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INSIGHTS

Drones in the wrong hands pose a serious threat

Drones in the wrong hands pose a serious threat
Unlike most technologies developed over the recent years, drones have managed to intrude our physical space. The ease of access to them, the limited skills required to operate them and better technology has led to their increased presence in the skies.
Unlike most technologies developed over the recent years, drones have managed to intrude our physical space. The ease of access to them, the limited skills required to operate and better technology have led to their increased presence in the skies.
 
This has given rise to numerous debates on how best to control them, acknowledging the risks of unregulated flying objects. To a large extent this debate has centered on drone’s potential to invade privacy, but as experts analyze the full extent of this issue, new concerns have come up.  
 
Earlier this year, a British think tank warned, in a report, that the possibilities of commercial drones being used by terrorists are quite high. They could be turned into flying bombs capable of hitting critical targets.
 
“Ever-more advanced drones capable of carrying sophisticated imaging equipment and significant payloads are readily available to the civilian market,” said the report by Remote Control Project. “Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) currently present the greatest risk because of their capabilities and widespread availability, but developments in unmanned ground (UGVs) and marine vehicles (UMVs) are opening up new avenues for hostile groups to exploit.”
 
In a separate blog post, the research firm further identified issues such as drones being used by smugglers to carry goods across countries. The issue has become so critical that even the Pentagon recently declared its campus a no-drone zone.
 
Drone detection solutions
 
In this context, drone detection technology is becoming increasingly relevant. Drone detectors are devices that can detect when a drone enters a specified area and warn the concerned people.
 
DroneShield is a company that sells hardware and software that can detect small unmanned aerial vehicles, enable threat reaction and interception, and accelerate apprehension and prosecution of violators through real-time alerts and digital evidence collection.
 
The system detects acoustic signatures of drones, which are then analyzed by a signature database, the company said. The signatures are obtained at a US Department of Defense-approved anechoic chamber, and updated regularly. The database excludes false positives (e.g., insects, lawn mowers, industrial noises, etc.) and IDs single and counter-rotating helicopters, quadcopters, hexacopters, octocopters, etc., of varying sizes.
 
In a recent report by the LA Times, James Walker, CEO of Droneshield said the company’s devices will be used during the Boston Marathon on April 18 to detect and alert authorities of any unauthorized drones flying in the area.
 
There are other companies with similar solutions gaining interest too. In a recent interview with asmag.com, Zain Naboulsi, CEO of the Austin, Texas-based Drone Labs said as terrorism becomes an increasingly serious issue, law enforcement agencies are reaching out to them to see how they can deal with this new form of threat.
 
Comprehensive countermeasures difficult
 
According to the report from Remote Control Project, the best defence against the hostile use of drones is a combination of countermeasures that include regulatory, passive, and active steps.
 
Regulatory measures can restrict the ease with which hostile groups can access drones. Passive countermeasures can alert security to the presence of drones in an area while active steps can be taken to stop a drone that has breached an area despite the previous measures.  
 
The report, however, warned that the measures are not completely fool-proof. There are strong chances that as with drones themselves, hostile groups can take steps to sneak past the countermeasures. “The technology of remote-control warfare is impossible to control; the ultimate defence is to address the root drivers of the threat in the first place,” the report said. 
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