A lot of people are hyped about drones these days, especially with the recent developments in drone racing and all the different benefits they will provide to daily life. Heck, we’ve even done our fair share of drone reviews and think they’re great.
And while it’s true that drones are set to transform the future in amazing ways, what we can’t forget is that drones pose a serious risk to security and privacy. There are many drone-related security threats waiting beyond the horizon and we’ve already seen several instances of drones breaching personal privacy.
Fortunately, methods of protection are being developed right now. Not all of these methods can be used right this moment, but it’s still good to know about them so you can take advantage of them as they soon as they become available.
1. Anti-Drone Drones
In 2015, Malou Tech gave their first demonstration of an anti-drone drone: a bigger, badder drone equipped with a huge net meant for capturing and disabling smaller drones. It could be an effective method, but in a lot of cases, something more subtle is needed.
That’s why the Rapere project turned a lot of heads its way. Rather than using a net, it proposed dropping a string that could entangle drone rotors. This meant faster and more precise strikes at target drones. Unfortunately, it seems the project is no more, but you can expect more ideas like this to pop up in the future.
2. Anti-Drone Birds
Drone-intercepting drones may be practical, but if you’re the kind of person who wants to kick it up a few notches on the scale of badassery, then you’ll probably want to look into anti-drone birds — specifically, eagles that have been trained to tackle drones out of the sky.
In fact, some of these birds are even able to snatch drones and carry them all the way back to their trainers. And in case you were worried whether this process is harmful to the birds, rest assured: the birds are intelligent enough to pull it off without so much as clipping a talon.
These birds are only available in the Netherlands and only for police, but it’s conceivable to expect other countries to follow suit in some form or another.
3. Anti-Drone Jammers
If you need a method that’s even more subtle than physical interception, then frequency jamming may be what you need, and the Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS) is one such solution. It scans the skies for drones and jams their control signals using its own high-powered radio signal.
Or if you need a more portable option, you could look into the DroneDefender: an accurate anti-drone rifle that uses targeted radio signals to disrupt drone controls, much in the same way that the AUDS operates. It currently has a range over 1,300 feet but may be able to reach even farther in future versions.
But there’s one good reason not to use these kinds of devices: radar jammers may be illegal where you live. Don’t even think about buying one of these until you’ve made sure that you won’t be arrested for it.
4. Drone-Blinding Lasers
Anti-drone lasers are kind of like anti-drone jammers, except instead of interfering with a drone’s control signals, they interfere with its camera. Digital cameras use a light sensor to pick up visual information, so if you overload that sensor with too much light, you can blind it.
Have you ever taken a video from inside your house and walked out the door? For a few seconds, everything becomes really bright and white, doesn’t it? That’s basically how a blinding laser works. All you’d need is a low-powered laser pointer and some good aim.
But be careful. It’s not exactly legal to shine lasers into the sky because you might accidentally blind an airplane pilot or something like that. It’s not as illegal as a radio jammer, of course, but you really need to take caution when playing around with lasers like this.
5. Drone Detection Systems
Back in 2013, a group of engineers and computer scientists started a crowdfunding campaign for a device called DroneShield [link no longer available]. Powered by a Raspberry Pi core, it was able to detect the presence of drones with a microphone that could pick up frequencies that humans can’t hear.
Once processed, the signal would been compared against a database to separate it from everyday noises and to confirm that it was actually a drone, and if so, the device would shoot a notification your way to let you know that a drone was nearby.
This particular project was benched, but DroneShield does have other enterprise-grade drone detection systems for sale. Nothing currently exists for single homes or other consumer-grade situations, however.
6. Drone Hijacks
One important thing to know about drones is that they’ll never be 100% impervious to hacks, much in the same way that computers and mobile devices will never be completely protected. Keep that in mind if you ever plan on buying a drone of your own.
The thing is, this kind of weakness can always be exploited, which was proved when a security researcher demonstrated the hijacking of a $35,000 police drone from up to one mile away. If a government drone can be disabled like that, it’s reasonable to assume that most consumer-grade drones won’t stand a chance either.
Not to say that you should go around hijacking drones, but in the future we may see disruption devices that utilize these kinds of vulnerabilities to knock drones out the sky and maintain the peace.
(Note: Funnily enough, the U.S. Pentagon is fighting for its own “No Drone Zone” to guard its own privacy against would-be snoopers. How’s that for hypocrisy?!)
7. No Drone Zones
Maybe you’re fine with drones taking to the skies, but you just don’t want them peeking into your windows or ominously hovering over your home. In that case, you should support the growing movement for “no drone zones” that prevent drones from flying through certain airspaces.
A few drone manufacturers have even come together to create NoFlyZone. If you add your address to their database, any drones created by these manufacturers will be unable to fly over your property thanks to built-in GPS-based restrictions.
The downside is that not all drone manufacturers are on board. If the NoFlyZone list became instated as some kind of law, like DoNotCall lists for robocallers, it would obviously be a much more effective solution.
8. Drone Surveillance Laws
If all else fails, the last thing you can do is to push for laws that protect the privacy of citizens against drones. Bills have been popping up ever since the drone craze really took off back in 2013, and some of them have even been passed into law, but we still have a long way to go.
And the good news for privacy advocates is that both sides of U.S. Congress agree and want to “prevent high-tech window-peeping”. On the other hand, drone fans argue that these privacy fears are based on misinformation, that laws shouldn’t buckle the drone industry before it even has a chance to bloom.
Ideally, a middle ground will be found, but until that happens, we’re floating around in a state of limbo where privacy threats are real and we don’t have the proper tools to keep ourselves guarded against them. Laws may end up being the only effective defense.
Image Credits: Drone and Sun by concept w via Shutterstock, Drone Radar by sezer66 via Shutterstock, Hovering Drone by funkyfrogstock via Shutterstock, Drone No Fly Zone by Piotr Debowski via Shutterstock