potential provider’s knowledge and background. Does their representative and/or team have experience in the defense and security fields? What about their materials – do they straddle the fine line between in-depth and easy-to-understand, or do they go too far one way or the other? Can they explain how their technology works in a simple and thorough way?
  • Are they passionate? Trustworthiness, commitment, and knowledge are all extremely important qualities, but without a passionate outlook, a friendship risks falling flat. Is the provider you’re considering constantly learning and updating their knowledge on the CUAS field and all its innovations? Are they already doing their own research and development, or planning too soon, or do they purchase all their technology from third parties? A motivated airspace security provider will always be on the lookout for the newest threats and the latest solutions.

Anti-Drone Solutions Tailored to Your Needs

So, you’ve found an airspace security provider that seems to have all the qualities you’re looking for. Now it’s time to take a closer look at their equipment. While it’s extremely important to have a passionate and knowledgeable security team, without the right tools your airspace is still at high risk. Ask yourself the following questions when examining counter UAS technology:

Think Long Term

  • Can you scale it to your site needs? Is the technology offered modular? That is – can you easily add or subtract elements without having to replace the entire system?
  • Is it upgradable? Is the CUAS solution on offer a good investment over the long-term? Can the software and hardware be easily and regularly updated to keep up with new threats?
  • How durable is it? Is it going to last? And is it resistant to rain, snow, and extreme temperatures? This is especially important if the technology will be permanently installed outdoors.

Ease of Use

  • Is the technology intuitive and simple to use with minimal training? Does it feature a logical and easy interface?
  • Can the anti-drone solution be integrated into your existing security system? How about on-site installation and/or set-up? Drones are quick, your airspace security solution needs to be up and running fast.

Features

  • What is the solution’s base technology? Radar, Radiofrequency, Optic (Camera) or Sonic? How well do any of those particular technologies match the risk profile, topography and ambient pollution of your site? What are their advantages and weaknesses? Don’t hesitate to ask a potential provider to answer these questions.
  • Is the anti-drone solution reactive? How quickly can it detect a drone within its operating range? And what are its detection and false alarm rates – again, under average rather than ideal circumstances?
  • Does the CUAS technology give you the ability to detect the location of both the drone and pilot? Given restrictions on kinetic and non-kinetic drone neutralization in many jurisdictions, locating and arresting the UAV pilot is often the best way to quickly and permanently stop a drone threat.
  • Can the provider’s solution handle a multiple drone intrusion? Drone swarms are the next big security challenge in airspace security. Can the provider’s technology deal with multiple UAS without becoming saturated?
  • Is the technology low interference or passive? Local authorities can be extremely sensitive about “frequency pollution”. Is the provider’s technology low interference or even passive (only emitting a signal when in use)?

Costs

  • What about operating costs? How much does it cost to run the technology? Does it consume large amounts of electricity? Does it require a dedicated staff member to operate?
  • Does the CUAS solution hit the high quality/fair price sweet spot? While airspace security is an investment, it need not be excessively expensive. Does the provider offer a fair cost to quality ratio?

Many factors go into choosing the right airspace security provider. But with a little research and by asking the right questions, you’re sure to find the best provider and technologies to protect your sensitive site or event from rogue drone intrusions.

In the next installment, we’ll take a closer look at different anti-drone technologies.

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A drone or not a drone? Getting this question wrong could cost you

Was It Just a Case of Mistaken Identity?

On 22 January 2019, it happened again, or did it? A drone was spotted by two pilots approaching Newark Liberty International Airport – one of two international hubs that serve New York City. According to pilot reports, the device was soaring at an altitude of 3500 feet (1066 meters), well above the 400 feet (122 meters) prescribed by current civil aviation code.

Given the recent events on the other shore of the Atlantic – in the UK, Newark’s authority was taking no chances. The runway was closed with flights delayed or diverted, only to be re-opened 90 minutes later after no new drone sightings were reported. It seemed Newark’s mystery drone pilot wasn’t hellbent on causing any further trouble.

