Formerly exclusively military, drones are making their remarkable entrance on the commercial scene.
Today, they are becoming increasingly present in a variety of industries, ranging from first aid to engineering to journalism. We even tend to hear about their amateur use from influencers and photographers, to name a few.
The growing presence of drones in our daily lives could be attributed to their constant evolution and affordability.
While the benefits and even the necessity of drones cannot be underestimated, their use is also debated, mainly due to the security hazard they pose. Many incidents involving drones, whether intentional or accidental, have already been recorded around the world.
Apart from ground objects, air bodies could also be endangered when they encounter drones in their path.
One area particularly concerned about the presence of drones in the airspace is the aviation industry. The devices, sometimes operated inadvertently near commercial aircraft, endanger the aircraft and its passengers.
With the growing number of amateur drone uses, the frequency of close encounters with unmanned aircraft has increased dramatically in recent years.
To limit the potential dangers caused by drones, a specific counter-technology has been developed. Formerly employed in the military – just like their target – anti-drone solutions are now present in airports and their proximity. Their impact on drones varies and not all of them are technology related. Let’s explore.
Monitoring and detection:
The best way to avoid clashes with drones is to prevent them from happening in advance. It is therefore essential that airports have drone monitoring equipment in their arsenal.
We can distinguish the two main categories: active and passive.
Passive monitors constantly scan the surroundings for drones, sending out signals if their presence is spotted.
As for active surveillance, these devices send signals that analyze and classify the drone in question, then provide the specific details about it. Some of them could even discern the fingerprint of the drone user.
These monitors could indicate the exact position of the drone and track it in real time – essential information for the deployment of countermeasures.
Specific tools that keep drones away from the surroundings of airports and planes are then used in conjunction with surveillance devices. It is always best to try to preserve the drone, either to return it to its user or for examination, in the event of a more serious threat. Different methods and technologies have been developed to provide timely and appropriate measurements.
Birds of prey
First on this list: our little friends, the raptors. Known for their hunting of other avifauna whose presence could disrupt flights, these predators are now able to cling to winged adversaries of non-living nature. Nowadays, birds of prey are trained to find and intercept drones. The advantage of using birds is that they do not damage the device by knocking it over. Old-school but effective.
On a more technological level, we have these devices that interfere with the GPS receiver of the drone to disorient it and make it believe that it is located elsewhere. Specifically, they change the drone’s communication link to a signal that briefly delays the connection between the airborne device and its controller, followed by a stronger signal that cuts it off altogether.
Control of the drone reverts to the spoofer and the device could later be returned to its owner in one piece.
Radio Frequency (RF) Jammers
However, when neither nature nor ‘benign’ technology is sufficient to prevent an imminent threat, other devices may be employed.
These devices overwhelm drones by jamming controller signals with their radio wave emissions. Their signal is tuned to the same frequency and modulation as that of the drone. Essentially, they, too, cut off the backhaul communication between the craft and its controller.
RF jammers aim for precision by focusing electromagnetic energy on the drone, to avoid damaging nearby equipment. This method has its drawbacks, as it is very short range and could still cause collateral damage.
As for drones, once attacked by radio waves, they could fly away aimlessly or suffer a crash.
Just like RF devices, these operate on electromagnetic signals. Microwave pulses emitted by HPM devices interfere with drone radio signals. They can go so far as to damage the very components of the machine, depending on the durability of the latter.
Signals from HPM devices are emitted in one direction only, to avoid collateral damage. However, this sometimes couldn’t be avoided, making RF jammers a real tool of last resort (especially considering their high cost).
These are some of the devices that one might find at airports and military bases. Others, more destructive, are mainly used by the armed forces, in order to prevent attacks and ensure the security of the territory.
If you want to learn more or even invest in counter drone technology, Bayanat Engineering has a wide variety of products that might be right for your particular situation.