In spite of being relatively new technology, drones of varying types and sizes are readily available for consumer purchase. Where there was once one to two predator drones, now there are delivery drones, hobby drones, news drones, Hollywood drones and sightseeing drones.
Drone Electronics and Operating System
Some experimentation in taking a drone apart revealed that most ready-to-ship drones come with the same electronics as a smartphone or tablet. Nearly all drone code is the same as that found in Android except for open-source coding efforts built on Linux platforms, which can be found at Dronecode .
Onboard cameras are capable of storing video — anywhere from five minutes to two hours of video on a USB stick. Some advanced operating systems allow for real-time upload of video to external storage networks.
Even the cheapest drones have fully operational Wi-Fi, radio frequency and Bluetooth antennas or a combination of all three.
Types of Drones and Movement Capability
Drones come in many types or designs, such as aerial, aquatic, submersible, ground-based, quadrupedal and bipedal walkers, and those that can adhere to walls and ceilings. Several universities in the U.S. are experimenting with insect- and animal-like models, but these are not readily available to consumers — yet.
Drone movement can be preprogrammed or manually controlled by a hand-held device. Manual control requires radio frequency and can operate in several spectra:
• Various short-range FM and UHF bands;
• Unregulated frequency bands (typically 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz); and
• Bluetooth technology frequency bands (very short range).
If a drone requires human control for movement, it is classified as a semiautonomous system. If its route or actions can be preset and do not require human intervention to move, it is considered an autonomous system.
Movement is typically along the x- and y-axes. It can be preprogrammed via code, provided through reference coordinates from a GPS and given by magnetic orientation or from optical queues such as guide markings or lights. Because of these abilities, individuals and organizations must be aware of the threats drones can pose .
Nefarious Drone Uses Within Industrial Areas
Industrial plants should have well-documented plans for avoiding or, at the very least, responding to the following scenarios:
• Drones flying directly over nuclear cooling towers, where they can simply be shut off or drop while carrying an explosive payload;
• Drones targeting or running reconnaissance on sensitive areas such as power junctions where touching two lines is enough to cause a blackout; and
• Drone submarines that can propel themselves into hydroelectric turbines or detonate an explosive next to an aging dam.
New software allows drone operators to incorporate infrared and night vision, which could easily be employed to watch and document security patrols around corporate locations, military installations, national laboratories and federal buildings.
Nefarious Drone Uses Against Corporations
Public and private companies that plan to introduce drones into their environment should have solid response plans for the following:
• Drones that are stolen from corporate teams and used to play back video, audio or motion maps;
• Drones that are wired with microphones used to either eavesdrop on sensitive conversations, execute electronic harassment or commit industrial espionage;
• When data stored on drones can be replayed so that current conditions are not actually displayed (i.e., replay data from two months ago). Granted, this is a sophisticated repurpose but not entirely unfeasible; and
• When the drone network or infrastructure is hacked from within the organization or as the program is developed, which usually means complete compromise of all data. This is an entirely new twist on insider threats and will require the same care and thought that goes into any threat program.
Risk Scenarios and Nefarious Uses Against Civilians
The potential to use this cutting-edge technology against civilian populations is staggering. This short section will not do justice to the myriad of ways criminals will repurpose this technology. Here are a few examples that come to mind:
• Drones can be shut down midflight, injuring bystanders and causing property damage, or flown into situations like traffic jams, buildings or people.
• Drones can be flown into sports venues packed with spectators. This seems like a fairly innocuous scenario until you consider how fast the propeller blades on these drones spin. Removing the plastic guards essentially turns them into flying, radio-controlled razor blades.
• Drones can be flown into commercial jets or jet engines while in flight. Interestingly enough, this scenario has played out several times in the past few months at several airports.
• Terrorist organizations could easily design and build a drone capable of carrying several pounds of explosives into public areas and government buildings.
• Terrorist organizations and extremists could handle, with a high degree of anonymity, explosive or incendiary payloads, radioactive materials, chemical agents or biological agents.
• Any individual with a teaspoon of technical know-how could use drones to stalk, harass or eavesdrop on another individual.
Potential Physical Security Measures
Reliance on human observation alone is impractical. As a result, the following security measures are viable:
• A defensive perimeter can be established around power generation and distribution facilities. It should be implemented around all critical infrastructure and commercial and private airports. For these situations, a mesh of multiple defensive measures will most likely be required.
• Power line protection is logistically unfeasible at this time due to technology limitations, but this should definitely be given further thought.
• Acoustic and/or frequency spectrum monitoring equipment and a motion sensing network should be established both inside and outside of sensitive areas. The monitoring networks could be designed to sound an alarm, send a text message to your mobile phone or send an alert to the wearable on your wrist.
