back to article Airbus doesn't just make aircraft – now it designs drone killers

A new joint venture between aircraft manufacturer Airbus and California startup Dedrone is selling a security system that can spot drones miles away and knock them out of the sky. The system uses a network of cameras, radars, microphones, and directional scanners developed by Dedrone that can detect and target a standard …

  1. Bob Rocket

    It's not a Drone

    It's a UAV.

    If it was a drone there would be no 'communications' for them to interrupt.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "If it was a drone there would be no 'communications' for them to interrupt."

      Only ever seen Drones piloted remotely and live??? You're saying and it sounds reasonable, that the flightplan and attack mode is uploaded before take off??? After that they're effectively on autopilot with a attack / bombing 'bot' on alert?

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: It's not a Drone

      Both drones and UAVs can be either autonomous or remote controlled - the terms are used interchangeably in general usage, and really the only fixed part of the definition of either is that they don't have a pilot inside them. In any case, even an autonomous drone can be affected by a system like this; obviously it won't get knocked out of the sky due to loss of control, but but it would still affect its ability to stream live video and things like that.

  2. G R Goslin

    Is this strictly legal?

    I mean, if a driver in , say, a Ford Mondeo, cut into you in traffic, are you going to be allowed to create a device which will cause all Ford Mondeo's within a sevan mile radius to run off the road and crash?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is this strictly legal?

      are you going to be allowed to create a device which will cause all Ford Mondeo's within a sevan mile radius to run off the road and crash?

      I'd be OK with that if we were talking about BMWs - or drones :)

      (no, just kidding - it's called black humour)

      I suspect the jammer is directional - otherwise you'd have a problem delivering enough radio energy to knock out drone comms anyway.

  3. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    ...the jamming system uses only the frequency used by commercial drones for communication.

    This is the widely used 2.6 GHz wifi band. Drones, like all other wifi users, scan for an unused channel in that band when they establish the link, so its difficult to know how any such 'drone jammer' can positively and uniquely identify which channel a specific drone is using. Thing is, potential collateral damage can not be ruled out each time this, or any other, 'drone jammer' terminates a drone flight unless it can reliably identify the channel the targeted drone is using. If its relying on activating the drone's 'return home on loss of signal' capability then the jammer could be on for quite a while to stop the link from re-establishing itself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Martin Gregorie - Don't worry

      All they have to do is flood the whole 2.6Ghz with a (relatively) narrow beam targeted at the flying thingy. By doing this, the collateral damages are indeed limited and in any way this band is not really used by military or emergency services.

    2. Knoydart
      Boffin

      Whats the frequency Kenneth?

      Its more like the 2.4 GHz ISM (industrial, scientific and medical) band that 2.6 GHz. 2.6 GHz is typically being rolled out for small cells in urban areas for capacity.

      2.4 GHz is one of the bands your microwave in the kitchen can use to nuke your Marks and Spencer ready meal and is typically on a shared basis. So any user (RPAS included) has to accept interference and deal with it. What the RPAS does with the loss of command and control likely varies between manufacture.

      A spot of GPS spoofing (at a technical level) would offer another level of interruption to RPAS in flight. Maybe spoofing the white house geo-fence for starters would be a plan?

  4. frank ly Silver badge

    Citation?

    "... as criminals discovered this technology for smuggling, espionage and terrorist attacks,"

    I've read about smuggling by drones (contraband into prisons as an example) but didn't know they'd been used for espionage and terrorist attacks. Anyway, I thought that espionage was performed quite legally by government agencies, as so far have terrorist attacks by drone..

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Citation?

      Realistically there is more to worry about with simple stupidity around airports and similar situations.

    2. Simon Buttress

      Re: Citation?

      Yeah I saw that and wondered 1) what news I'd missed that backs up that assertion, 2) wondered what he'd been smoking to come out with such tosh and 3) where I could find some

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: Citation?

      Espionage is "legal" in so far as it's not against the law of the country committing it.

      The law of the country it's being committed against, however, is another matter entirely.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Illegal in all western countries?

