2023 Airspace Security Predictions

White Paper

2023 Airspace Security Predictions


Introduction to Smart Drone Airspace Security

Security teams protect people, property, and information. Now they also need to look up, to ensure their airspace is clear from drone threats.

As the use of drones continues to grow and evolve it is crucial to anticipate and prepare for potential challenges and developments in the field. The need for effective counter-drone measures has become increasingly important. In this report, we will explore predictions for the counter-drone industry in 2023, including advancements in technology, new regulations, and potential challenges facing the industry. We will also discuss the potential impact of these developments on the overall drone market and wider society.

This report covers the following subjects:

  • Military
  • Non-Military
  • Drone Innovation
  • Legislation


Military Airspace Solutions and Drone Usage

Drones in Warfare

  • Drones have played a huge role in Ukraine after first coming to the warfare stage in the Middle East and then in the Armenia/Azerbaijan conflict. It was not until the early months of the Russian-Ukraine war that the general public saw their potential to tip the scales. Ukraine used its fleet of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2s to win several propaganda and military operations.
  • As the war drags on, both sides are using Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and consequent counter-Uncrewed Aerial System (c-UAS) technologies in progressively innovative ways while the rest of the world supports and learns from the conflict.
  • Expect drone mitigation techniques and technology to go through rapid development and real-world testing in the winter, to progress military aggressions as well as protect critical infrastructure and citizens alike.
  • Within NATO members, expect increased block-wide funding for UAV and c-UAS projects, as individual member militaries learn from Ukraine, about the changing dynamics of modern warfare. These lessons include the need to provide close air support in contested airspace, combating opposing drone fleets, and the desire for constant combat readiness despite personnel issues.
  • Some of the most innovative and affordable military UAVs and c-UASs will come from smaller nations. These countries will innovate and iterate faster with nimble partnering  startups / small businesses around the world vs. relying on large primes who are used to slow antiquated innovation cycles prevalent in countries with larger defense budgets. At the same time, Iran will emerge as a major supplier of military UAVs for countries that are not aligned with Western/NATO interests.


Non-Military Drone Technology & Usage

Contraband in Corrections Continues

  • Due to protocols and subsequent technologies introduced to stop the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities, in-person visits and mail remain limited. We have already seen a rise in drones delivering contraband like phones and drugs, and it is still true that not all correctional facilities are prepared for this new invader.
  • These contraband drops are not only a threat to the safety of the security staff onsite, but also the safety of inmates, as these drops can cause fights to break out. The incarceration rate may be dropping, but this doesn’t mean that the risk of contraband drops is.
  • In addition, more robust or larger UAVs make for more types of contraband to potentially be delivered or better/larger cameras being used to observe patterns and rotations prior to a contraband drop. Some even contemplate a drone large enough to airlift a prisoner to freedom like the helicopter-based escapes of years past!

Market Consolidation

  • As drone security becomes a real concern, the existing c-UAS technologies will be tested under real-world conditions.  Security professionals will quickly understand which solutions actually work outside of demo environments. This dynamic will quickly push the industry to pick winners and losers and you will see some c-UAS providers fail.
  • Equally, c-UAS companies that are betting on one mode of detection (vs. sensor-fusion) will quickly be driven into a niche best-in-class provider status supporting an over-arching airspace security Command and Control (C2) solution.
  • As the sector matures, counter-drone technologies will become a foundational part of the modern security infrastructure. Initially, the biggest market will not be the US, given the regulatory challenges, and lack of government support, despite recent and relatively dire warnings from the FBI.
  • But while other countries may be the most prolific early adopters, the US will catch up. Congress will pass landmark counter-drone regulation, which, in turn, will provide clarity on National Airspace (NAS) policy. More authorities — both local and national — will be empowered to deploy counter-drone systems.

Open-Air Events, Open-Air Drone Solution

  • Drone incursions are a reality in major sports events and other open-air venues (including the NFL this season). These incursions are disruptive, and have the potential to halt play, but they are yet to cause any real physical harm.
  • We can expect the leagues and organizations to push even harder for legislation enabling use of more advanced technologies and mitigation capabilities next year.
  • Equally important, NFL, MLB, NCAA and NASCAR will be investing to harden their airspace security as allowed under current laws to ensure safety of players, staff and fans.
  • We may very well see a much wider array of outdoor events to require some form of drone protection be used for all events – regardless of the size of the event or the venue itself. Expect c-UAS companies to tout their portable or easy to set up solutions as a result.
  • Expect c-UAS companies to tout their portable or easy- to-deploy set up solutions as a result. Contracts will also be won on their ability to protect against a wide variety of drones.
  • We see drone incursions within other sectors of the economy and public life — from prisons to airports. But these venue-based drone incidents are different, because they interrupt events watched by millions at home, and thousands more within the stadium.
  • As a result, they will be a major factor in driving consumer awareness of malicious drone usage.
  • We can expect malicious operators to rely on DIY hardware, or non-DJI drones. Using DJI drones is so 2019!

