As commercial drones continue to expand and drone technology evolves, the misuse of drones remains an important risk factor to the burgeoning industry. We asked D-Fend to review the last year in counter drone technology – and let us know what’s coming in 2023. Here, CMO Jeffrey Starr calls out notable drone incidents, discussed the major developments in the cUAS industry, and explains how the requirements are changing.
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The following is a guest post and conversation with Jeffrey Starr, Chief Marketing Officer at D-Fend Solutions, a leader in radio frequency cyber-based counter-drone technology. DRONELIFE neither accepts nor makes payments for guest posts.
This week, D-Fend Solutions‘ flagship product, EnforceAir, received the 2023 Intersec Homeland Security/Service of the Year Award at the 2023 Intersec Expo on January 18 at the Ritz Carlton DIFC in Dubai, UAE. EnforceAir was selected by a rigorous panel of jurors, joining four other finalists within the Homeland Security and Defense sector. The Homeland Security Product/Service of the Year selection criteria are innovation, performance, installation, manageability, value, and industry appeal. The Awards, which recognize people, products, and companies for exceptional performance attracted almost 1300 entries across ten categories.
2022 in Review: Dronelife Q+A
What were some of the more notable drone incidents in 2022?
Drone proliferation accelerated at a relentless rate in 2022. While new drone applications grew and flourished across industries, dangerous incidents also kept pace. Drone use by the careless, clueless, criminal, and combatant continued to plague the new drone economy and society. In 2022, rogue drone incidents constantly made headlines and showed the wide reach of these new risks.
Incidents in 2022 also made us aware of the urgent need for safe and surgically precise drone mitigation methods to protect urban and sensitive environments that are at elevated risk. Dangerous drone incidents are becoming extremely common and they’re unfolding in a variety of circumstances. This adds to the vulnerability of these worrying scenarios in unauthorized airspaces. At D-Fend Solutions, we provide our Drone Incident Tracker as an industry resource to inform public safety, homeland security, and defense audiences about public domain incidents involving unauthorized UAVs.
Our team has observed an increasing number of disruptive situations at airports. These incidents are becoming increasingly common in parallel with massive drone proliferation and can result in unpredictable outcomes.
In July of 2022, a drone sighting at Reagan Washington National Airport, located just a few miles from the Pentagon and White House, caused a 13-minute suspension of flights and a 45-minute delay in normal operations. 90 flights were delayed and seven were canceled because of the incident. Just a month later, a drone came within eight feet of crashing into the windshield of a Delta flight landing at Orlando International Airport in Florida. In December, the crew of a Spirit Airlines flight spotted a drone flying 300 feet below them as the flight approached the runway at Baltimore/Washington International, Maryland’s busiest airport.
Near-miss incidents or even the mere presence of unauthorized UAVs at airports can be highly disruptive to operations. They can also result in hefty financial impact while also posing direct and collateral damage risks.
Another increasing type of rogue drone incident is the nefarious act of smuggling contraband across borders and even within a restricted prison space. This past April, gun traffickers used a large drone to smuggle 11 handguns from the USA into Canada. In March, a man was arrested for attempting to smuggle drugs valued at over $286,000 into Collins Bay prison in Canada using a drone. In June, Correctional Officers at the Federal Detention Center in Miami, Florida (FDC Miami) reported multiple drone attempts to smuggle contraband into the prison.
One of the most crucial aspects of domestic C-UAS protection is the defense of critical infrastructure sites. A drone incident in such a setting could result in disruption to civilian life, with the potential to escalate into extreme situations that threaten people’s safety.
Multiple drone sightings were reported over Louisiana chemical facilities and a pipeline in 2022, raising alert levels for espionage and terrorism. In the latest incident in July, multiple drones were spotted flying several feet above a Louisiana chemical plant.
These varied incidents represent specific examples of events that now occur on a consistent basis. It’s clear that this is a global issue that warrants urgent attention on policy and technology countermeasures.
What were the major C-UAS developments in 2022 from a governmental policy perspective?
In 2022, the White House introduced a Counter-UAS Action Plan. Congress followed this with a related legislative proposal, the Safeguarding the Homeland from the Threats Posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act, which included many practical and needed steps and measures to confront the accelerating risk of dangerous UAVs. These elements raise the nation’s C-UAS posture to an increased level of readiness, resulting in a more methodical and thorough defense.
The proposals included multiple steps in many domains, most notably touching on the following areas:
- Devolution and extension of UAV detection and mitigation allowances to state and local levels.
- Support for technological innovation that pointedly confronts the threat in ways that place a priority on safety and continuity.
- Emphasis on the defense of critical infrastructure sites, including placement of safe C-UAS systems.
- Tracking and recording of incidents in a vast database.
These proposals represent measures that should be passed and implemented with a sense of urgency. They should also be applied in an expansive way that optimizes the impact in lowering the danger and reaching the most security possible. With all these measures, widening mitigation capabilities to a similar extent to that of detection authorities should also be taken into consideration. This ensures the full-incident lifecycle is taken into account for the most secure possible outcomes.
The Counter-UAS Action Plan and the Safeguarding the Homeland from the Threats Posed by Unmanned Aircraft Systems Act proposed legislation raise many required countermeasures to confront the accelerating risk of rogue drones. These actions can bring the nation’s counter-drone preparedness to a degree of increased strength and resiliency, leading to a more comprehensive defense. Empowering and deepening these permissions and plans for both detection and mitigation will allow for new drone applications to flourish. It will also protect populations and critical assets from the increasing dangers of unauthorized or misused UAVs,
How are C-UAS requirements changing?
Militaries, homeland security agencies, and law enforcement organizations often have legacy installed base air defense countermeasures in place. They continue to play a role in a layered defense strategy, but they may be inadequate in today’s urban and otherwise sensitive environments.
For detection, radars may show false positives due to various flying objects such as birds, and optical solutions may not work effectively without a clear line of sight. Acoustic solutions are also problematic in noisy settings or with quiet UAVs.
On the mitigation side, jamming-based solutions only work for the short period of time they are on, and can seriously disrupt communications and operations. Physical or kinetic solutions, which are based on some sort of physical shooting of a projectile, are dangerous in populated areas as they carry risks of collateral damage.
A new generation of counter-drone methods must mitigate risk by taking control of the threat with the unauthorized drone landing safely in a predefined safe spot. Governments and security agencies are seeking new non-jamming, non-kinetic solutions that do not require line-of-sight. Distinguishing between authorized and unauthorized UAVs, operational ability in an autonomous mode, having a wide variety of deployment configurations for total operational flexibility, and open APIs for integration with various multiple vendor Command & Control systems are all important requirements.
Finally, the latest C-UAS Systems must be able to confront and overcome the most advanced proprietary drone protocols and serve as a countermeasure against the latest long-range drones. These solutions must be able to divert threatening drones quickly onto a safe route and make them land securely in a predefined safe zone. The technology should be effective against swarming. They must come with different antennas for different environments. Installation must be extremely fast and not difficult, with low power requirements and a small form factor.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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