    Exceeding power limits and ignoring bandwidth management protocols or limits surely breaks EMC legislation. This is fine if there is a genuine emergency in the same way that an ambulance can break the speed limit, but jamming a legitimate spectrum user bcause you do do not like what they are doing? This has the potential to create hazards when drones fallback onto whatever their default behavious is. A safe landing may not be totally safe if it lands on a road for example.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Illegal in all western countries?

      Given the problem with "drones" by those fighting forest fires and wild fires, I think the fire fighters might be one of the target markets.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Citizen99

      I seem to remember a posting about a shoulder-launched sytem that fires a net to bring down the drone. (OpenWorks Engineering)

      Citation:-

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/03/04/drone_busting_net_cannon/

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Illegal in all western countries?

    This surely breaks EMC legislation. It is fine if there is a genuine emergency in the same way that an ambulance can break the speed limit, but jamming a legitimate spectrum user bcause you do do not like what they are doing? This has the potential to create hazards when drones fallback onto whatever their default behavious is. A safe landing may not be totally safe if it lands on a road for example.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Illegal in all western countries?

      This surely breaks EMC legislation. It is fine if there is a genuine emergency in the same way that an ambulance can break the speed limit, but jamming a legitimate spectrum user bcause you do do not like what they are doing?

      You've asked this twice now. For a start, you can license such things. Especially if there is enough demand or a sufficiently important reason it is possible to generate exceptions and/or relevant permissions. I can see something like that not being a problem near airports and building of significance (for instance, the whole of Whitehall is probably already jammed).

      Secondly, you're gently skipping over the discussion of the user of a drone doing something that a sane and/or ethical person would not even think about. I think it preferable that drones are removed in a non-destructive way so they can be used to pester someone else rather than taken down with collateral damage risks or the owner be subjected to percussive re-education by means of a baseball/cricket bat (depends on country :) ).

  8. W4YBO

    I was hoping for something like Dr. No's space capsule eating space capsule.

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      I was hoping for something like Dr. No's space capsule eating space capsule.

      Dr No was the first Bond film. It featured a ground-based, nuclear-powered, radio beam device used to kill satellites. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._No_(film)

      You Only Live Twice was the fifth Bond film. It featured Ernst Stravo Blofeld (and his cat) and a volcano-based space-capsule-eating craft. And ninjas. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Only_Live_Twice_(film)

  9. Nigel 11

    Firearms?

    It's not actually very hard to get a legal shotgun in the UK, at least if you live in rural parts. Which leaves the question, would it be legal to blast a drone that was trespassing on your property? (Assume that if the drone were a woodpigeon, it would be legal to shoot it).

    IANAL and have absolutely no idea.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Firearms?

      Assume that if the drone were a woodpigeon, it would be legal to shoot it

      It would also be necessary to assume that your garden is rather larger than it probably is. Claiming "legality" on the basis of the intended target being classed as vermin would be unlikely to succeed if you hit a human object or shattered someone's bedroom window with shot at the same time.

      Even if you didn't hit something else directly, on the basis that "what goes up must come down" would not be limited to the drone then there is an awful lot of shot that is going to return to earth somewhere and that somewhere might just make a noisy complaint.

      You might not mean to "endanger life" but the concept of reckless discharge would still apply.

      Not recommended.

    2. harmjschoonhoven

      Re: Firearms?

      As an alternative you might fire a Switchblade ™ (at least in Afghanistan etc.). Works against drones as well as against local wedding parties.

      Switchblade is designed to provide the warfighter with a man-portable, rapidly deployable, loitering munition for use against beyond-line-of-sight targets. This miniature intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and lethal platform can be operated manually or autonomously. Switchblade provides the operator with real-time video and GPS coordinates for information gathering, targeting or feature/object recognition.

      * The vehicle's small size and quiet motor make it difficult to detect, recognize, and track even at very close range.

      * Switchblade is fully scaleable and can be launched from a variety of air and ground platforms.

      * 10 km radius of operation.

      * 55 to 85 kts.

      * Precision strike with very low collateral damage.