Drone Innovation

Drone Innovation

DJI’s Market Loss is Bad Actors’ Gain

  • It’s clear that DJI will continue to enjoy the largest market share of flying drones for the near future, but it is losing ground to rivals both within China and elsewhere.
  • The non-DJI market share is clearly gaining ground in both commercial and hobbyist use. DIY drones are a great example, where users can customize the drone to meet their own unique operational and/or business requirements.
  • With more non-DJI / DIY drones produced, bad actors will leverage these Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to evade detection by Aeroscope sensors. Aeroscope sensors are manufactured by DJI and can only sense DJI drones, being blind to drones manufactured by any other UAV producer.
  • Consequently, open-air venues, airports, correctional facilities, and other locations will require some form of drone detection that does not solely rely on Aeroscope.
  • This evolution in the counter-drone industry means that sensor-fusion capabilities will become essential for a robust (counter-Uncrewed Aerial System (c-UAS ) solutions. Multi-sensor fusion is the only way to provide true air domain awareness and protection to facilities with open-air components, for the security of event goers, passengers, pilots, correctional inmates, etc.
  • And as more venues look to develop airspace security, expect cUAS vendor applications for SAFETY Act certifications to skyrocket.
  • On the UAV side, there will be a realization that drone hardware is equally – if not more – important than drone software. Most drone manufacturers have directed their efforts into AI and CV (computer vision) technology to enhance customer user experience, but ruggedized and military grade airframes will be needed as use cases shift from consumer/hobbyist to serious industrial / military applications.

Drone Shows Need Security

  • As drone range/flight time increases and their flight accuracy improves, we expect to see even more shows in 2023.
  • Using drones instead of fireworks also supports veterans with PTSD, as the noise can trigger flashbacks or other unwanted reactions. For example, July 4 usually sees the highest rate of runaway pets all year.
  • But with the use of more drones comes the need for better drone security to quickly distinguish between friendly/productive drones and bad ones when hundreds or even thousands are in the air at once. Shows featuring many drones offer the ability for bad actors to hide in plain sight and then achieve their goals.



Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Becomes a Widespread Reality

  • Retail behemoths like Amazon are pushing the boundaries of BVLOS restrictions as money and power are piled behind the retail delivery service.
  • In addition to the need for regulation and government action on the threat drones can pose, we also expect to see Drone-as-a-First-Responder (DFR) pilot programs emerging around the world, pushing the US regulations around BVLOS to develop more quickly.
  1. DFRs are already in limited use in the US, and have shown positive results in being able to provide live visual data at an incident before responders even arrive, documenting crime scenes, searching for missing persons, and more.
  2. Currently, BVLOS flight is prohibited in U.S. airspace without acquiring a hard-to-obtain waiver from the FAA. While the FAA has made recommendations in 2022 that point to a more positive reception for BVLOS, it is still in the recommendation stage.
  • Since the FAA is still in the rule making process, the technology companies are actively pushing regulation but progress is still being held back in the US.
  • The continuous technological progress of drone capabilities and slow to move regulation, underscores the need for cities to have mobile drone detection options – not just fixed site detection to identify unauthorized drones amongst the many authorized ones. With the ability for drone pilots who are bad actors to be further away from their targets, there are more vectors of approach and vulnerabilities exposed.

Conclusion & Download

Conclusion & Free Download

In 2023 security and military personnel alike will be actively to deploying/enhancing their counter-drone solutions to detect, track, identify and mitigate drone threats.

The use of counter-drone technology will become increasingly prevalent in the coming years. With the continued growth of the drone market and the increasing potential for malicious or dangerous use of uncrewed aerial vehicles, it is clear that counter-drone technology will play a vital role in ensuring public safety and security. As such, it is important for both government and private sector organizations to invest in and develop effective counter-drone measures. With the right approach and technology, we can ensure that the skies remain safe and secure for all.

You can get a PDF version of this White Paper for free here.

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