In a worst-case scenario, physical security personnel could practice their skeet shooting technique on the rogue drone, purchase a couple of drone-hunting eagles or deploy a kill-switch perimeter.
Practical Legal Measures
Organizations must also take care to approach a drone scenario carefully. There are various legal measures to consider:
• Well-defined safety, technical and legal procedures on how to take control of a rogue or hostile drone could be defined in advance.
• Handling of any questionable drones should be treated much like any other evidence, with proper chain of custody. Otherwise, any data captured and stored could be compromised by mishandling, thereby diminishing any legal and evidentiary value.
• The vulnerabilities of the chipsets, operating systems, configurations and control interfaces should be clearly defined and remediated as appropriate. For those vulnerabilities that cannot be fully remediated, contingent controls should be established.
• Vetting of all existing and future drone acquisitions by a company should include a technical vulnerability analysis and penetration testing, just like any other hardware.
• A database should be established to document all drones’ history and operational usage. The information required will include, but is not limited to, acquisition (e.g., PO, vendor, manufacturer, date of receipt), physical inventory, picture of device, transmitter and receiver serial numbers, frequencies used, data and radio vulnerability analysis, department assigned and any maintenance performed on the device.
There Is a Positive Side
Drones can be employed for a wide range of beneficial uses. Some examples include monitoring gas leaks along pipelines where it may be too dangerous for a crew, furthering rescue efforts after earthquakes or natural disasters, determining how bad a meltdown at a reactor is, monitoring livestock, mapping terrain, completing storm damage assessments, monitoring the migration habits of endangered species in remote regions and catching poachers on private property.
Complete Lack of Security Framework
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has not yet published a framework for drone hardware, components or source code. Likewise, there is no National Security Agency (NSA) or National Institute of Crime Prevention (NICP) protection profile for drone software outside of those used by the military.
Even scarier is the total lack of any type of standards, governance or open-source security project related to third-party controls and code bases. These standards and security measures will become necessary in the very near future.
Large crowds and drones don’t mix, indeed operating a drone within 150m of open-airgatherings of more than 1000 people is illegal in the UK. As the summer festival season is drawing to a close the illegal use of drones at open air events should be considered by event organisers in the future. Drones could be used to capture imagery and potentially breach broadcast rights, they could cause injuries to festival goers or they could be used to transport illegal substances into the event. All of these issues pose a liability problem to event organisers who are responsible for the safe conduct of the event.
Drone Defence in partnership with Eclipse Digital Solutions and Crowded Space Dronescarried out a technical demonstration at a festival to measure if drones were an issue for the event. In the past this festival had been linked to drugs so now the event organisers go to considerable lengths to search the 70,000+ festival goers and all of the staff. A drone could be used to bypass all this security and deliver contraband directly into the event.
For the demonstration Drone Defence established its ‘Bronze’ level service in the festival’s Control Centre. We deployed a passive drone detection system which informed the event organisers of a drone operating near the festival. They could then pass this information to the physical security guards who could respond appropriately. In the three hours of the demonstration we recorded 27 separate drone events from a minimum of four different drones. Even as we arrived at the event we saw a DJI Mavic hovering 20m above the Control Centre.
Drone Defence and its partners can provide equipment and personnel to help protect events like this from drones. Seamlessly integrating into the control infrastructure, we can deliver increased situational awareness and effective responses to illegally flown drones.
It has been reported that a hobby drone was used to take many minutes of drone footage of the UK’s £3bn Aircraft Carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, before landing on the deck of the ship. I am as amazed as the ‘drone enthusiast’ was of the total lack of security which allowed this to happen unchallenged.
Although the ship is conducting its sea trials and has not been formally handed over to the Royal Navy the ships builders, the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, should be considering how they can prevent future drone flights around this highly sensitive ship. There are no aircraft currently on-board but the ship has some of the most advanced electronic systems available which, I would imagine, the Royal Navy would want to keep under-wraps. With most hobby drones being able to capture high resolution 4k video there is potential for secret radar and electronic systems to be exposed to external interested parties.
I am certain there is a significant security detail protecting HMS Queen Elizabeth but they seem to have been caught off guard by a simple £300 toy drone which is available from any high street across the nation. Thankfully, this time, drone’s operator was only trying to get some footage of the vessel but in the future the apparent vulnerability could be exploited by someone with more sinister intentions.
The second significant story came from the USA where the US Department of the Army banned the use of drones made by the world’s most popular manufacturer over data security fears. The Department names Chinese drone manufacturer, DJI, over security fears in the memo issued at the beginning of August. It has been well known in the commercial drone community that DJI drones take images and transmit them back to DJI servers, now this has been highlighted as an unacceptable security breach for the US Army.
