Countering Drone Tactics: Making the Case to Safeguard Airspace
The nefarious exploitation of evermore sophisticated drones is creating opportunity for security integrators to bring organizations counter solutions. Learn more about the opportunity and market projections.
The tallest or strongest walls can’t stop a $1,500 drone from causing tremendous damage. Consequently, security teams around the world must expand their physical security perimeter protection measures from traditional 2-D capabilities to 3-D. Especially vulnerable are “likely target” sites including high pedestrian/spectator areas, airports and critical infrastructure sites.
While there are many productive uses for drones, if they are in the wrong hands, small drones can easily be used for terrorist activity. Integrating airspace security measures into existing security infrastructure is not difficult. It just needs to be done before it is too late.
Using innovative smart airspace security technology, integrators and their end-user clients can minimize and mitigate security impact by securing their airspace. Solutions from market leaders like Dedrone, for example, can assess all airspace activity, identify cooperative worker drones and expose those that could be a malicious or terrorist threat.
Such technology and capabilities can ultimately be used to mitigate the drone threat and protect private and public interests alike as the drone threat landscape evolves. There has been a boom in nuisance drone appearances across the United States, from prisons to stadiums and power plants to airports.
According to U.S. flight regulators’ figures, the U.S. airport industry reported a 74% increase in runway sightings from 2020 to 2021. Once rare enough to elicit headlines, interferences involving these devices have become common and have fallen upon the security teams who now need to quite literally look up to the sky to protect people, property or information.
7 Drone Developments
Fortunately, it isn’t all doom and gloom because technologies to assist us in this new frontier have also been accelerating. Following are seven predictions for drone technologies during the next 12 months.
1. DRONES WILL WIN THE NEXT WORLD WAR
Drones are already winning wars in clashes worldwide, but it is highly likely that serious conflicts will be defined by bomb-dropping unmanned vehicles and their counter technologies. Barely a month into the new year, we witnessed the drone strike on the airport and oil facilities in Abu Dhabi, escalating civil war in the region. The U.S., among other nations, is wise to the threat and is gearing up anti-drone programs amid fears of a resurgence of terrorism on U.S. soil following its removal of troops from Afghanistan.
Ukraine has recently employed the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone against Russian forces, delivering catastrophic losses to the enemy. Although the Bayraktar TB2 has been employed in smaller conflicts, most notably in Ethiopia and Azerbaijan, the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine promises to be its biggest engagement yet.
With a low cost (just $1-$2M compared to an estimated $32M for the Reaper) and potent capabilities, it has the potential to play a decisive role in Europe’s largest conventional war since 1945. It’s not just the military-grade drones that pose a threat. With their potential for hostile surveillance, weapons delivery, and even detonation, small and midsized drones have become an easy tool for nefarious activity, like the Iraqi prime minister’s recent assassination attempt, which involved an explosive-laden UAV.
2. MORE EYES IN THE SKY
Though DJI is the undisputed leader in commercial drone manufacturing, as drones sales continued to increase throughout the pandemic, last year we saw DJI’s global commercial market share drop by 15% according to DroneAnalyst as new players enter the scene. Numerous nimble startups are backed with venture-capital cash. They can afford to undercut the Chinese drone-maker, offering consumer-friendly prices that can comfortably compete with the price tag of DJI’s latest model, the Mavic 3.
3. REMOTE AREAS WILL EMBRACE DRONE TECHNOLOGY
When they aren’t causing havoc by appearing in places they aren’t supposed to be, drones are proving to fulfill essential roles in progressive cities and rural areas alike. Drones can help with logistics in regions where transportation networks are battling against nature, like monitoring road damage or inspecting bridges. They will also prove vital for moving heavy loads in areas with poor road connections. As a result, expect to see more of them in sparsely populated areas like the mountains.
4. DRONE DETECTION BECOMES INTEGRAL TO URBAN POLICING
With the number of drones in our skies increasing, driven by enthusiasts and commercial users alike, law enforcement will begin to integrate counter-drone solutions into their security infrastructure. Municipalities will typically manage these systems as a utility, offering them as a service to law enforcement and other relevant agencies to deliver meaningful security benefits.
With access to real-time data about drone activity, cities will gain valuable intelligence about potential cybersecurity and terrorism incidents during their earliest stages, thereby affording them greater time to act. We will also see more options for mobile airspace security, allowing law enforcement and government officials to provide temporary counter-drone capabilities for events, large gatherings, parades and more. This level of highly agile, adaptive and temporary monitoring will be a boon for those areas where airspace restrictions are fluid.
5. NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS WILL STEP UP COUNTER-DRONE FUNDING
The Biden Administration’s flagship $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which was signed into law last November, focused primarily on repairing and upgrading existing utilities — roads, railway lines, bridges and telecommunications systems. Although this investment was necessary, it failed to allocate significant funds toward addressing the newfound threats of the 21st century, including those posed by malicious drone usage.
To an extent, this is understandable. The passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill was a fraught process. The final form was dramatically smaller than the original $2.3 trillion package proposed by the Biden Administration in March. As the dust begins to settle, we can expect forward-thinking legislators to advance new funding proposals aimed at shoring up anti-drone capabilities within cities. Other national governments will undoubtedly follow suit, driven by national security and counter-terrorism concerns.
6. DRUG DRONES WILL TAKE A HIT
A drug-filled drone headed for a Virginia prison missed its target and landed outside a school in September last year, making national headlines. The drone, which was carrying a package filled with tobacco, marijuana, cellphones and a USB-C converter cable, was certainly not the first. International correctional facilities claim that drones are dropping contraband to prison inmates at an increasing rate.
Dedrone’s data shows a 217% increase in drone sightings from pre-COVID times. This risk causes severe disruption to operations and threatens the safety of both inmates and officers. In 2022, it’s anticipated illegal drone drops will subside as more facilities gain control of their surroundings and work together to create standard operating procedures coupled with using more sophisticated drone detection technology.
7. NEW U.S. STANDARDS FOR DRONE DETECTION OR MITIGATION COMING
It may be one of the hottest topics in airflight, yet it’s unlikely that the FAA will declare a standard for drone detection or mitigation this year. The good news is that the regulators have begun testing technologies at Atlantic City airport in December 2021. Additionally, we will see the agency strengthen law enforcement’s ability to declare flight restrictions around critical national events, which will enhance counter-drone programs.
These tests will ultimately expand to five airports intending to build a national standard. The selected sample airports were designed to be a representative cross-sample. They included significant international gateways like Seattle-Tacoma Int’l Airport and smaller regional hubs like Syracuse, N.Y.
What’s Yet to Come
It’s fair to say we are still living in the Wild West of the drone era as the industry moves toward maturity. Eventually, cities and businesses will be required to monitor all drones in their airspace. As a result, security teams will need to be able not just to spot drones but differentiate between friend and foe.
With investment in technology and the right security team, we can regain control of our skies. For security integrators, it may be time to investigate further and partner with a counter-drone specialist to expand your portfolio of offerings. That’s why in 2021 forward-thinking PSA Security Network added Dedrone to its Managed Services Provider Program.
Mary-Lou Smulders is CMO for Dedrone.
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