But within hours of the initial sighting, naysayers began popping up all over social media and the blogosphere – questioning if there had been a drone at all. As a recent article on the blog DroneDJ noted, even DJI jumped into the fray with the company’s Vice-President of Policy and Legal Affairs calling the sighting “not credible” on his personal Twitter account.

https://twitter.com/dronelaws/status/1087864682898227200

The official DJI account was more cautious in its assessment of the event but urged everyone to keep an open mind while reminding us of all the other times a bat, a balloon or even an airborne plastic bag had been mistaken for a rogue UAV bent on air traffic disruption.

https://twitter.com/DJIGlobal/status/1087888765232640000

Confusion Abounds

This isn’t the first time a drone sighting has been called into question. Readers may recall that in the heady swirl of confusion over the Gatwick shutdown Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley of Sussex police himself wondered – perhaps a bit too publicly – if the reason his officers couldn’t track down the offending device was that “there may not have been any genuine drone activity in the first place.”

The Sussex Police department was quick to issue a clarification of the Detective’s statement and a British government spokesperson characterized the quote as a miscommunication. Given the multiple witnesses who attest to having seen the UAV hovering over or near the runway, it’s highly likely that the Gatwick Drone was an authentic – and very costly – rogue drone intrusion.

But, why are these intrusions so difficult to pin down? Part of the reason may lie in the instrument used to make and confirm the majority of sightings – the human eye.

Visual Confirmation of Drone Sightings Is Not Enough

Human vision is not particularly well adapted to accurately identifying fast moving objects. A study conducted in 2012 by researchers at the University of Sydney’s school of psychology revealed that the brain sees fast-moving objects by “using blurs or streaks, as seen in photographs.”

Co-author of the paper Professor David Alais added, “The brain doesn’t see instantaneously. It takes about 100 milliseconds for the neurons in the brain to fully encode information.” Thus a quick-moving device like a drone may register as a blur across the field of vision.

While the brain can recognize the general direction of the blur and perhaps some aspects of its color and form, 100% accurate identification of the object in question is difficult. Throw in unfavorable light or weather conditions and certainty becomes even more elusive. Such factors help explain a large number of false UAV sightings in which a half-glimpsed balloon or plastic bag becomes a drone in the mind of the witness – his or her brain is spitting out the “most logical” interpretation of what it didn’t fully understand.

Given that some modified UAV’s can travel at speeds up to 260kmh (163 mph) in optimal conditions, the opposite may also occur. A real drone could be mistaken for a natural object, like a bird, and the threat goes unnoticed. Given the serious danger the hard metal parts and lithium batteries in many drones pose to landing and departing aircraft – such an oversight could be fatal.

Airspace Awareness = Airspace Security

And thus, we come to the most important reason accurate identification and investigation of alleged drone threats is so fundamental to the efficient and safe management of an airport: Safety. If an airport authority is aware of all objects in its airspace and able to distinguish between real and false alarms – everyone from administrators to airlines, to pilots to passengers, is safer and freer to go about their business.

But safety alone is only at the top of a very motivating list:

Costs – As any airport authority knows, the price of shutting down a runway – even temporarily – is extremely high. Three separate UAV-related incidents in 2016 alone shut down Dubai International Airport, the world’s 3rd busiest airport by international passenger traffic, with every drone intrusion costing an eyewatering US$1million (875,645€) per minute.

Gatwick was hit by an equally terrifying bill for its nearly 3-day runway closure. According to British press reports, the incident was estimated to have cost the airport authority and airlines over £50million (57millon euros).

With such high financial stakes, shutting down a runway over what turns out to be a free-flying plastic sack or misinterpreted reflection is clearly unacceptable. Airport authorities need to know what is in their airspace, otherwise they and the airlines who depend on their management risk losing millions.

Damaged Reputation – Not to pick on those airports who have suffered a drone intrusion, but it’s not a good look. Gatwick, as well as police and military units called in to find the errant UAV, found themselves the focus of anger and the butt of innumerable internet jokes during the crisis with criticism pouring in from passengers, airlines and government officials alike.

