There have been some new efforts in employing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to inspect and protect critical intelligent infrastructure of organizations (power grids, railways, and communication networks). UAVs have their primary roots embedded in military applications which have also been growing in size, payload, and capabilities.
In this article we identify nearly two dozen of the leading players in the anti-space and we analyze the reasoning for the seeming frenzy of anti-drone market innovation.
We interviewed several of the executives of these companies, spoke with those who have worked within or with the FAA and we have performed research to understand the market dynamics behind the seeming frenzy of anti-drone innovation.
A UAV is an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, the drone itself. A UAS is an Unmanned Aircraft System which includes the drone, controller and any supporting systems and software. These two acronyms get tossed around without a clarification on the distinction. Its important to define the difference in any informed discussion about remote vehicle technology.
Drone systems, control systems, and procedures labeled as “Best Practices” today, may be obsolete as soon as next year or even as early as next month. That is how fast things are evolving. New features and capabilities are constantly integrated into drone platforms where “Best In Class” has become a moving target.
With any type of technology, the first phase is “Creation”. Sometimes, early entrants are in an emerging technology, but not all of them make it to the next plateau. Lagging behind the creation of technology is acceptance and adoption, despite not all the technology created is accepted and adopted. Phase three is the development of regulation protect innovation owners and the market itself. Lagging behind that is the enforcement of that regulation.as explained in the Diffusion Of Innovation.
Mark Dombroff, Partner at Dentons Law Firm, in McLean, Virginia, had an interesting take on the current regulatory framework for drones. In discussing this article with Mark, an attorney with over thirty years experience in aviation law as well as experience with the FAA, he agreed that the framework for effective governance is lagging behind the development and adoption of the technology by consumers and enterprises. He made a noteworthy point about the anti-drone industry will become larger than the industry for commercial UAVs, UAS and services itself because there are so many areas where owners want to protect their assets. These range from private and mission critical infrastructure to government agencies, to NFL stadiums, large business campuses, hospitals, farms and so many other commercial and specialized buildings and facilities.
Mark talked about the importance of 2017 and said that it is a critical year because it should be a shakeout year in the global drones industry. There are regulatory hurdles to overcome and some companies just do not have the financial capital to overcome regulations set by the FAA, the FCC and other government agencies that might affect both drone and anti-drone technologies. Once enforcement kicks in, not if, the upheaval will uproot the uninformed-unprepared companies leaving the adaptive-smart companies to claim market share years into the future.
His firm offered a webinar on anti-drones in which our second installment of this series will reflect some of the views and perspectives of those who are buyers and potential buyers of anti-drones.
DRONE INDUSTRY: GROWING BY LEAPS & BOUNDS
Drones are rapidly becoming “tools of the trade” in many industries, and have been categorized into segments of the market: Government (including Military), Enterprise (Corporations / Businesses), Prosumers (the Enterprise – Consumer hybrid user) and Consumers (Personal / Hobbyist).
Since low-altitude drones fly only hundreds of feet above ground, most operate off traditional radar used to track commercial aircraft. New tracking measures are being tested and introduced to solve this dilemma, but radar used to track aircraft does not detect drone flights, at the moment.
|Government Agencies||Military (all Branches), Homeland Security, Weather (NOAA), Search & Rescue (First Responder), Air, Sea, Land applications (Weaponized, Surveillance, Patrolling).|
|Businesses / Enterprise||Agriculture, Photography, Video Production (Films, TV, documentary) Building Inspections, Infrastructure Inspections (Pipelines, Cell Towers, Railroads, Waterways (Docks, Locks).|
|Personal / Hobby||Racing, Personal Photography, Blogging, Podcasts, Video-blogging, Experimental Purposes, Sports Affiliated, Videoing Events including Live Streaming, Competitions, etc.).|
According the report, Drones Operating In Syria And Iraq, published December 2016 by The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, and written by Dan Gettinger, UAVs are being employed by terror groups in these hotspots at the frontline of the war on terror:
“Based on analysis of visual media, we have found that at least 32 different identifiable drone models made in six countries have been reported to be operating in the conflict. Of the 32 types of systems, 10 were made in the United States, nine in China, six in Iran, four in Russia,, two in Israel, and one in Turkey. The majority of the drones are light hand or rail-launched small tactical surveillance drones. Of these, eight recreational hobby drones have been identified from the reports. A handful of other unidentified and homemade drone types have also been spotted.”
