Only a few years back, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, were exclusive to a few governments. Now the technology has become so readily accessible that you see drones in nearly every industry, from agriculture and construction to e-commerce and entertainment.
Although drones are finding more and more practical uses in these different industries, their versatility can turn them into a potential tool for any kind of mischief. The news is full of reports from prison inmates receiving illegal “airmail”, smugglers transporting drugs and even assassination attempts with the help of drones. Drones are cheap, dispensable, can be remotely controlled and are capable of carrying an impressive payload, making them a perfect weapon.
There are laws that limit the use of drones but unlike firearms it is hard to track owners, or even determine a users intent. A drone in the air could be delivering a pizza or drugs, it could be a neighbor playing around or a thief checking out the surroundings. Not knowing why a drone is in the air and who is controlling it makes every drone a potential risk for security personnel.
The possible dangers of drones are not limited to military use or criminal activities like smuggling. Even if drones are not directly used as weapons they can pose other security risks like:
- Data theft
- Disrupting communication
Inflicted harm or damage does not even have to be intentional. An out of control drone could
damage power lines, cause an auto accident, seriously endanger civil aviation or just fall out of the sky into a crowd of people.
As multifaceted drones are so variable, so are the defense systems. The first task of an anti drone system is to detect an incoming drone. There are lots of ways to identify a nearing threat. Some of the more common detection and tracking methods are:
- Radio-frequency (RF)
- Combined sensors
Depending on the operational area, anti drone systems come in different sizes and capabilities. A military compound would use ground-based systems, with a larger detection radius, electronic jamming devices and rockets, or lasers, to destroy in-coming threats. Whereas private institutes, more concerned with industrial espionage or sabotage, would concentrate on jamming devices and maybe close range defence like nets or projectiles.
The way things are developing, we are just at the beginning of the road as far as drones are concerned. Retailers want to use them for delivery, police for surveillance, the media for news coverage and they are getting more sophisticated by the day. There will always be threats and hopefully there will always be countermeasures.