An opinion piece in American news channel Fox News observed acerbically that one tiny drone was managing to hold 100.000 people hostage (In reality over 140.000 passengers were affected) while a former UK Chief of the General Staff and former head of the British Army, Lord Dannatt called the incident a “national embarrassment.” His lordship added, “People in Europe are sniggering at us…and we’ve just given them 36 hours of fun laughing at this pantomime.”

Clearly, having a system in place to reliably distinguish between drones and other airborne objects (as well as the ability to trace any rogue drones and help locate their pilots) would have done much to avoid an embarrassing and demoralizing spectacle.

Airports Council International Calls for Action

The ACI (Airports Council International) is an organization created in 1991 by airport operators around the world and cooperates with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to: “Defend airports’ positions and develop standards and recommended practices in the areas of safety, security and environment initiatives.”

In January 2019 the ACI released an Advisory Bulletin entitled “Airport Preparedness – Drone related disruption to aircraft operations” in which it urged its members to take proper precautions against drone intrusions and the disruptions they’re liable to cause.

While the ACI advises members to be cautious when examining anti-drone systems, “ensuring that any new anti-drone measures do not create unintended safety hazards and unmitigated risks to other manned aircraft, authorized drones, and aviation infrastructures,” it nevertheless encourages airport authorities to take drone detection and neutralization seriously.

As their Advisory Bulletin pointedly states: “It is incumbent on all industry stakeholders to be prepared to protect the safety and regularity of aircraft operations.

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After Gatwick Could Sports Venues Be the Next Great Drone Debacle?

Stadiums Are At Risk From Rogue Drones

After a rather unfortunate end to 2018, Gatwick Airport administrators have learned that a little prevention goes a long way. Europe’s 8th busiest airport is busy installing anti-drone solutions to keep the UAVs away and airport authorities around the globe are following their example and investigating ways of protecting their own runways. Continue reading “After Gatwick Could Sports Venues Be the Next Great Drone Debacle?”

Yemen Drone Attack: A Worrisome Trend

Is the Yemen Attack a Sign of Things to Come?

On January 10th a clutch of high-ranking officers in Yemen’s Hadi-led government army gathered at Al Anand military base. Seated on a raised dais, they surveyed the soldiers arranged in orderly rows before them while cordial speeches praising the bravery and fighting prowess of the armed forces blasted from tinny loudspeakers.

Continue reading “Yemen Drone Attack: A Worrisome Trend”

CerbAir will be at Shield Africa 2019

Shield Africa (22 – 24 Jan 2019) is Africa’s leading security exposition.

Sponsored by the Ivory Coast Ministries of State and Defense and partnered with French defense giants GICAT and GICAN, Shield Africa offers responses to security challenges confronting the continent in 2019 including:

  • Securing urban areas,
  • Reestablishing peace in conflict zones,
  • Battling against transborder terrorism
  • Promoting economic activity

2019’s theme will be “Protection and Control of Borders” and CerbAir, with its airspace security expertise, will be on hand to share its anti-drone solutions.

Given the growing incidents of cross-border smuggling and terrorism involving UAVs, it’s more important than ever for countries to secure their national borders against drone intrusions.

We look forward to meeting you at the Ecole Nationale de Police in Abidjan, Ivory Coast at Stand A35 from Tuesday 22, January 2019 to Thursday 24 January 2019.

Contact us for more information or to make an appointment at contact@cerbair.com

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Gatwick Airport Hobbled by Hobby Drone Intrusion

From 9 pm to 3 am on Wednesday evening Gatwick Airport, Europe’s 8th busiest was shut down due to the presence of two rogue drones flying over its runway.

The drones reappeared on Thursday morning, affecting the flight plans of over 120.000 passengers according to Gatwick’s chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe and forcing flights to divert to airports as far away as Paris and Amsterdam.