With the use of drones on various battlefields, the need for anti-drone technology is intensifying as terror occurs in places beyond the reach of political conflict.
THE ANTI-DRONE INDUSTRY IS ALSO GROWING
“You cannot shoot down a drone as it is considered an aircraft.” This statement was made at a recent drones conference, the International Drone Expo in Los Angeles, California by Mark Dombroff. He may be right, but it hasn’t stopped some individuals from killing the invasive drones of their neighbors.
People are confused and they’re only going to feel more uncertain as time and technology press forward. Let’s blame the media for publishing rampant mixed signals and dubious false flags about drones and anti-drones like this grammatical and ambiguous gem. Yah, go ahead drone, make my day!
Mark Dombroff may be right, but who has time to follow drone law except the lawyers? Even those who may have a very special interest to protect and defend find the law, its interpretation and lack of enforcement bewildering. So far, the law has not been enforced. Is it even possible to enforce given the sci-fi-ish mutations in the works. Drone Munition is made by Snake River Ammunition and takes specially made shotgun shells to resolve some of the cryptic trespassing issues with existing regulations.
On every box of Snake River Ammunition, there is the following disclaimer: “Federal, State, and Local laws dictate when, where, and in what situations a firearm can be legally discharged. We are in no way condoning the use of this product for illegal activity! Be sure to follow ALL firearm laws at all times!” Good advice.
“Drone law” isn’t a real thing, yet. In the US, we have regulation, but it resembles vehicle traffic law, minus the DMV and traffic cops. If I am going 90 miles an hour in a 55 mile an hour zone, if I don’t get caught, who cares? The same applies to the adherence to current FAA policy and other regulations. No one is getting caught, no one is writing tickets. Where is the enforcement?
Another long-standing FAA legal veteran, Sandy Murdock, reiterates the confusion anti-drone technology will inevitably cause on the market. Currently, Sandy is an editor for a popular aviation industry publication, the JDA Journal. Sandy says its a yin and yang proposition. “The ability to interdict malevolent users is a useful tool in the hands of the appropriate law enforcement authorities. In the arena of private use of the anti-drone capabilities, the definition of what airspace may be protected, for what reasons and when is a complex legal question.”
As of the publishing of this article, there are nearly two dozen anti-drone companies and technologies with more functionality and capabilities on the way. Is there is a growing market and demand for anti-drone systems? The answer to that question may be in the sheer number of companies preempting the need. This sub-set of the global commercial drones industry seems to be exploding and many analysts expect anti-drones to become more diverse and economically viable than the sales of commercial UAVs and UAS services themselves.
Anti-drone innovation is a new endeavor in many countries, not just the United States. The list below includes a cross-section of companies big and small, known and relatively new.
