The use of drones has increased rapidly over the past few years. While they have many positive applications, there is also the potential for misuse by malicious actors for nefarious purposes, like attacking critical infrastructure, terrorism or assassinations. C-UAS (Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems), or “anti-drones”, are the technologies and systems designed to discover, identify, track and mitigate unauthorized or malicious unmanned aircrafts (drones) that pose a threat to homeland security, privacy, or safety. For example, when drones come near critical infrastructure, crowded public places, or high-profile persons. In this blog post, we explain different ways C-UASs work and what to look for when choosing a Counter UAS system to protect homeland security.
The Threat: Drone Attacks
Commercial drones have been used on numerous occasions to threaten homeland security and disrupt the everyday lives of civilians. Some recent prominent examples include:
Gatwick Airport Drone Incident
In May 2023, Gatwick Airport in London, England, had to suspend 12 incoming flights after reports of a drone being seen near the airfield. This incident follows another, more serious incident in December 2018, in which the airport was brought to a standstill for several days during the busy holiday season after drone sightings near the runway. The unauthorized drone activity disrupted approximately 1,000 flights and 140,000 passengers and caused significant economic losses, yet no one was ever accused, as happens usually. Despite a thorough investigation, the responsible parties were never found.
Since then, there have been numerous disruptions using drones at the same airports, which caused interruptions in flights, delays and cancellations, and overall chaos.
Saudi Aramco Oil Facilities Attack
In September 2019, drones were used in a coordinated attack on two major oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais in Saudi Arabia. These plant sites were operated by the state-owned company Saudi Aramco. The attacks caused significant damage and temporarily reduced the country’s oil production by half. Since these facilities were also responsible for approximately 5% of global oil production, global financial markets were destabilized as well.
Attempted Assassination of Venezuelan President
In August 2018, drones loaded with explosives were used in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela during a military parade in Caracas. A number of guard officers and at least one civilian were injured. The attack took place in front of the Centro Simón Bolívar Towers and Palacio de Justicia de Caracas. According to some researchers, this was a fabricated attack by the government, intended to enable repressing government activities.
Organized Crime Turns to Drones
In a recent incident in Netanya, Israel, a drone was suspected to be used in an assassination attempt. The drone was believed to be carrying an explosive device, demonstrating the potential for drones to be weaponized. The attack resulted in significant damage to nearby houses, highlighting the potential for drone attacks to cause substantial harm to infrastructure.
This incident was the second assassination attempt on the same target, indicating that drones can be used to carry out repeated attacks.
In a separate event, seven suspects from a criminal organization were arrested for planning an assassination using a drone equipped with a high-powered explosive. This shows that drones can be used in organized criminal activities. Following the attack, the police had to ensure public safety by examining the scene for additional remnants of the explosive device.
These incidents underscore the growing threat that drones pose to homeland security. They can be weaponized and used in criminal activities, including assassination attempts. The stealth and precision of drones make them particularly dangerous, as they can cause significant damage to infrastructure and pose a threat to public safety. As such, these incidents highlight the need for increased vigilance and countermeasures to prevent drone attacks.
Drone Protection: Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-UAS)
C-UAS is a rapidly evolving field, and new technologies are being developed all the time. As these technologies become more sophisticated, they will play an increasingly important role in protecting homeland security against drone attacks and disruptions. Here are some examples of Counter UAS technologies and how they work:
Drone radar systems are counter-drone protection systems that detect and track drones with radar technology. This technology emits radio waves or microwave signals that bounce back when they encounter objects in the atmosphere, including drones. By analyzing the reflected signals, drone radar systems calculate the distance, direction and speed of the detected drones. This provides real-time tracking and surveillance capabilities. Radar systems can also be integrated with other sensor technologies to further enhance their detection and identification capabilities.
It’s important to note that radar systems have a high false alarm rate, since they do not always distinguish drones from other flying objects (like birds). This strains security resources and also creates a security hazard.
Radio Frequency (RF) Detectors
Radio Frequency (RF) detectors monitor the RF spectrum and identify RF communication signals emitted by drones. These include control signals, Wi-Fi, and GPS signals. When a drone is detected, the RF detector alerts operators or security personnel. Then, signal jamming or other intervention methods can be triggered (see below).
RF detector systems are not a bullet proof solution. They can be tricked by advanced drones that use encryption or frequency hopping.
Anti-drone jammers disrupt and counter the operation of drones by emitting RF signals on the same frequencies used by drones and disrupting them. These signal jammers target the radio links between the drone and its remote controller, so the drone is unable to receive new instructions.
Another type of jammer is the GPS signal jammer. This type interferes with the GPS signals used by drones for navigation, leading to inaccuracies in positioning or forcing the drone to return to its home point.
The use of anti-drone jammers is subject to legal restrictions in many jurisdictions. Indiscriminate or improper use of jammers can disrupt legitimate communication and navigation systems, resulting in collateral damage to civilian technologies. In addition, they can cause the drone to drop potentially hazardous payloads unexpectedly, which poses additional security risks.
Drone Capture Systems
Drone capture systems are purpose-built devices and methods that physically capture and immobilize drones. They come in various forms, like net guns, drone-deployed nets, tethered drones, and drone-dropping drones. When a rogue drone is detected in a restricted area, the target drone is ensnared and is unable to continue its flight or carry out any potentially harmful activities.