Flights finally resumed on Friday morning under heavy police and military guard.

Theories that the drone intrusion was a deliberate act to disrupt air traffic at a particularly stressful time – the end of year travel season – have already begun making their rounds, with British authorities launching an official investigation.

But, whatever the motives of the pilots may have been, the incident illustrated just how easy it is to bring a major air hub to its knees with a cheap, easy to purchase hobby drone.

Extremely Dangerous to Aircraft

But how can such a small device cause such big trouble?

Hobby drones are tiny but pose an enormous collision risk to aircraft which could catastrophically weaken the structural integrity of the impacted aircraft. And unlike bird strikes, drones are not composed of organic material, but of plastic, metal and potentially explosive lithium batteries – significantly raising the risks.

Thus the message of Gatwick’s CEO Stewart Wingate to stranded passengers:

“We hope passengers appreciate that we must and will always prioritise their safety over everything else…until we are confident that the issue has been resolved it would clearly not be in the interests of passengers to do so [restart operations] as we could be jeopardising their safety.”

Indeed, allowing flights to continue with the presence of rogue drones in flight paths is a risk no sensible airport authority is willing to take.

Adding to the pain of airport administrators – shutdowns are incredibly expensive – a similar incident in Dubai in 2017 ended up costing as much as $1 million US per minute.

Taxpayers Impacted

On Thursday about 20 police units were busy searching the perimeter of the airfield of the drone pilots, which to date have still not been located. All that mobilization spells big bills for taxpayers who are obliged to fund attempts – often futile – to track down drown pilots after the fact.

Even mid-priced drones, such as Parrot’s ANAFI, have maximum ranges of up to 4km or 2.5 miles – allowing a pilot to wreak havoc from a safe distance and make his getaway long before police can determine his location by sight alone.

Why not just shoot the drone out of the sky?

“Why not just break out the rifles, blow the drone out of the sky and be done with it?” you may ask. In Gatwick’s case, police were reluctant to do so out of fear that stray bullets could possibly damage aircraft or injure passengers and crew.

Drones are also incredibly fast (some going up to 225kph or 140mph) and difficult to target, even for the best sharpshooters.

Pilot Localization is Key

Lucas Le Bell, founder of CerbAir anti-drone solutions knows how dangerous a drone in a no-fly zone can be. CerbAir has extensive experience in anti-drone protection over international airports such as Paris’ Charles de Gaulle – Roissy International Airport.

“This is proof that stricter legislation is not enough to eliminate the threat hobby drones pose to aviation, even at major airports like Gatwick. If you want to stop this sort of incident, you need to find the people responsible and bring them to justice to discourage others from doing the same thing, which is why it’s so important to be able to locate the pilot.”

Radio-frequency based anti-drone detection systems like CerbAir’s are able to locate not only the drone but its remote control from the moment the remote is activated. This allows airport authorities to find and apprehend rogue drone pilots and neutralize the threat straight away without using ammunition or jamming which can be dangerous in a crowded urban environment.

Major airports around the world such take the Gatwick debacle as a warning.

Deployment of anti-drone detection, pilot localization, and drone neutralization should no longer be considered optional.

Indeed, Stewart Wingate recognized the need for action in his official statement, writing:

“These events obviously highlight a wider strategic challenge for aviation in this country which we need to address together with speed – the aviation industry, Government and all the other relevant authorities.”

In a world where one tiny drone is all it takes to ground dozens of jumbo jets, finding and making an example of irresponsible pilots is the only way forward.

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India Opens Its Skies to Drones – What Are the Rules?

After some hesitation, India moved to legalize the operation of civilian drones over its territory.

The new laws (which you can read here) took effect on 01 December 2018 and are in line with the rapid modernization of the country whose booming economy has lifted millions into the middle class.