|COMPANY, URL (LOCATION)||ANTI-DRONE CAPABILITY||DESCRIPTION|
|SENSOFUSION, www.sensofusion.com (Finland, New York, United States)||AIRFENCE||System comprising of RF, GPS and other technologies.|
|DCAA (Dubai Civil Aviation Authority) & Sanad Academy, www.dcaa.gov.ae, www.sanadacademy.ae (Dubai, UAE)||Drone Rifle||Hand-held rifle using electronic radio-wave jamming technology.|
|ANTIDRONE, www.anti-drone.eu (Denmark)||SystemsGrok||Mini-range system components include infrared and Video surveillance and a Visual Command Center (VCC).|
|Battelle, www.battelle.com (United States)||Drone Defender||Integrator of anti-drone technology including radars, cameras, jammers and interceptors. Systems|
|Blighter Surveillance Systems, www.blighter.com (United Kingdom)||AUDS Counter-UAV Defense System||Integrator of anti-drone technology including radars, cameras, jammers and interceptors. Systems|
|DroneShield, www.droneshield.com (Sydney, Australia)||Drone Shield / Drone Gun||Detection system using acoustic monitoring and signature database.|
|Dedrone, www.dedrone.com (United States, Germany)||DroneTracker||Multi-sensor platform — RF sensors, IP cameras, PTZ cameras, software, radar and jammers.|
|CTS Technology, www.ctstechnologys.com (China)||Drone Jammer Rifle||Detection system using acoustic monitoring and signature database.|
|Theiss UAV Solutions, www.theissuav.com (United States)||Excipio Anti-Drone System||Drone interception with nets.|
|MCTech, www.mctech-jammers.com (Israel)||MC-Horizon System||Can intercept drones up to 2.5 kilometers away.|
|MALOU Tech, www.psa-entreprise.fr/malou-tech (France)||MPI 200||Drone interceptor with net. Net range is 1×2 meters. Altitude up to 3 kilometers. Battery life is 45 minutes. Speed 110 km at over 60 MPH.|
|Guard from Above, www.guardfromabove.com (the Netherlands)||Predatory Birds.||Predatory birds trained to take down rougue drones..|
|SAAB, www.seaeye.com (Sweden)||SAAB Seaeye||Underwater ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) for underwater security.|
|SAAB & UMS Aero Group AG (SKELDAR), www.umsskeldar.aero (Sweden, Switzerland)||SKELDAR One||Unmanned aircraft with reconnaissance capability.|
|OpenWorks Engineering, www.openworksengineering.com (United Kingdom)||SkyWall 100||22 pound ”Net cannon” shoots net up to 100 yards.|
|Advanced Ballistic Concepts, www.mibullet.com (United States)||SKYNET Ground-to-Air Rounds||12 gauge and 40MM shells with nets inside.|
|Snake River Shooting Products, www.snakerivershootingproducts.com (United States)||Dronemunition||12 gauge shotgun shells with steel balls, but no net. Ferromagnetic rounds to disable electronics, steel, not lead.|
|Boeing, www.boeing.com (United States)||The Death Ray||Portable laser system.|
|Department 13, www.department13.com (United States)||MESMER Counter Drone||Software platform for detection and mitigation of radio controlled devices.|
|DeTect, www.detect-inc.com (United States, United Kingdom)||DroneWatcher||Detection and mitigation platform through apps, radar and other methods.|
|Drone Defence, www.dronedefence.co.uk (United Kingdom)||Dynopis Electronic Countermeasures, Net Gun X1 and others.||Several potential solutions as described on the Drone Defence website.|
|Liteye Systems, www.liteye.com (United States)||AUDS Counter UAV System||Fixed Thermal Cameras, anti-drone systems, et al.|
22 companies is a lot, and these are the ones we’ve identified. There may be more innovations and ideas in the works which we are unaware of. The debate is on whether anti-drone technology is needed now and will be in the future. Mistaken identity may be one of the most expensive liabilities in this debate when an anti-drone takes down a precision agriculture, inspection or survey device just doing its jobs. Let’s dive into the points of interest beginning with the centerpiece. Fear is the greatest motivation of them all.
Last year, DronesX featured Dedrone which originally got its start in Germany before moving to Silicon Valley. Dedrone’s innovations create a perimeter around precious infrastructure like government buildings, bridges, sporting arenas and even prisons, many of which already are vulnerable targets to the malicious and disreputable armed with drones. At the rapid pace of anti-drone innovations landing in the market, Dedrone strangely appears to be one of the pioneers. All of them companies on our list face intense competition with the market initiated by the need to product precious infrastructure, government buildings and other valuable assets.
There are many videos describing anti-drone technologies. In the video below we see Boeing’s laser system technology ominously branded, The Death Ray.
