12 Drone-Related Predictions for Airspace Security in 2024
The landscape of counter-drone technology and airspace security is set to evolve significantly, according to one industry expert.
Rapid advancements in technology, driven by global conflict and emerging industries, require a proactive response from security leaders.
As we embark on 2024, the landscape of counter-drone technology and airspace security is set to evolve significantly.
Influenced by myriad factors ranging from geopolitical tensions to technological advancements, these changes will reshape the industry, presenting both unprecedented opportunities and challenges.
Global airspace security leader Dedrone has provided 12 predictions that illuminate the trajectory of the airspace security industry.
From the increasing market share of U.S. drone companies to the expanding drone economy across sectors, and the accelerated pace of innovation globally, these predictions offer a comprehensive view of the future of airspace security.
Drone Swarms Will Become a Standard Threat Vector Scenario
- Drone manufacturers will develop more sophisticated swarm technology, enabling large groups of drones to collaborate seamlessly for various applications.
- This will pose new challenges for counter-drone systems to effectively detect and mitigate drone swarms with some mitigation techniques winning out over others.
Ukraine and Israel Will Push More Countries to Invest in Drones
- Drones are playing major roles in both Ukraine and now Israel on all sides of these conflicts. · Commercial drones (including from DJI, which has agreements with distributors to not sell to militaries) are in use alongside military-specific drones.
- The US government is already cracking down on Chinese-made drones, suggesting they represent a significant security risk.
- Expect more Western companies to work to lock down homegrown sources of drone tech.
Expect Ukraine to Emerge as a Global Leader in Drone Tech Development and Manufacturing
- The new age of drone warfare came into view in the Ukraine – Russia conflict, where evolutions have come at a dizzying pace: from simple commercial unencrypted and unaltered drones at the start to forcing DJI encryption, initiating the creation of entirely new drone models purpose-built for the needs of war.
- It started with massive drone donation campaigns like the Drones for Ukraine Fund and then a quick realization by the Ukrainians that they needed to be independent on this front, spurring them to create the Ukraine Defence Compact
- The ongoing conflict ensures that all the latest innovations in drone and counterdrone warfare will evolve here, and Ukraine is eager to embrace and export it.
Drone as First Responder (DFR) Truly “Takes Off”
- Flying BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) without a visual observer (that is, without anyone else watching the drone) is extremely difficult at the moment – with only one FAA COA granted nationally
- However, technology is being piloted today (including at Dedrone) enables DFR operations without visual observers to occur. This allows more opportunities for first responders to use drones to assess a situation, be the first to arrive on the scene, and use overall resources more efficiently.
- The US gov’t has signaled it’s open to this. Now it is just a matter of taking advantage.
Concern Will Mount Around the Potential for a Grave Drone Event
- To date, nefarious drones that could have caused significant harm here in the United States have been stopped. But how long can that last? Unfortunately, while we are in legislative limbo, this is a good time for bad actors to strike.
- We have had some very close calls already including:
- Super Bowl LIII mid-air collision referred to in Hill article above § Airports (flight stoppages)
- Power stations (refer to Wray testimony)
- Non-state actors such as gangs, cartels, militias, and criminal syndicates have been building their experience with drones over the past decade, too (again thanks to affordability of the tech). For instance, the Oct. 7 attack in Israel used drones to drop explosives.
- Cynically, this could possibly spur the passage of stronger drone protection legislation – so the time to act is now, not after something terrible happens or lives are lost.
Critical Infrastructure Will Heavily Invest in Airspace Security
- Increased polarization during an election year makes the odds of homegrown bad actors looking to disrupt critical infrastructure more likely. Even in off years (c/f Wray testimony) this is becoming a more common occurrence.
- If an incident occurs, this will drive more and faster investment into protecting airspaces at power plants and other key facilities, but even if there isn’t such an inciting event, we are seeing more companies and institutions taking these threats seriously (like the NFL).
Remote ID Will Come into Full Force but Fall Short
- In March 2024, Remote ID (RID) will be fully enforced across the US but public safety and national security agencies alike will quickly realize its shortcomings
- Like a license plate on a vehicle, bad actors will simply stop RID transmissions (akin to removing the license plate on a car) or “spoof” the signal, similar to changing a license plate’s characters. These shortcomings will mean that some malicious drone pilots can’t be prosecuted or caught unless there’s more than just Remote ID in place.
DJI’s Drone Market Share Will Continue Shrinking
- As a consequence of anti-Chinese-manufacturing sentiment and the preference for homegrown tech or tech that is otherwise perceived to be “more secure,” DJI’s market share will continue to shrink across western countries.
- US companies set to benefit include Skydio and BRINC.
- This expansion beyond DJI also requires more investment in counterdrone tech (because of the limitations of AeroScopes).
Drone Economy Continues to Grow
- Spurred by developments from war zones to more reasonable drone legislation and BVLOS becoming easier, the drone economy across all sectors is simply going to keep growing.
- If BVLOS becomes easier to accomplish, drone deliveries will become a reality and DFR means that more first responder agencies will want even more drones.
- However, there are also some non-obvious industries that would increase their investments in drones, like the energy industry using drones with cameras equipped for visual inspections of power lines and other equipment.
Airspace Security Innovation Accelerates
- The velocity of innovation is accelerating across the world and drone technology / airspace security solutions are no exception. Winning companies on both sides will be the ones that set the pace for these innovation cycles.
- Companies participating in the global conflict areas will be setting the pace for innovation as more money pours in from governments racing to get their hands on the best tech and more feedback comes from customers. Expect a quantum leap in terms of drone and counterdrone capabilities in 2024.
Biden’s Executive Order on AI Will Make the DoD, DHS, and More Agencies Pickier about Partners
- President Biden’s Oct. 30 executive order directs a number of to undertake specific actions and not just about addressing adversaries’ AI capabilities. The planned National Security Memorandum “addresses the governance of AI used as a component of a national security system or for military and intelligence purposes.”
- Taken in concert with other parts of the order designed to ensure any AI used by the US is as secure as possible and governed appropriately, this suggests that the administration is mindful of AI as a vector for security breaches as much as a promising new tool during a period of global turbulence.
- To comply with this, federal agencies will have to consider a number of details when deciding whether or not to grant clearance or otherwise partner with private sector companies on extremely sensitive projects.
Strengthened Drone Regulation Will Finally Pass
- Right now, some of the U.S.’ legislation governing drone security was never intended for that purpose, because drones didn’t exist at that time. Now that they are more accessible, access to counterdrone tech must also be easier to obtain and use for public safety, national defense and private security professionals.
- Counterdrone legislation keeps getting introduced (Peters in Senate, Gallagher in House) but doesn’t go anywhere. Now private entities like the NFL are publicly calling for counterdrone legislation in politics publications like The Hill. This should spur Congress to action.
Mary-Lou Smulders is the chief marketing officer at Dedrone.
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