By Thomas Hoyle
Today, the use of recreational drones is at its highest. A rise in hobbyist pilots combined with a rapid advancement in drone capabilities presents a significant challenge to critical national infrastructure, transport hubs, and more – threatening to disrupt operations and drop payloads in secure sites.
To counter this threat, many sites are seeking to deploy advanced drone detection tools for rapid identification and management, but this alone comes with an onslaught of additional challenges – ranging from radar placement to external infrastructure.
In such variable environments, the need for a layered solution to help coordinate responses is critical.
Below, we’re taking a deeper look at how sites are fighting back against drone threats, and why integrating the system into a central Command and Control platform, such as OSL’s FACE system, to create a single integrated operating picture is now vital.
The current threat of drones: an overview
The use of drones has existed for many years in the military space, long before they entered the consumer market. As such, counter drone equipment largely belonged to the military space as well. This all changed with the 2018 closure of Gatwick airport. Marking the first significant disruption to civilian lives due to drones, the closure forced the cancellation of over 1,000 flights with over 140,000 civilians affected.
Since this incident, our research has found that drone use has more than doubled year after year. Transport hubs are more than aware of this threat – with civilian safety consistently paramount. For these hubs, drones don’t just cause a threat by trespassing on secure sites, their effect on jet engines if they are sucked inside has been extensively simulated and researched. For other locations, such as prisons and CNI sites, the ability for drones to drop packages and illicit materials is also well documented.
So, how are sites fighting back?
Drone detection, tracking, and management
There are many kinds of drone detection solutions, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Nevertheless, to have any credible form of a drone detection platform, it’s vital to deploy an ecosystem of solutions.
Some of the most popular drone detection solutions are radars, visual systems, acoustic systems, and radio frequency (RF) systems. Visual drone detection systems will make use of cameras to detect drones, whilst acoustic systems use microphones to detect the noise that drones make.
RF systems are perhaps the most commonly used type of drone detection system; they work by detecting the radio signals that are emitted by drones. By picking up the radio links between the pilot and the drone, it’s possible to trace the location of the pilot as well as the drone itself.
Regardless of the ecosystem that a site manages, the premise remains the same. Detect, track, and manage drones as quickly as possible to mitigate threats and reduce the chances of disruption – a difficult feat when drones can move at average speeds of 40-60mph.
The challenges of drone detection
As drone technology continues to evolve, sites with drone detection ecosystems encounter a wide range of challenges. Today, as stated by the DoD, the type of threat posed by drones changes meaningfully once every three months, as evolutions and advancements in drone technology develop at a breakneck pace.
Drones are becoming smaller, faster, and capable of carrying a heavier payload. They are also made from materials that are difficult to detect by radars. The type of payload can change as well, with contraband capable of being sprayed, remotely detonated, and more.
As well as advancements in drone technology, drone detection measures must also navigate some critical challenges before they can provide enhanced situational intelligence. Some of these include:
- The density of buildings that may interfere with RF signals, cameras, and acoustic systems
- The volume of the audio in CNI sites and transport hubs rendering acoustic systems ineffective
- The use of automated flight paths and AI to avoid pilot detections and tracking
- The management of false positive results
- The cost and infrastructure needed to deliver results
- The need for a single integrated operating picture
One of the greatest demands affecting sites seeking enhanced drone detection solutions is the need for a single integrated operating picture.
In dense environments where a range of sensor types, radars, cameras, and more are working simultaneously, users must be able to access and interpret data in seconds. By fusing data from various sensors and integrating them into a single picture, on one user interface, teams can more easily and confidently track and target drones to understand their current security landscape. Without this overview, reaction times may suffer – and responses themselves may be compromised.
This is more important than ever, as required response times continue to decrease with the rise in drone top speeds.
At OSL, we truly recognise the importance of this. We have recently supplied Law Enforcement with tablets complete with our web-based operating picture to truly facilitate coordinated insights, at a glance. These teams can now gain a heightened overview of current incursions to deploy the greatest responses.
At Operational Solutions, our mission is to provide unparalleled situational intelligence that create safer spaces globally. Providing our partners with complete solutions, we enable sites to detect, monitor and proactively resolve risk.
Visit our solutions page to learn more about enhanced situational intelligence.