Dec 4, 2021 - Technology

Defending against drones is becoming a business

Illustration of a giant hand preparing to flick a tiny drone

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Companies are developing ways to defend airports and other critical infrastructure from accidental incursions and deliberate attacks by aerial drones.

Why it matters: Drones provide cheap and easy ways to monitor land, deliver goods and simply explore. But as they proliferate, figuring out a method to prevent them from going where they shouldn't will become increasingly important.

Driving the news: Intelligence documents published in October indicate a small quadcopter-type drone was used in an attempted attack on a Pennsylvania power substation last year — the first known time a drone was used against the electrical grid.

  • Drones have been repeatedly sighted near airports, where they can interfere with takeoffs and landings. One such event shut down London's Gatwick airport for two days in 2018, and a drone attack on a Saudi airport in October injured 10 people.
  • "Drones are the easiest way someone can breach security these days," says Aaditya Devarakonda, CEO of the drone defense company Dedrone.

By the numbers: Dedrone found a 217% increase in unauthorized drone access to nine selected U.S. facilities between 2019 and 2020, and it says the number has only increased since then.

How it works: Dedrone's first line of defense is sensors capable of picking up the radio frequency signals used to communicate with and control a drone, or it uses radar or visual images.

  • "That can inform the strategy and how they would deploy security personnel at a site like an airport," says Devarakonda.
  • For government organizations that need to protect important assets, Dedrone offers machines that can jam the frequencies drones use to operate, which can neutralize or even turn them back.

What's next: The Federal Aviation Administration — which sees more than 100 drones buzzing near airports per month — recently began work at the Atlantic City Airport in New Jersey on better drone detecting technology.

The bottom line: Devarakonda worries real change won't come until there's a drone equivalent of 9/11. "If some bad person wants to do it," he says, "it's very easy."

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