The US, like many other nations, have been experimenting with low cost ‘commercial off the shelf’ drones like the ones made by DJI. With the revelation that the drones themselves are taking unauthorised pictures and sending them back to DJI there are some significant concerns about data security especially when the drones are being used on sensitive or secure sites.
Both these stories highlight the need of economical and effective Drone Defence . Low cost, commercial drones are being used by individuals for fun and those drones now, it has emerged, are sending images to back to unknown servers overseas. The total lack of drone countermeasures on HMS Queen Elizabeth will have been noted by our nation’s adversaries. We now have a situation where a drone could be used innocently to capture some video of a sensitive site and those images are being sent overseas for anyone to examine at their leisure, potentially exposing secrets and technology we would wish to remain our own.
Drone Defence can help organisations of all sizes understand and mitigate the risks posed by the nefarious use of commercial drones. We have the skills to deploy and manage effective detection and countermeasures systems to ensure sites stay secure.
In 1865 Britain introduced the 'Locomotives on Highways Act'. Better known as the 'Red Flag Act'.
The act stipulated that all mechanically powered road vehicles (cars) must:
· Have three drivers.
· Not exceed 4 mph (6.4 kph) on the open road and 2 mph (3.2 kph) in towns.
· Be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag to warn the public.
It took nearly 30 years for this law to be repealed but with the talk of mandatory registration for drones in the UK are we resorting to another similar knee-jerk reaction to a new technology?
Recently the Department for Transport said:
‘The UK is at the forefront of an exciting and fast growing drones market. We are seeing drones being used across many of our sectors, improving services, creating high tech jobs and boosting our economy. Drones and their applications are a key opportunity to cement the UK as the place for exciting technology companies to build their business, scientists and engineers to drive innovation, and tech investors to invest – in line with our Industrial Strategy aims and objectives.’
In a little over four years the fledgling drone industry in the UK has grown to over 4,000 commercial drone operators yet the same report calls for mandatory registration of drones over 250g. I wonder how many would have begun their journey into this innovate sector if there were barriers to entry at the beginning? It is well known that any type of barrier prevents the adoption of a new technology, it only serves to slow down progress and it may prevent the UK from having its share of the predicted multibillion pound industry in the future. Companies who are at the forefront of innovation in the drone industry, like Amazon, have based themselves in the UK specifically for the reason that we have some of the best regulations for drone use anywhere in the world.
The somewhat pessimistic and alarmist reporting from the established air users’ organisations is not helping the new drone industry and is arguably not reflective of the actual risks posed to manned aircraft by drones. By lobbying these organisations force the Authorities to react in the only way they can, by increasing legislation. The trend to also put pressure on drone manufacturers is counter-productive and may damage their business model. There is already a growing drone-hacker community and companies are now selling hardware to overcome the hard-wired geofencing restrictions in some drones.
Admittedly there are some irresponsible, ignorant or illegal drone users out there but they are very much the minority. I would argue that education not regulation and the effective enforcement of extant regulation is the best middle ground. As the drone services sector grows a myriad of supporting industry will emerge. This can be seen with the growth in the number of drone training providers, insurers and retailers. Also there are a few business like mine which are drone security providers.
As a business we are helping a number of organisations in the UK and overseas understand the impact that nefarious drone use might have on the. And where legislation allows we can offer more practical means to prevent unwanted drone flights.
If you have concerns about the potential negative impact drones may have on your organisation then we can help you better understand the risks. Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.dronedefence.co.uk
Jane’s Defence Said:
UK company Drone Defence has launched a new concept for protecting infrastructure and events from illicit unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), dubbed Drone Defenders.
The Drone Defenders concept sees the company provide
trained ex-military and ex-law enforcement personnel using the Dedrone
DroneTracker to detect and identify unauthorised UAVs, before employing either
the Dynopis E1000MP and/or the Net Gun X1 counter-UAV (C-UAV) systems to defeat
DroneTracker uses acoustic, optical, and infrared sensors to detect and identify incoming UAVs in real time. The system can either be mounted in a fixed location or is used as a mobile unit, depending on the requirements. Once detected and identified, the unauthorised UAV can then be defeated.
Developed in-house by Drone Defence, the Dynopis E1000MP is a man-portable jammer that uses directional electronic countermeasures and GPS disruption to either steer the UAV away from the protected area, or to cause it to automatically land. As noted on the company's website, the Dynopis E1000MP has a total output of more than 100W and five channels that cover the most popular commercially available UAVs, such as the DJI and 3DR multicopters. By contrast, the Net Gun X1 fires a net to physically capture the UAV out to a range of between 10 m and 15 m depending on the configuration of the net.
