Wild West of anti-drone systems and other counter-drone tech

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An article on Vice describes how wild the market of anti-drone systems and counter-drone tech has become. Methods used range from drone-jamming rifles to ground installations that fire nets to catch unmanned aircraft. The article is based on a research paper on counter-drone technology that was released by The Center for the Study of The Drone at Bard College.

Wild West of anti-drone systems and other counter-drone tech

Matthew Gault reports for Vice:

As the market for drones has grown, so too has the market for tools to take them down. There’s jamming rifles, spoofing software, and hundreds of other solutions for downing a drone.

The research paper covers the legal framework as well as the effectiveness of 537 counter-drone systems. The anti-drone solutions range from hand-held guns that will blast the radio frequency of an unmanned aircraft with microwaves to ground installations that listen to drones and fire a net to capture it.

However, not all counter-drone solutions are equally effective or even allowed by law.

‘People need to be aware of the products that are out there and also be aware of the significant challenges in the use of those products,’ Arthur Holland Michel, founder of the Center for the Study of the Drone and author of its report, said over the phone. ‘This is an immature and dynamic industry. There’s a lot of room for growth.’

‘Jamming is the most common and seems to have some level of effectiveness,’ he said, according to Vice. ‘The caveat, and it’s a big caveat, is that jamming systems are not going to be effective [against] drones that do not have a communication or navigation link.’

‘There’s a complex matrix when it comes to effectiveness that takes into consideration costs, and the environment, and safety,’ Michel said. ‘You may have a system that is extremely effective, but it’s either too expensive or too dangerous to use in a particular environment.’

The report highlights how anti-drone technology is an arms race. As new counter-drone solutions hit the market, drone makers come up with new ways of circumventing them.

‘There are also advances in commercial drone technology intended, somewhat ironically, to make drones safer,’ he said. ‘This will also have the effect of making these drones harder to counter.’

In another article on Axios, it was mentioned that the 537 anti-drone systems that were mentioned in the report represent an increase in the number of such systems by the hundreds compared to last year. Axios also points out that most of the counter-drone methods are illegal to be used by anyone else except for a few federal agencies.

More than 350 of the systems in the report are meant to intercept and disable the unmanned aircraft, whereas the other ones simply detect drones.

One weakness that most if not all these systems seem to share is that their range of about 1 kilometer is limited, considering how fast drones can fly.

The second weakness is that the drone technology is advancing so rapidly that it makes newer models impervious to some counter-drone systems.

‘There’s nothing on the horizon that will cut the line on this [cycle],’ says Michel. ‘There’s nothing that just ends the game… Until there is, it’s going to be like this: a game of cat and mouse.’

The report does not so much offer buying advice as it explains how the counter-drone tech market somewhat resembles the Wild West with different technology solutions leap-frogging each other.

You can download the report here, read the Vice article here, and the Axios article here.

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