The use of drone capture systems is also subject to legal and regulatory considerations, to prevent misuse and collateral damage. In addition, it may not be practical to use them in all environments or against drone swarms.
Directed Energy Systems
Directed energy systems use focused energy like high-energy lasers or high-power microwaves to disable drones. Unlike traditional kinetic weapons, directed energy systems rely on beams of electromagnetic radiation. They can cause rapid heating that leads to melting, burning, or weakening of the drone’s surface or they can disrupt or disable electronic devices, such as radars and communication systems.
However, it is challenging for directed energy systems to effectively ensure power generation, beam propagation, atmospheric interference, and thermal management. In addition, their use could pose safety risks to the surrounding area.
Communication Protocol Analytics
Communication protocol analytics is a sophisticated counter-drone technology that leverages the inherent communication protocols used by drones to not only detect and track them but also to predict their intentions. This method involves the deep analysis of the data packets transmitted between the drone and its controller.
The process begins with the monitoring of drone flight parameters such as height and speed. It also involves locating drone coordinates and identifying the last known location of the remote control. This information is crucial in determining the drone’s flight path and potential target.
Communication protocol analytics has the ability to provide granular user-level identification. It can identify the drone’s vendor, type, and even the serial number, providing detailed information about the drone in question. This level of detail can be invaluable in determining the potential threat level of the drone and in subsequent investigations.
Once the drone is identified and its intentions are predicted, the system can take proactive measures to neutralize the threat. The system pairs itself to the drone, essentially replacing the remote control, bringing it to a safe altitude, and then landing it safely in a designated area. This ensures minimal risk to people and property in the vicinity.
Furthermore, communication protocol analytics systems can be seamlessly integrated with existing security solutions and frameworks. This means it can enhance the capabilities of current security measures without requiring a complete overhaul of the approach.
The Solution for Homeland Security: Sentrycs
Sentrycs is an autonomous and integrated counter-drone solution that leverages communication protocol analytics to provide detection, tracking, identification, and safe mitigation. Top capabilities include:
One of Sentrycs’ key advantages is the ability to quickly learn new protocols and support new drones. This is done by automating the RF research phase, with advanced research techniques and ML algorithms, reducing the time it takes to support Detection, Tracking, and Identification (DTI) capabilities from months to a few days.
Smart Drone Differentiation
The Sentrycs solution can differentiate between authorized and unauthorized drones to ensure only rogue drones are detected and disabled, while authorized drones continue to enjoy operational continuity. In addition, while traditional counter-drone systems may accidentally reveal the presence of anti-drone systems, Sentrycs accurately, yet passively, detects unauthorized or rogue drones, so the anti-drone system is not unintentionally broadcasted to adversaries.
No Communications Interference
Sentrycs does not interfere with any kind of communication or GNSS. This ensures no disruption to the civilian day-to-day. In addition,communication-based mitigation requires complicated operations, a risk that is eliminated with Sentrycs.
No Collateral Damage
The Sentrycs C-UAS system is a safe solution for any environment: urban, semi-urban, or rural. While traditional technologies cannot be used in crowded places since they cause interference and collateral damage or are plain ineffective, Sentrycs can be safely used anywhere.
Sentrycs C-UAS is entirely autonomous. Once it is deployed, the system does not require making real-time decisions but rather operates independently. This means that anyone can operate it without having to go through a long process of onboarding and training.
Remote ID Identification
Sentrycs can identify drones’ remote IDs even when it is not broadcasted, to ensure effective and prompt mitigation.
Sentrycs’ configurations are designed to be flexible so they can support varying needs. The system can be either portable or vehicle-mounted, depending on the surroundings, topography, and use cases.
Sentrycs allows multiple sensors for each control system. This is unlike most C-UAS systems, in which each sensor is coupled with one control system. This allows for a short setup and training time, as well as reducing TCO.
The increasing use of drones has brought about both positive applications and potential misuse by malicious actors for nefarious purposes, posing a threat to homeland security, privacy, and safety. To counter this risk, the development of C-UAS cannot be overstated. These anti-drone technologies are designed to detect, track and mitigate unauthorized or malicious drones near critical infrastructure, crowded public areas, or high-profile individuals. Counter UAS systems, such as radar systems, RF detectors, anti-drone jammers, drone capture methods, directed energy systems, and communication protocol analytics, offer various ways to safeguard against drone attacks.
Among them, Sentrycs stands out as an autonomous and integrated drone protection solution that employs communication protocol analytics for the detection, tracking, identification, and mitigation of rogue drones while differentiating them from authorized ones. Its adaptability, user-friendliness, and ability to avoid communications interference and collateral damage make it an effective and safe tool for protecting homeland security.
To learn more about Sentrycs and C-UAS, contact us.
What is a C UAS?
C-UAS stands for Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems. It is a set of technologies and procedures used to detect, track, and disable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones.
What are the different types of C UAS?
There are many types of C-UAS systems, including radar systems, RF detectors, anti-drone jammers, drone capture methods, directed energy systems and communication protocol analytics.
What is a counter UAS system?
A counter UAS system, aka C-UAS or Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems, is the technologies and methods for detecting, tracking, and disabling unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones.