Tech Savvy Terrorists and Airport Disruptions- How Drones Affect the Security Landscape
Great tools when in good hands
Recreational drone usage has increased dramatically over the past 5 years due to less expensive hobby quality quadcopters and even interest in the higher end drones by amateur pilots in the hobby community. In the business world drones are used in many ways such as aerial footage in the film industry, crop monitoring in agriculture, 3-D scanning in the construction industry, and large site surveys in many industries. However, like any other tool their misuse can be disruptive or dangerous.
Illegal Drone Operations at Airports
Recently several accounts at London’s Gatwick Airport made world news of a quadcopter hovering slightly above the runway blocking planes and delaying flights. On flight lines all debris and other objects must be secured for fear the aircraft engines will suck in the debris and cause damage which could lead to a catastrophic failure of the engine. In this situation a $1300.00 drone caused service disruptions to 120,000 passengers. One European airline Easyjet said the series of drone incidents cost it over £15,000,000 which comes $19,561,000.
Weaponized Hobby Drones
Terrorists continue to look for new means to attack their targets at home and abroad. In August 2018 President Nicholas Madura of Venezuela was giving a speech at an event to honor the 81st anniversary of the country’s national guard. During the speech two explosive laden drones flew toward his booth thankfully the Venezuela military used radio frequency jamming to ground one of the drones and the other crashed into an apartment building near the event with no injuries to bystanders.
Drone IED's In Modern Combat
In Iraq ISIS the terrorist organization who rose to prominence after capturing Mosul began using quadcopters against Iraqi, Syrian, and US forces. These hobby quality quadcopters were drones were packed with explosives. During the battle of Mosul it is estimated that ISIS flew over 300 drone missions with this strategy seeing mixed results. This most likely influenced the attacks in Venezuela.
New Regulations For Hobbyists
The United States and Canada have now implemented rules for both recreational and commercial drone pilots requiring them to be licensed with The Federal Aviation Administration in The US or The Ministry of Transportation in Canada. New rules limit drone flying by airspace, speed, time of day, line of site among other requirements. Drones must still respect Temporary Flight Restrictions like private and commercial pilots and yield to all manned aircraft.
Defending Against a Airborne Threat
Electronic drone defense systems have yet to take the mainstream, but there are products available for anyone looking to defend against drones. High threat and high security environments are great places to use this technology and there are many solutions that may fit your use case, here are a few.
Shotguns- small facilities with little pedestrian traffic are a great application for this. AMTEC Less Lethal Systems make a 12-gauge shotgun shell The SkyNet Mi5 Anti Drone Shell a fitting name. These shells use a small weighted net housed inside the shell. When fired at a smaller hobby drone like a DJI Phantom or Mavic it raps around the drone and stops its propellers from moving. The drone will then fall to the ground although, still functional it can simply be switched off once it is recovered.
Anti-drone guns- There are two types, a net launching gun like Droptec’s Netgun and a radio frequency jamming gun such as Droneshield’s Drone Gun. These “guns” are…. The system is man portable and shoulder mounted like a rifle or shotgun. Once pointed at the drone it jams the signal between the operator’s controller be it a cell phone, r/c style controller or other wireless control device. The added benefit here is if the drone is in fact weaponized with a remotely detonated explosive the signal between the detonator and bomb will also be jammed.
Drone Catchment Systems- SearchSystems a UK based company created a drone called the Sparrowhawk based on DJI’s Matrice which is anti-drone well… drone. It is controlled by a pilot and can chase down most drones with easy and either drop a net on top of them or rap the assailant drone and force it to the ground.
Regardless of the steps regulatory agencies are taking to limit drone activity in the airspace criminals, terrorists, and other nefarious people will still use these devices to further their goals of disruption, terror, and illegal surveillance. In this new three-dimensional threat environment processes and strategies will have to be adapted for critical assets and business operations to protect personnel, citizens, equipment, and information.