Everyday citizens in the US and around the world are experimenting with anti-drone technology as well. As we touched on it above, some are taking the law into their own hands while other DIYers and universities are engaged in anti-drone research concepts. The following two videos depict such efforts with netted prototypes:
ANTICIPATING CURRENT & FUTURE THREATS
We spoke with Oleg Vornik, CFO of DroneShield (one of 22 companies mentioned above), about the growth of anti-drone technology. Oleg says:
“The threat is current and very real –- from prisons getting contraband drops daily, to ISIS conducting terrorism in the Middle East, to drones coming onto sets of Games Of Thrones and Star Wars, to VIP protection. We recently announced deployment of a DroneShield system for the Prime Minister of Turkey. Drones already today deployed infringe on safety, security and privacy of our customers, and we provide an effective solution to these threats. In addition to greater number and wider spread of incidents, we are yet to see the truly horrible possibilities such as a drone carrying a bomb/dirty bomb into a public gathering such as a stadium or a concert, or an airliner crash. This will unfortunately be a matter of time and protection is critical. For example, we have been working with Boston Police over last 2 years in helping to secure Boston Marathon from the drone threat, after the earlier tragedy there.”
Oleg went on to say that DroneShield has matured in such a short amount of time giving evidence to the demand and need for anti-drone solutions. “We have shipped over 200 units of the detection system since inception, and now commenced shipping DroneGuns as well. Customers include Prime Minister of Turkey, Boston Police, high profile Asian government security department, G7 Head of State, Mid-Atlantic Homeland Security department, an ultra-luxury marine asset, etc. We are working on a number of very exciting additional customer opportunities at the moment.”
Although Amazon recently procured a patent on jamming frequencies, that is only part of the defenses needed in order to stop drones from intercepting other drones or going past certain restricted areas. The list of companies and technologies employed for anti-drone capabilities will grow creating a whole sub-market to commercial industry. These solutions are far from perfect in their deterrence of rogue drones. There never is a perfect death star weapon, and now, anti-weapon. Be that as it may, the abundance of solutions begs the questions: are there more solutions than actual threat problems? What are the threats that will require the implementation of solutions in the future?
These questions are answered in a thought-provoking research report called Remotely Piloted Innovation: Terrorism, Drones and Supportive Technology by Don Rassler, Director of Strategic Initiatives of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, published October 2016. Given the seemingly inexplicable attacks on everyday citizens throughout the world, Mr. Rassler reaffirms terrorism as the single, most relevant threat. Although their abilities to modify existing technologies may be embryonic, the report identifies four terroristic groups with active UAS programs.
Mr. Rassler’s research determines:
“While many terror groups or individuals have shown an interest in UAS technology, few have successfully deployed it in any meaningful way. Terrorists’ use of drones has certainly complicated some conflicts, but the use of this technology by terrorists has yet to change or significantly alter the direction of any conflict, and so the broader impact of this tool thus far has been quite limited. Single drones have been used by terror entities primarily for surveillance and strategic communications, and it is in this area where terrorists have made the most gains.”
Most surprising of the argument for the use of anti-drone technology is understanding that terrorists have at their disposal off-the-shelf drone technology which is available with a few e-commerce clicks. Don Rassler says, “Three factors explain the inability of terrorist entities to successfully weaponize a drone to inflict significant harm: First, the limitations associated with the range, endurance and payload of commercially available drones. Second, the specific choices made by terrorists. And third, the countermeasures that states have developed to defeat hostile drones. These limiting factors do not mean that there is no room for surprises, or that these challenges and obstacles cannot be overcome.”
In the US, buyers of drone technology must register their drones with the US Federal government to obtain a license to fly legally. The drone, itself, is nothing more than a cargo vehicle that can carry technology and even weapons. Governments cannot be responsible for the actions of the disturbed. UAV, UAS and unmanned component technology makers must preempt terror before it happens by working together to avoid a rush to market with game-changing technology that, if delivered to the wrong hands, can inflict terror on innocent people around the world.