Saudi attack highlights drone threat. How can you protect your site?
Source: Prasanth Aby Thomas, Consultant Editor
The biggest security-related news over the weekend was the drone attack on the world’s largest oil processing plant in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, sending the global commodity markets to chaos and raising concerns of an impending war in the Middle East. Reports suggest 5.7 million barrels of crude oil supply was affected. To put in perspective, this is about half of Saudi’s oil production and 5 percent of global supply.
Drones are increasingly becoming an easy method to launch terror attacks and conduct other criminal activities like drug smuggling. They are easy to access with several small and large operators offering products at affordable prices, relatively simple to operate compared to other weapons, and, most importantly, is small enough to go unnoticed by an untrained eye.
This is why anti-drone technologies and solutions have an important role to play these days, especially in the protection of critical infrastructures such as energy plants
, etc. Anti-drone solutions, or counter-drone systems as they are at times known, essentially consists of two parts, one for the detection of drone and the other for mitigation.
Here is a list of top anti-drone technologies available in the market today.
Solutions to monitor drones
Solutions that help in monitoring the skies for drones may be passive, meaning they would just be on the lookout for UAVs, or active, which transmit signals to the UAV and analyze what returns. Active drone monitoring solutions can do several tasks including identifying the type of drone or its digital footprint, finding its accurate location and providing alerts to the people concerned.
Four major technologies are used in drone monitoring. They are radio frequency analyzers, optical sensors like cameras, acoustic sensors like microphones, and Radar. These can effectively detect any kind of drone that is available in the market today, but just knowing that a drone is on the way to launch an attack is not going to help if you cannot do anything about it.
This is where anti-drone solutions that can stop a drone on its tracks are important. In many countries, only law enforcement agencies and the military are allowed to use them but as threats of drones become more and more pronounced, it may not be long before private entities are allowed their use in restricted spaces.
Solutions to stop intrusive drones
Basically, there are three ways to stop a drone. You can physically destroy it, neutralize it, or take over its controls remotely. The most common solutions that can be used
against drones are:
Radiofrequency (RF) jammers
Radio Frequency Jammers send massive amounts of RF signals to the drone, effectively masking its control signal. These jammers could be fixed devices or handheld and portable. Jamming RF signals causes the drone to either go back to its origin, land wherever it is, lose control and fall to the ground, or lose control and go off in a random direction.
RF jammers are of low cost and simple solutions, but they have certain disadvantages. They are effective only at short distances. Signals from the jammer can also impact other communication systems. There is also a certain unpredictability in how the drone would respond.
Drones rely on GPS for navigation. GPS spoofers send new signals to the drone, replacing its original GPS signals and fooling it to think that it is not where it is intended to be. With the real-time alteration of GPS signals, spoofers can take control of the drone and redirect it to safer places.
GPS spoofers are also low cost and simple to operate. But their range is limited as well and can affect other communication systems that may be in place.
High power microwave solutions
High power microwaves are relatively more powerful compared to RF jammers and GPS spoofers. They function by creating an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) that impact the electronics of the drone, disrupting or destroying them, the radio signals with the high voltage it generates.
Since the EMP can potentially affect any electronic system in its range, high power microwave devices often have an antenna to channel the EMP.
While this can be considered an effective, sure-shot method to stop the drone, it is expensive. That it may damage other electronic systems in the area is also a disadvantage.
Physical anti-drone solutions
The solutions mentioned above are all non-kinetic, but if you need to physically capture or destroy the done, then there are other ways. The most common device used for this is a net gun, which shoots a net at the drone, effectively stopping its blades from rotating. Laser devices are used to send a highly focused beam to the drone, which can destroy its electronics. Another, rather low-tech solution that is used in some places is to train eagles that can attack drones and bring them down.
Physical solutions can make the operation quite messy depending on how the debris from the destroyed drone lands, but they offer a conclusive method to capture the drone for forensic purposes. Eventually, the best solution may depend on the situation, but a great way to approach this issue is by integrating these different technologies.