Air defence against drones can protect urban airspace

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Intruding aircraft are not only detected by Dedrone’s equipment, the company also offers a weapon to disable drones. There are more and more drones in the world’s skies, but who can use these fast and often very small devices and for what purpose is often either not strictly regulated, or the regulations include elements that are not really respected by people and not really controlled by anyone. In Hungary, for example, the current regulations do not require toy drones to be registered, meaning that anyone can buy and fly a device weighing less than 120 grams whenever they want, provided it is not fitted with a camera or other recording device and is not placed more than 100 metres away from the owner. All other drones can be used with a registration and there is a penalty for using a camera mounted on a drone to take pictures of others, especially if it is peeping into their home, for which you do not have permission.

But how can you ensure that every toy drone is checked when the devices can be bought by anyone? Unmanned aerial vehicles, which are popping up unsolicited and illegally in the airspace, are not the biggest threat in the hands of the average user, but in the hands of criminals or criminal organisations who, taking advantage of the fact that the devices can be operated remotely, sometimes use them to carry out criminal acts. For example, according to a 2019 New York Times report, a US man used a drone to drop homemade bombs near his ex-girlfriend’s house, but they are also used to smuggle drugs or to map the location of subsequent robberies, or to steal farm vehicles left in an open field overnight.

The other side is also prepared, however, and law enforcement agencies are increasingly deploying drones for surveillance, increasing airspace traffic. In order to provide at least minimum protection against unauthorised aircraft in large installations, airports, factories or industrial sites, some companies offer their customers the installation of anti-drone systems, which immediately alert them to the presence of unmanned aircraft approaching. One of these companies is Dedrone, a San Francisco-based air defence provider: the company’s specialists develop the system’s software and deploy the hardware.

Dedrone’s sensors effectively detect the radio frequency signals of drones and can thus not only identify the position of unexpectedly appearing devices, but also classify their type and manufacturer. The sensors, together with cameras and radars, form an invisible security ‘dome’ over the area, but the company’s air defence repertoire not only provides a solution for monitoring the drones, but also for dismantling them. For this purpose, they have developed the DroneDefender, which at first glance looks like a real weapon, but is actually designed to cut off the drone’s communication channels by jamming its frequency. The device, which weighs almost seven kilograms and has a range of up to 2 kilometres and can be used continuously for two hours, is recommended by the company for the protection of military units, embassies or even operations in ports and at sea.

Dedrone has previously tested its system in major European cities, and in November last year it launched a large-scale trial in southern Europe, the results of which were reported recently, with 120-200 cases of unreported drone activity recorded every day in the city where the trial was carried out over the past year, and a 60% increase in illegal drone use in the past six months. The information can be used by facility managers, city governments and national governments to set up an airspace security network, which Dedrone is building and operating, called Airspace Security-as-a-Service.

DedroneTracker will merge data from the system and Remote ID will even give users the ability to instantly access data from either Europe or the US. Currently, there are 300 drones in the system, but the number is growing, and Dedrone CEO Aaditya Devarakonda says it could help cities keep an eye on air traffic and distinguish between drones that are licensed and those that are being used illegally, or perhaps with explicitly bad intentions.

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