Drone Classification

The law introduces a new classification system for drones with all civilian devices now falling into five categories, based on weight:

  • Nano Drones – up to 250g
  • Micro Drones – 250g – 2kg
  • Small Drones – 2kg – 25kg
  • Medium Drones – 25kg to 150kg
  • Large Drones – over 150kg

Small to Large drones are permitted at an altitude of up to 120m (400ft) and all categories are restricted to within line of sight and daytime activity.

Unique ID’s and Operator Permits

With the exception of nano drones flying under 15m (50ft), the owners of all other devices must apply for a Unique Identification Number (UIN) through an online platform called “Digital Skyon which they also must file flight plans and obtain permission to fly. In this way, authorities hope to be able to keep track of civilian drones operating over the country.

Any pilot flying over 60m (200ft) will also be required to obtain an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit (UAOP), a sort of “drone driver’s license” open to operators over the age of 18 who have completed basic ground/practical aviation theory training and successfully passed an exam.

While the UIA is valid for the lifetime of the device, the UAOP must be renewed periodically.

“No Permission, No Take-Off”

A unique feature of Digital Sky is the electronically enforced “no permission, no take-off” (NPNT) policy requiring all drones flying above 15m to install software which will prevent them from operating if they have not received approval for flight plans submitted to Digital Sky.

All new drones sold in India must be NPNT compliant and owners of existing devices are required to upload the NPNT software to operate legally.

GNSS and Two-Way Communication Required

A feature of the law that will be of interest to airspace security administrators is the requirement that all devices above the nano category must be equipped with GNSS for horizontal and vertical position fixing and two-way communication between the pilot and drone.

It appears this detail was introduced to prevent the proliferation of autonomous drone technology whose ability to operate independently of GNSS would make detection and, if necessary, jamming of rogue UAVs more difficult for law enforcement.

Some Zones Off-Limits

As in most other countries, unauthorized UAV flights are forbidden in sensitive areas including:

  • Major airports
  • Urban centers
  • Military installations
  • Disaster areas
  • Within 25km of international borders
  • Government buildings and national monuments
  • National parks and wildlife sanctuaries

The law places responsibility on drone pilots to avoid disturbing the tranquility of their fellow citizens and to respect the privacy and safety of others.

But What About Non-Compliance?

Still, anti-drone protection will be doubtlessly be needed to counter rogue drone operators, including possible terrorist operatives, from using the technology for their purposes. The expense of obtaining licenses and the reluctance to wait for approval from the government for every drone operation may additionally push some pilots to fly without registration or authorization – increasing the risk of incidents.

Fortunately, anti-drone solutions including pilot and drone localization and neutralization have advanced rapidly over the past few years.

No Clear Guidelines for Foreign Pilots

For now, the law does not appear to allow foreign drone pilots to operate on Indian territory and other legislation forbids carrying UAVs in hand luggage (required by most airlines) which would prevent the majority of tourists or other operators from importing their devices entirely.

Expanded Capabilities in the Near Future

The Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation has already assembled a task force for recommendations on Drone Policy 2.0 under the chairmanship of the Minister of State, according to their press release.

Expected developments include regulatory architecture for autonomous operation, deliveries by drone, and BVLOS (flights beyond the line of sight).

And if it’s all a bit too much to remember, here’s a helpful overview from Tech2:

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Anti-Drone Security – We’ve Got A White Paper for That

Airspace Security – A Beginners Guide

On a clear and sunny day, a national leader squinted into the sky – his eyes widening with surprise. Seconds later a series of explosions shook the air and sent his audience fleeing into the surrounding Continue reading “Anti-Drone Security – We’ve Got A White Paper for That”

Drone Sightings Skyrocket in the US

Surprising Findings

The FAA released figures showing recorded drone sightings in restricted US airspace between 2014 and 2018 and the results are astounding! Continue reading “Drone Sightings Skyrocket in the US”

Restricting Drone Usage at the Local Level

A recent report on the efforts of the Sedona Oak Creek Airport Authority and the US Forest Service in the American state of Arizona to ban drones flying in their vicinity raised questions over the Continue reading “Restricting Drone Usage at the Local Level”