Global Drone Blog

Drone Security Terminology 101: Detection, Defense, and Considerations for Use

by Susan Friedberg

Just as the drone market continues to develop rapidly, so does the drone security market. Many come to Dedrone to help make sense of it all - starting with, "how does drone detection work?" In our thousands of conversations across the world, we always begin by building a foundation of vocabulary. In Drone Security Terminology 101, we’ll briefly go over the top terms we’re discussing every day.

Thank you to Jonathan Rupprecht, Esq. for his permission to reprint excerpts from his website on this topic area. For more information on legal citations, research, and counsel on drone law, please contact him here.

Types of Drone Detection Technology

Active detection: To radiate

  • Radar: A device that uses radio energy to detect an object. A radar sends out a signal, and then it catches the reflection and uses this information to measure direction and distance.

Passive detection: To listen

  • Radio receiver: This is a sensor that has antennas to identify radio frequencies and radio waves.
  • Audio sensor: Also known as a microphone, which acts as the “ears” to detect sound.
  • Optical sensor: A fancy way to say a camera, which is a device that can sense changes of light and can record images and video.

Wi-Fi: Can be passive or active. This is a radio that is specifically tailored to receive Wi-Fi protocol. For example, we want computers to receive Wi-Fi signals for emails and web browsing. Drone operators could use Wi-Fi connections to stream live video from their cameras, or help with navigation.

Dedrone’s DroneTracker is a software system that gathers information from various sensors, analyzes it, and triggers a response. DroneTracker is sensor agnostic, meaning it can connect to a variety of detection technologies.

Drone Countermeasures and Technology

Passive defense: Measures that do not disrupt the drone or require legal approval

  • Trigger alerts: Security personnel can be immediately alerted to the presence of a drone through alarms or messages sent to their computers or other monitoring devices.
  • Secure Wi-Fi network: For those concerned with data hacking, shutting off the Wi-Fi network temporarily while the drone is located will prevent hacking threats.
  • Lead people and sensitive information out of the line of sight: If a drone is hovering over a crowd, move them to a covered area. Another example would be to move people in an office of conference room away from a window.
  • Block view: Deploy a retractable roof, close windows or shield protected assets and people.
  • Deploy fog bombs, strobe lights, or other distractions: Interrupts the line of sight to the drone pilot’s intended target. Particularly useful for espionage.

Active defense: Drone returns to start position, lands, or crashes. Many drone defensive measures require legal permission to implement or are reserved for use by government agencies.

  • Jammer: A device that disrupts the communication between the remote control and drone. It can also disrupt navigation. Jammer can selectively disrupt a drone’s communications channels, which blinds the control (pilot’s) signal. A drone can lose GPS signal, stray from its intended path or be forced to land.
  • Spoofer: A device that hijacks and impersonates the drone or drone controller. A spoofer makes it seem like the drone and controller are together. However, the reality is that the person controlling the spoofer is running the flight.
  • Hacking: Drone exploit toolkits are entering the market to hijack drones targeting weak authentication methods and allowing a person with the right equipment to send commands to the victim’s drone.
  • Destroyers:
  1. Laser: An optical device that shines a powerful beam of light or radio energy at the drone. Depending on the power of the laser, it can burn or blind the hardware or camera.
  2. Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP): A generator emits a pulse of energy that, if strong enough, can damage weakly shielded electronics.
  3. High Energy Microwave: Microwaves are generated by an antenna - like the ones in microwave ovens that heat food. If a kernel of corn is placed in a microwave, it will explode into popcorn. If a high energy microwave targets a drone, it will be destroyed.
  4. Snaggers: A net that captures a drone, shot from an air cannon.
  5. Attack Birds, Shotguns, Crossbows, Water Hoses, Baseballs and Angry Fists: Use at your own risk!

DroneTracker software detects drones up to 1 mile away from a protected site, can prompt an automated alert, and track and record a drone's flight path to help security personnel locate and arrest a pilot. Once this information is obtained, DroneTracker preserves the evidence of a rogue drone to support legal investigations. Just as DroneTracker is sensor agnostic, it is also built to integrate into 3rd party defensive products, both active and passive, depending on the laws and regulations of the country which our customers operate.

Drone Security Terminology 102: Notable U.S. Legal Issues Surrounding Counter Drone Technology

The next part of our conversation introduces some of the top considerations that our customers focus on when choosing which measures to incorporate in their drone security deployment. There are different legal constraints that individuals, governments, and enterprises must consider as they begin planning a drone detection and defense program. For legal citations, visit here

Communications Act of 1934 requires persons operating or using radio transmitters to be licensed or authorized under the Commission’s rules. To operate a jammer, it needs to be certified by a federal government authority. Additionally, this law prohibits the manufacture, importation, marketing, sale or operation of unlicensed jammers within the United States (the only exception is to the U.S. Government).

FCC Regulations prohibits the manufacture, importation, marketing, sale or operation of jamming devices within the United States

The United States Criminal Code outlines prohibited defensive countermeasures. For example:  

  • No jamming or spoofing. Law prohibits willful or malicious interference to U.S. government communications; subjects the operator to possible fines, imprisonment, or both.
  • No lasers and shotguns. Prohibits the destruction of aircraft (including drones) or aircraft facilities, including setting fire to, damaging, destroying, disabling or wrecking any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States or any civil aircraft used, operated, or employed in interstate, overseas, or foreign air commerce.
  • No capturing. Prohibits people from intentionally intercepting a drone, or procuring another person to intercept via wire, oral, or electronic communications.
  • No hacking. Prohibits intentional accesses of a drone from a computer without authorization and thereby obtains information from any protected computer.

Individual states have also made some of these counter drone technologies illegal!  States have anti-hacking laws, anti-messing with aircraft laws, etc. Worse yet, these laws are all over the place with how broad they are, their safe harbors/exemptions, and their punishments.  

Civil lawsuits for damages are a major consideration.If you violated a counter drone law and caused damage, you have potential liability from a civil lawsuit.

Aviation statutes and regulations: If you take control of the drone, legally or illegally, YOU are the pilot in command and will need a remote pilot certificate. If the drone operator was required to obtain an authorization and waiver to fly at that location and you take control of the drone, now YOU have to have a waiver and authorizations to operate a drone in that area.