back to article Radio wave gun zaps drones out of the sky – and it's perfectly legal*

US biz Battelle boasts it has found a way to rid our skies of annoying drones without breaking the flying machines' hardware. And here's the solution: DroneDefender, a shoulder-mounted weapon that sends pulses of radio waves to disrupt communications between the drone and its operator. The electro-magnetic cannon, which has a …

Arms race coming?

I predict there is soon a market for laser controlled drones.

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Re: Arms race coming?

Just so. If not laser controlled, then inertially guided, terrain-matching, laser target-designated, or simply drone RF communications shifted to different (hopped) frequencies.

Yet one more facet of the human arms race. Computation is so very cheap these days.

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Pirate

Re: Arms race coming?

laser controlled drones.

You want to keep them away from sharks, then.

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Trollface

Re: Arms race coming?

Why not have drones patrolling airfields to stop drones entering the airspace !!!

We could arm them with heavy explosives, they then take chase and explode on impact !!

Nothing could go wrong :D

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Re: Arms race coming?

Laser control won't help with GPS.

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Megaphone

Re: Arms race coming?

With laser you need line-of-sight. And it's not that cranking up the power will get that pesky bit of foliage out of the way, unless your controller is capable of Star Wars levels of oomph.

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Terminator

Re: Arms race coming?

You can bet the Secret Service is gonna want one for White House duty - they've been embarrassed every since they didn't know what to do when the last accidental drone incursion occurred - now they at least have an excuse that they can fight the problem head on.

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eff that

"We were very adamant about not doing damage"

Just FRY the MF's, and get it over with.

Operator: "I seem to have lost my drone."

Me: "Step one foot on my property, and you'll lose a lot more than that. Go play with yourself somewhere else."

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Re: eff that

It's not that simple. I've looked into this already as I was considering building a device just like this RF cannon, but as they beat me to it it will be a lot harder to to get funding.

Anyhow, blowing the drone out of the sky sounds great, the problem is you may injure someone on the ground. But if you can disrupt communications to the drone it will go into a safe mode and slowly descend down to ground level, where you can then proceed to beat the crap out of it with a crow bar :)

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Re: eff that

That assumes that the drone has a safe mode, on most basic drones if you break communication with them then they just plummet.

So much for no damage.

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Re: eff that

Except if it plummets to earth over, say, a playground or beer garden or what have you.

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Re: eff that

"Except if it plummets to earth over, say, a playground or beer garden or what have you.". Pretty sure that's illegal in UK, so you just keep hold of the unit until plods arrive.

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Anonymous Coward

Return to sender.

Should make it easier to catch the perp.

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Re: Return to sender.

It's a real shame that these things, that hobbyists can use safely to hoist a camera up to capture interesting footage that would otherwise be difficult and expensive to get, are vilified by squealy public because they don't understand them and a few irresponsible twats have used them to feed the tabloids,

So yeah, lets ban all the quadcopters. Even though people have been flying radio controlled aircraft for over 60 years, many of them heavier than a quadcopter, can carry heavier loads and fly at much higher speeds. Some of them are even gas turbine powered.

I am considering going on the Little Britain war path against cricket, because I don't really understand it and I am not personally interested in it and I heard that two people have been killed lately whilst playing it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Return to sender.

> It's a real shame that these things, <snip>, are vilified by squealy public because they don't understand them and a few irresponsible twats have used them to feed the tabloids.

In general I think you'll find it's the irresponsible twats who are vilified. As far as I can tell few people are saying ban them, just saying regulate them, and find some way to fry those who are irresponsible.

> Even though people have been flying radio controlled aircraft for over 60 years, many of them heavier than a quadcopter, can carry heavier loads and fly at much higher speeds.

Historically flow by responsible people who know the regulations, rather than over the heads of crowds or into the flight path of commercial aircraft. The issue isn't the drones, it's the people and the manner in which they are being flown.

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Re: Return to sender.

I see a lot of suspicion and witch-fearing about Quads, even when they are sitting quietly on the ground.

Thanks to tabloid-tutoring, there's a perception that the only use for these things is to fly into a passenger jet intake, deliver a radio-active bio-plague-bomb into a packed stadium or peer through windows at people indulging in itimate activities.

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Re: Return to sender.

For what other uses are these devices actually used by people? It seems to me invasion of privacy and outright idiocy dominate the use cases in the real world.

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Pint

Hmmm... I smell an Instructables...

