Israeli counter-drone company D-Fend Solutions says its tech successfully detected and removed a rogue UAV that had violated restricted airspace during an outdoor mass in Slovakia by Pope Francis.
The incident took place during the Pope’s September 15 open-air mass in Šaštín, but had been under a news embargo until now due to security sensitivity involved. As part of its work for Slovakia’s Interior Ministry to provide counter-drone protection for the Pope during his visit to the country, D-Fend was operating its ground-based EnforceAir platform at the Šaštín mass attended by 90 bishops, 500 priests, and about 60,000 worshippers. At some point the system detected what the company described as a “do-it-yourself drone” in the proscribed airspace. After rapid consultation with national authorities, D-Fend says, “EnforceAir fended off the rogue drone, sending it back to its original takeoff position, far away from the large crowd.”
Though successful, D-Fend’s counter-drone operation involved more security considerations than a first glance may suggest.
First of all, the large crowd made instantaneous zapping of an encroaching UAV a potentially dangerous option due to the crowd of people below. Adding to the difficulties were numerous antennas and communications systems in the area, creating high radio frequency interference. Meanwhile, when the invading craft was detected, initial police suggestions to mitigate it with jamming tech were ruled out on fears they might cut communications between the various base stations ensuring the Pope’s security.
In the end it was decided to allow EnforceAir repel the UAV and usher it back to its original starting position (just how, obviously, being a well-guarded secret to protect D-Fend’s counter-drone tech).
Both local officials and D-Fend executives believe the incident demonstrated the platform’s all-around efficiency. Not only was it previously able to identify many drones detected in the area as authorized craft, but was then capable of swiftly picking up the invading UAV and rendering it inoffensive to both the Pope and gathered worshippers.
“Protecting such a high-profile event is of the utmost importance, so we wanted to utilize a counter-drone technology that is best suited for crowded events and sensitive situations,” said a representative of the office responsible for the Pope’s protection during his stay in Slovakia. “EnforceAir took control of the rogue drone that threatened the potential safety of the Pope, the crowd and the VIPs in attendance, quickly and easily.”
The papal visit was only one of several international events for which D-Fend has been asked to provide counter-drone security of late. The company was involved in protecting the G7 summit in Cornwall last June, and has also worked at major sports and entertainment events.
“It is an honor to be trusted with safeguarding such important events and to assist our homeland security and law enforcement customers,” said Zohar Halachmi, D-Fend’s Chairman and CEO. “The best practices we have learned from having clients use our technology to protect VIPs at massive events worldwide have been incorporated into EnforceAir, facilitating a seamless, end-to-end drone incident lifecycle.”
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