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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Anti-Drone Technology Finally Takes-Off

Anti-Drone Technology Finally Takes-Off 

A growing industry is emerging to tackle the problem, offering systems to detect incoming drones and alert authorities.

Security officials at an event discussed Operation Foul Ball: a test of drone-detection capabilities at last year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Minneapolis. Sensors were used to detect four civilian drones flying in the area.

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Drones are becoming a tool for criminals and terrorists, worrying authorities who say the small unmanned aircraft are difficult to detect and stop, a concern heightened this week by the accidental crash of a drone at the White House.


Law-enforcement officials have discovered criminals smuggling drugs and other contraband across the U.S. border and into prisons using the types of consumer drones increasingly popular with entrepreneurs and hobbyists. And authorities in the U.S., Germany, Spain and Egypt have foiled at least six potential terrorist attacks with drones since 2011.

Anti-Drone Hoodi

U.S. authorities are worried that the problem is growing and that drones could be modified to mount attacks with explosives or chemical weapons, according to a presentation this month by federal intelligence and security officials to their counterparts in law enforcement and people who oversee critical infrastructure. Several attendees disclosed details of the summit to The Wall Street Journal, which also reviewed images of slides from the presentation.

“The threat is not going away,” one attendee quoted a U.S. counterterrorism analyst as saying.

On Monday a 2.8-pound drone crashed on the White House grounds before the Secret Service identified it, highlighting the risks of a possible drone attack. The Secret Service later said the drone accidentally crashed during a recreational flight and wasn’t a threat.

In response, SZ DJI Technology Co., the Chinese maker of the device, said it planned to change software on its drones to prevent them from flying over Washington. DJI added that it plans to disable its drones from crossing national borders after police in Tijuana, Mexico, discovered a DJI drone that apparently crashed while attempting to carry drugs to the U.S.

DJI spokesman Michael Perry said the company is working to prevent criminals from using workarounds to circumvent such security features. “There’s more stuff that the industry can be doing as a whole to improve the overall security” of drones, Mr. Perry said.

Most small drones remain limited by short battery life and small payload capacity. The most popular consumer drones can carry just a few pounds. But some of the features that have made the devices increasingly attractive for businesses and photographers—that they are small, easy to fly and can capture high-definition images—also make them a potentially powerful tool for criminals and terrorists.

So far much of the public discussion about drone safety has been about users flying the devices too close to aircraft, airports or crowded areas. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the U.S. needs drone regulations soon that protect its citizens’ safety and privacy. On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice reiterating that Sunday’s Super Bowl game in Glendale, Ariz., “is strictly a ‘no drone zone.’ ”

Washington-based DroneShield LLC said it has installed about 200 of its audio-based detection systems world-wide over the past 18 months, including around prisons, government buildings and power plants.

Resilient Solutions Ltd., in Alexandria, Va., said it is working with a European defense contractor to develop a sophisticated system that can detect and track a drone and identify whether it is a threat.

“We’re working with government agencies who are very much interested in solving this problem and solving it now,” said Fred Roggero, the company’s chief executive and a former chief of safety for the U.S. Air Force.

Dedrone GmbH, based in Lohfelden, Germany, said that in April it would begin selling drone-detection systems that are equipped with radar, thermal cameras, infrared cameras and acoustic sensors.

And Sentien Robotics LLC of Fredericksburg, Va., said it aims to use drones with radio-frequency sensors to help detect potentially unwelcome ones.

But the companies acknowledge that their mission is difficult and available methods are imperfect. Many small drones don’t show up on radar, they say. Acoustic sensors can miss the buzz of a drone amid city sounds or mistake a weed whacker for one of the devices. And visual sensors don’t work well at night and can be inaccurate.

“No one system exists,” a U.S. official said at this month’s presentation, according to an attendee.

Officials said the simulation showed they can detect drones—with a lot of effort.

The federal National Counterterrorism Center leads a drone-threat working group that has grown to 65 members from four since it began in 2013. A spokesman for the center, which analyzes terrorism intelligence, said: “Efforts by terrorists to use drone technology are obviously a concern.…Our focus remains on identifying these threats and supporting those agencies who are responsible for countering them.”

Among the foiled plots by would-be terrorists, officials said that, in two separate cases in the summer of 2013, German law-enforcement personnel raided Islamic militants and right-wing extremists believed to be plotting drone attacks, according to a presentation at the DHS summit.


Police recovered bomb-making materials and a drone from the right-wing extremists, who were allegedly planning to use the device to bomb a German summer camp, according to the presentation.

Officials at the summit showed videos of drones equipped with guns that could be fired remotely. They also detailed a test by U.S. military and counterterrorism officials to weaponize drones purchased primarily at hobby stores.

Wireless Camera Finder

Officials said they were able to use the drones to drop explosives on moving and stationary targets, according to a presentation slide.

Concerns about drones are causing many venues to reconsider security. Authorities in France are investigating a series of illegal drone flights over 14 nuclear plants there.

And, at the University of Texas at Austin, officials were alarmed when a drone flew over the school’s packed football stadium during a game in August, said Todd Humphreys, a professor of aerospace engineering at the school.


The drone was apparently piloted by a hobbyist, he said, but it delivered a wake-up call. Police “can protect every side of the stadium but not the top,” he said.

Presenters at the DHS summit said one challenge of drones carrying out crimes or attacks is that it is difficult to catch the assailant, attendees said. “Someone could be controlling a [drone] from inside a minivan, and nobody would know he’s in there,” the counterterrorism analyst said, according to an attendee.

Authorities have failed to apprehend suspects in many of the reported cases of drones smuggling drugs across the border and into prisons. Last week, police in Tijuana, Mexico, who discovered the crashed drone there said they were still searching for the suspects that used the “blind mule.”

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Monty Henry, Owner


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