Airsoft FN-SCAR metal frame - ~$200USD with Amazon Prime

2.4 GHz yagi antenna - ~$15USD with Amazon Prime

Holographic picatinny rail sight - ~$30USD with Amazon Prime

Assorted electronics - $???USD

Weekend of father/son kit-bashing and tinkering - Priceless

Icon, 'cause building a RotM drone death-ray is thirsty work --->

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Re: Hmmm... I smell an Instructables...

The assorted electronics look like an old 2.4GHz access point (the white blob). You can get a better one from TpLink in these days - one that fits neatly in the overall weapon.

Example: http://imgur.com/a/c4WNF#PEc4q1x

Hmm... I have most of the bits for this (missing only the optical sight) in my loft including an antenna which is higher gain and more directional than what they have used. I may actually build this at some point.

I do not see how this will manage to jam a cellular connection though. That antenna looks 2.4GHz band. It will be of no use in the GSM/3G bands. Jamming the drones which use WiFi though should not be a problem.

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Re: Hmmm... I smell an Instructables...

Just take a microwave oven, take the door off and frig the door interlock, point it at the sky, fit a drone drone detector and bob's your aunt's husband - an automatic drone free environment.....(and you'll get the odd free fried pigeon into the bargain).

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Re: Hmmm... I smell an Instructables...

No, you wont..

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Pint

Re: Hmmm... I smell an Instructables...

The ($10) 2.4 GHz yagi antenna has about +18dBi gain, and therefore a beamwidth of about 26°.

Therefore, the holographic picatinny rail sight isn't *actually* required.

It ain't a laser beam.

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Happy

Re: Hmmm... I smell an Instructables...

> the holographic picatinny rail sight isn't *actually* required.

Oh no doubt! Although no self respecting death-ray should be without some sort of sight though. "Rule of Cool" and all that...

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This post has been deleted by its author

Facepalm

Re: Hmmm... I smell an Instructables...

> You can get a better one from TpLink in these days - one that fits neatly in the overall weapon.

That certainly looks like an interesting piece of kit to tinker with. I must check my current "shiny toys" budget.

Not too sure about the dress in the link though. If I got that, people'd run screaming for the eye-bleach...

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What happens when the drone is out of range of the device?

What will happen when the drone starts its return to its starting point but then regains communication to the operator? Given the small cone the gun would have, you'd have to hit it constantly until its back on the ground. Also, what about drones that are on a predetermined route? They wouldn't care about losing signal...

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Re: What happens when the drone is out of range of the device?

Pretty sure that by losing GPS, it can't tell where it is - even on its 'predetermined route' it still needs GPS for guidance. If it loses that, as the article says, it will enter a failsafe mode and either return to the operator or slowly/safely descend after a period of time if it can't regain a GPS signal.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What happens when the drone is out of range of the device?

If it can't tell where it is, how is it going to return to its operator?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: if it can't regain a GPS signa

"it still needs GPS for guidance. If it loses that, as the article says, it will enter a failsafe mode and either return to the operator or slowly/safely descend after a period of time if it can't regain a GPS signal."

When there is no GPS (which, as others have noted, is eminently jammable):

How does it know which way to go to return to the operator?

How does it know which way is down, and how slowly it is descending?

Enlightenment welcome.

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Re: What happens when the drone is out of range of the device?

Drones will have accelerometers and compasses and could continue on their path using Dead Reckoning in lieu of a GPS fix. It'll then correct itself once it gets GPS back.

To return to the operator, some drones will just repeat all the commands they were issued since takeoff, but reverse them. It may not get them back to exactly where they started, but at least pretty close.

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Re: if it can't regain a GPS signa

The article said it was jamming ISM bands (WiFi). GPS is not in an ISM band and would likely not be affected. They also said they were working hard to stay legal (only offering to law enforcement). No one is going to allow them to sell a GPS jammer, unless it was direct to military.

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Trollface

Rats...Feds only....

I guess I'll have to just build an anti-craft gun... anyone know where I can find a gently used Borfors 40?

It'll take care of drones and those kids with the Boom-Boom blasting in their cars at night.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Rats...Feds only....

Why Bofors?

You are probably not familiar with the most exported, most used and most manufactured Russian weapon. The one which even NATO and Israelis use. It is called ZPU: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZPU

You can get one in Ukraine or the Middle East. Easily.

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Re: Rats...Feds only....

Personal favorite. Russian equipment might be hard to get into the country.

