Current drone monitoring systems, pros and cons and how to solve them
Back in 2010, the drone market exploded with the launch of the very first consumer drone, the Parrot AR. Chinese manufacturer DJI’s Phantom drone quickly superseded this in popularity. It was a sleeker drone with a mount to carry a GoPro for users to be able to film their experiences.
DJI now equips the majority of its drones with its own, in-house cameras. DJI now dominates the industry with 70%+ market share.
The global commercial drone market is projected to reach the size of around 58.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2026 according to Statista. As the drone industry expands rapidly, so do drone industry challenges, particularly around safety and security.
Counter-Drone technology, referred to in the industry as Anti-Drone or Counter-UAS (C-UAS) is a new and fast evolving sector. Drone monitoring systems are becoming crucial for safety and security across a number of industries including (Aviation, Agriculture, Conservation, Energy, Delivery Services, Oil & Gas, Film & Television, Utilities & even Public Safety to name a few).
In simple terms drone monitoring systems can either be passive (listening) or active (sending a signal out and analysing what comes back). However, they typically all perform the following functions.
- Detection - Detection is any technology that is able to detect drones
- Classification or Identification – This distinguishes drones from other types of objects, and identification plays a crucial role to identify a specific model of drone, or the drone’s or controller’s digital fingerprint
- Locating and Tracking and movements
- Alerting – Alerting/Notifying critical infrastructure in real time of potential threats
Drone monitoring systems use 4 core technologies.
RF (Radio Frequency) Analysers
RF Analysers consist of antennas which receive radio signals and a hardware/processor to analyse the RF spectrum. The analyser detects radio communications between a drone and its controller.
The system is usually able to identify drones and controllers to prove that a particular drone and controller are active.
Pros : RF Analysers are cost-effective, and can detect multiple numbers of drones and controllers.
Cons : RF Analysers are not useful for detecting autonomous drones, and less effective in crowded RF areas where multiple systems are present
Acoustic Sensors (Microphones)
Microphones or acoustic sensors can detect the sound made by a drone and are able to calculate it’s direction. By using more sets of acoustic sensors we roughly triangulate a drones location.
Pros : The system can detect most drones within the near-field, including autonomous drones without RF devices. It can be a great gap-filler in areas outside line-of-sight or other sensors. It is also mobile and quick to deploy.
Cons : The system doesn’t work well in noisy environments and it’s typically very short range (300-500m).
Optical Sensors (Cameras)
These are video cameras with optical sensors that can detect objects using infrared or thermal imaging.
Pros : The system can provide visuals on the drone and it can record images as forensic evidence for use in eventual prosecution.
Cons : The system has very high false-alarm rates, and very poor performance in dark, fog conditions.
Radar is a device using radio energy to detect a drone. Drone radar sends out a signal and receives the reflection, measuring direction and position of the drone. Most radars are not designed to detect small targets, rather they are designed for large drones.
Pros : The system has very long range, and provides constant tracking with very accurate positioning. Radar can also handle many objects simultaneously, and can track all types of drones including autonomous drones even in bad visual conditions.
Cons : The system requires a license and the detection range can vary depending on the size of the drone.
swIDch has a core technology called One-Time-Authentication-Code (OTAC) which can be used to overcome the limitations of the existing drone monitoring systems. swIDch’s patented IFF solution, which is a software-based solution is used to identify and evaluate friendliness of the drones in specific airspace scenarios.
About Brian Jung
Brian has over 15 years’ experience working as principal software engineer for global enterprises including Samsung, Nokia, Accenture, and BlackBerry. He now uses his wealth of knowledge and experience to help guide the overall business strategy at swIDch on both a technical and strategic level. He is also the architect of three global patents, and is a regular technical writer for various global publications.
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