In its press release, Drone Defence identified football matches, horse-racing events, air shows, and open air concerts as being key events to be defended by the Drone Defenders, as well as protecting VIPs and privacy. The number of personnel deployed to a location would depend on the threat profile, with a 'Gold' deployment seeing a command post set up with a jamming system capable of creating a 3 km safety bubble, with three to four Drone Defender teams on the ground patrolling the perimeter.
Northants Herald and Post Said:
A University of Northampton graduate has launched what he says it the UK's first complete anti-drone security service - which includes firing nets to catch rogue drones and technology which jams the remote controlled devices' frequency.
Richard Gill, a former army officer turned entrepreneur, completed the University of Northampton's MBA (Master of Business Administration) earlier this year via distance learning.
His new venture, Drone Defence, now aims to protect people and events from the misuse of drones.
Members of the public are able to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones to make use of their powerful cameras, often capturing stunning photography and video footage.
Drone sales have dramatically increased over the last two years, as the technology has become more affordable, but with this increase in sales there has been a three-fold increase in drone related incidents being reported to the police.
The drones have very fast spinning blades which, if they come into contact with people, can cause significant harm. The machines have also previously been used for criminal purposes, to transport drugs and weapons into prisons, invade peoples' privacy and disrupt events. In conflict zones, insurgents have adapted drones to deliver rudimentary explosive devices on targets.
Richard explained the inspiration behind his business: "After seeing reports of drones being used irresponsibly near airports and flying drugs into prisons I thought that I should do something about it. After working in the commercial UAV sector for the last two years I thought I would bring that knowledge together with my previous experience and launch a business to help organisations protect themselves from unwanted drones."
"We help people by offering them comprehensive drone related security advice. We offer the latest anti-drone technology including a drone jammer and a net firing device. With our 'Drone Defenders' we also offer a drone guarding service which can be used to protect sporting events and concerts."
Dr Mils Hills – Associate Professor of Risk, Resilience and Corporate Security and Programme Leader for the MBA – stated: "It's inspiring to see our graduates progress into commercial success – leveraging their subject matter-expertise with the additional skills and confidence our programme transfers. It's especially heartening that Rick and his team are providing a cutting-edge portfolio of security solutions for a challenge that is only going to become more prevalent and where operators like Drone Defence will set the benchmark for quality and effectiveness".
Drone Defence offers products called the Net Gun X1, a CO2 powered net firing device that is designed to capture drones at short range. They also have a device called the Dynopis E1000MP which jams the drone's control frequency meaning it returns to its operator. They can also offer an anti-drone service for events where they deploy security specialists with the anti-drone technology.
The sales of commercial UAVs or drones have dramatically increased over the last two years as more and more people use their powerful cameras to capture stunning photography and video footage. But with this increase in sales there has been a three-fold increase in drone related incidents being reported to the police.
Drone costs are coming down and they are being sold in more and more locations. The most popular drones, from a Chinese company called DJI, can now be bought in Maplins for under £1000. With GPS positioning and in-built cameras these drones are incredibly easy to fly and can sometimes give users a false sense of confidence.
The drones have very fast spinning blades which, if they come into contact with people, could cause significant harm. Last Christmas a young child lost their eye due to irresponsible use of a drone.
Drones are now being used by criminals to transport drugs and weapons into prisons, invade peoples' privacy and 'buzz' sporting events. The impact of a drone disrupting a sporting event could have huge safety implications for the sports people and the spectators.
A former Army Officer, Richard recognised this problem and launched his business called Drone Defence . When asked why he started this business he said:
“After seeing reports of drones being used irresponsibly near airports and flying drugs into prisons I thought that I should do something about it. After working in the commercial UAV sector for the last two years I thought I would bring that knowledge together with my previous experience and launch a business to help organisations protect themselves from unwanted drones.”
When asked about his products he said:
“We help people by offering them comprehensive drone related security advice. We offer the latest anti-drone technology including a drone jammer and a net firing device. With our ‘Drone Defenders’ we also offer a drone guarding service which can be used to protect sporting events and concerts.”
Drone Defence offers products called the Net Gun X1 , a CO2 powered net firing device that is designed to capture drones at short range. They also have a device called the Dynopis E1000MP which jams the drones’ control frequency meaning it returns to its operator. They can also offer an anti-drone service for events where they deploy security specialists with the anti-drone technology.
Earlier in the year Richard was also the first person to fly a quadcopter drone across the English Channel. The 37 kilometre single flight of 72 minutes was a demonstration of what today’s drone technology is capable of.