      * Back-packable.

      * Tube-launched.

      * Loitering munition.

      * Effective against stationary and moving targets.

    3. Byham

      Re: Firearms?

      It is legal to shoot them down in the USA if they are below 500ft https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/25/drone_slayer_rules_in_court/

  10. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Will this be effective against a Predator/Reaper/GlobalHawk? (I'm asking for a friend.)

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      No. It will, however, be a nice beacon for a SideARM missile to home on, or to be detected and used as a point to aim the laser for a Hellfire to guide in on if SideARMs aren't available.

  11. JaitcH
    FAIL

    They Are Only Effective If The Operating Frequency Is Standard

    My employer manufactures military items that are sold, through our government, to 'non-aligned' countries.

    Few of our systems comply with international frequency assignments, we are talking war, even 'civilian' applications use 14, 27, 50, 72 and 75MHz, as well as the 'WiFi' bands. Spread Spectrum, such as used by Futuba and drone ground speeds of up to 70MPH - just going into production - make many interdiction strategies redundant

    A work colleague us in the Battle Bot gaming hobby and his bot uses non-standard frequencies and signalling technologies and he often wins when he activates his bots WiFi jammers.

    Still, with 380 sales dropping, I guess Airbus can use the money.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: They Are Only Effective If The Operating Frequency Is Standard

      Realistically this is for "stupid", both in terms of idle morons doing stuff near airports, and similarly stupid jehadies wanting to re-purpose commercial stuff for terrorism.

      Of course, there might be a 2nd step of action if the RF deterrent is not working...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They Are Only Effective If The Operating Frequency Is Standard

      We ham's have used spread-spectrum HF for remote repeater control where V/UHF is impractical for the actual repeater owner.

      I've demonstrated VLF pulse control of ground robots using magnetic induction (like spelunker comms, just uS pulse widths of really high peak power)... goes through "bug proof" walls quite well.

      As I've reminded BBC, to kill all possible frequencies, even within line of sight of the unit, you'd need a white-noise transmitter in the terawatt range.

  12. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Meh

    Meh.

    So, to work, this has to jam the likely command channel? Which means it will be completely ineffective against a drone following a pre-programmed route (such as might be used by a smuggler or terrorist).

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As a Ham Radio Operator....

    I can tell you a hundred ways to beat a jammer aimed on your drone.

  14. Nursing A Semi

    Besides mission planner software meaning no comms are required for drone to continue on its merry way, if you use UHF range extenders, directional antennas "you can get them that autotrack these days" or buy the new Voyager 4 which apparently includes option to control via 4G at any range and all this becomes totally useless.

  15. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Daft

    If you can see the drone I suspect it would be much simpler (and cheaper) to use a much bigger drone to snatch it by it's rotors and bring it back to base, where you can then examine it at leisure.

    If you can't see the drone WTF do you think you're playing at!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    California startup

    For values of California close to Miramstraße 87, 34123 Kassel, Germany, I suppose?

    This is one example of successful start-up SOP (standard operating procedure): once you get above a certain size, you outgrow what is supposed to be the "single" European market of 500M+ consumers, and have to open an office in Silly Valley, which is where the rich VCs are.

    The sad thing is that, with the GDP, skills, and education (and money) that we have here in Europe we could eat Silly Valley for breakfast, if there was a political will at the national level. Clear example of how the isolationist approach or economic planning at the national level only make us poorer here, but hey, I suppose national politicians like to present themselves as being useful.

    I do have personal experience on this and it is terribly frustrating to say the least. :(

  17. Byham

    Kill them all God will know his own

    So after taking down every UAS in a 7 mile radius prepare for the law suits and arrest by Law Enforcement for killing Law Enforcement UAS. This system needs to be far more discriminatory than just jamming the control frequency. The system operators would also be responsible for the damage caused by the now uncontrolled UAS crashing - say into the front of a full school bus that now crashes off the bridge into the wedding party below.... Anyone foolish enough to operate a system like this deserves all the legal problems that they will encounter. I doubt if they will be able to get insurance to cover its operation.

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