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The DroneDefender emits a harmless cone of radio waves that interfere with GPS and signals on the industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) radio bands,

Someone should tell the FCC that the ISM bands are apparently OK to disrupt - but you mustn't do it with a WiFi router's firmware...

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It's Battelle, they probably hold a pending license from the FCC for its use as a drone interceptor used by civil and law agencies to remove drones from aircraft operations areas such as wildfire zones, etc. They're a defense and governmental research contractor.

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@gollux

Yes, I understand that, but whether they are licensed or not isn't the point, there's still a contradiction.

The FCC are trying to stop the installation of custom firmware on WiFi routers, their stated reason being the possible interference if the firmware is used to make the router transmit out-of-band.

However no amount of firmware mods can make a WiFi router transmit at the sort of power levels that could cause any widespread disruption - at most you'll get a few milliwatts out the end of it, whereas this "gun" must be transmitting at Kilowatt or even Megawatt levels to achieve the stated result, and yet it's described as "harmless".

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The FCC already takes a dim view of jammers, even when used by law enforcement. I am not sure why journo's are reporting that this device is legal, because it likely isn't, perhaps they believe the manufacturer instead of doing two minutes of proper research.

"Operation is Restricted to Authorized Federal Agencies. Federal law provides no exemption for use of a signal jammer by school systems, police departments, or other state and local authorities. Only federal agencies are eligible to apply for and receive authorization."

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Boffin

Power levels

whereas this "gun" must be transmitting at Kilowatt or even Megawatt levels

I would suggest you read up on RF signalling, antenna design and a few related matters, and then revisit this statement.

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However no amount of firmware mods can make a WiFi router transmit at the sort of power levels that could cause any widespread disruption - at most you'll get a few milliwatts out the end of it,

Firmware mods + RF Amplifier and high gain antenna.

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Firmware mods + RF Amplifier and high gain antenna.

Yes but that's why the proposed legislation is so stupid, the firmware itself doesn't make much difference, you can strap a hi-gain antenna or an amp to any existing router with stock firmware.

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Go

@ Bob H re "dim view of jammers"

So - all you'll need in practice is an "agency" or name that acroniminises (TM) to 3 letters.

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Megawatts? That would be enough to fry the drone's receiver. It doesn't have to be a very long pulse, though. You can build a device that you can carry that would put out that much power for a few nanoseconds.

The jammer just puts out more power than the perp's radio. Not hard considering he's hiding way off somewhere.

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Anonymous Coward

Strap a phone to it...

The GPS receiver only needs a view of the sky. Shield it (hemispherical Faraday cage?) from the ground, and build sufficient autonomy into the drone such that communication with the ground is only used to supply (encrypted+signed) new mission parameters, with some basic logic to determine what to do if contact is lost for too long. Continue with current mission until fuel/power drops to the point that returning home is required sounds sensible.

How much does a 3G/4G phone weigh these days? Write a little Android app that can output control signals to the drone, while pulling GPS coords and listening for new commands over data/wifi.

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Re: Strap a phone to it...

GPS signals are so crappily weak that it takes very little to completely neutralize them. You are using pseudorandom noise to bring the signal above the noise floor so it can be detected. All that's needed is a more powerful local pseudorandom noise generator. We shut down ability to use GPS within a 2 mile radius when our GPS signal regenerator failed, funny how the feds start knocking on doors when that happens. Experience gained from working in an avionics shop. What we navigate on is very tenuous and not authenticated.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Strap a phone to it...

If that's the case, then how are the air and cruse lines and shipping companies going to safeguard themselves from this type of attack?

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Re: Strap a phone to it...

Could the accelerometer from a mobile phone be used to make a 'good-enough' inertial guidance system? It doesn't have to be very accurate , just enough to continue the flight path beyond jamming range.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: safeguard ... from this type of attack?

"how are the air and cruse lines and shipping companies going to safeguard themselves from this type of attack?"

These things could navigate OK before GPS. In the general case, stuff like LORAN, Decca navigator, inertial navigation, etc. In specific use cases (e.g. aircraft landing) there are lots of tried and tested alternatives.

If these applications start relying solely on GPS, they are heading for trouble (as you rightly surmise). This is known and understood and maybe even already catered for.

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Re: Strap a phone to it...

indeed ....

I have seen several instances where corroded / rotted out active GPS antennas have blotted out several square miles of coverage as they oscillated away erratically.

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I always was fond of overkill

I think this is waaay more fun than some radio gizmo.

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