A drunken employee at White House lost control of a quadcopter device and crashed it onto the southeast corner of the grounds
Drone is a toy with a bright future—until it causes a catastrophe

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are today’s gizmo du jour. A recent Bloomberg article reported that Amazon alone is selling more than 10,000 a month, and with prices as low as $50, it’s a toy with a bright future—until it causes a catastrophe.

Consider the January incident at the White House when a drunken National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency employee lost control of a quadcopter device and crashed it onto the southeast corner of the grounds. This kind of mishap could happen to anyone, drunk or sober, because as Tom Fuentes, CNN’s law enforcement analyst said, “They have flimsy comms systems, and it’s easy for people to lose control of them. It’s like losing the wifi signal, and the controller can’t do anything.” In this case, it is theorised that the user hadn’t set the drone’s “home point” properly so the drone got confused about its location and flew away.

There have been dozens of incidents involving close encounters with aircraft, but the FAA hasn’t yet created rules for the small crafts. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), in November, formally declared that a UAV operated commercially is considered to be an aircraft under 14 C.F.R. § 91.13(a), so its operator may be subject to civil penalties for violating federal aviation regulations. However, most offenders aren’t like the partying government employee who self-reported the incident, and it’s difficult to track down users.

There have been dozens of incidents involving close encounters with aircraft
Drones have flimsy comms systems, and it’s easy for people to lose control of them

Fred Roggero, former Air Force chief of safety, recently said on CNN that drones can carry “…50 lbs of stuff on some that look like an aircraft.” Obviously, 50 pounds of any sort of explosive or chemical, biological, nuclear or biological weaponry would do some serious damage.

Thus, a new industry is born—drone detection. Jamming signals is against the law in the U.S., even though it may ultimately be the best way to drop a drone in its tracks once it’s detected. Firing on one wouldn’t help because the bullets or the rocket would rain down somewhere and could harm innocents.

Boston-based HGH Infrared Systems is one drone-detection firm. It has several different models of what it calls Spynel, a camera system which goes up to a resolution of 120 megapixels. The cameras record in real time and, as the continuously spinning camera head takes an HD panoramic image of an entire area, the proprietary software automatically detects and tracks an unlimited number of targets (land, air, maritime). “Our detection range for a person on the Spynel X is up to 8 km, 15 km for a car, and up to 30 km for a tank/boat,” reports the company in an email.

Drones with attached cameras could easily spy on regular folks
Drones can carry “…50 lbs of stuff on some that look like an aircraft
Photo credited: U.S. Secret Service/Reuters 

According to Katie Shea, HGH Infrared’s marketing manager, “Radars are not ideal for tracking the small, low-heat UAVs because of their low profile and low speed. Infrared sensors and Spynel work well because they are completely passive and our high-resolution infrared thermal cameras can pick up low heat deltas between ambient temperatures and the electric engine UAVs, as well as the low-speed, smaller UAVs.”

John Franklin, a Washington, D.C.-based engineer started an Indiegogo campaign and ultimately created the DroneShield™. Concerned that drones with attached cameras could easily spy on regular folks, the Indiegogo site proclaims that “DroneShield is a device that detects the presence of nearby drones (including RC helicopters, quadrotors, etc) and issues alerts via email, sms, and/or a flashing light. The goal is to help preserve your privacy from low-cost remote-control air vehicles with video cameras.”

He managed to raise more than $8,000, and now sells the devices online. Franklin’s site envisions various uses, from protecting private property to military installations and critical infrastructure.

So does competitor Drone Labs, with its Drone Detector. CEO Zain Naboulsi claims it is unlike other systems because it “…can see air, ground, and water-based threats. Auditory detection alone, for example, can typically only detect aerial drones and be easily defeated. Our technology uses multi-factor authentication to determine the confidence level of a threat. While no drone detection technology is foolproof, Drone Detector is the only detection product on the market today that is built to detect most threats regardless of where they originate.”

Now, we have to figure out a way to find out who’s doing the flying.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Vicki Contavespi Washington Correspondent, SecurityInformed.com

In case you missed it

Intersec 2021 cancelled, Messe Frankfurt announces that Dubai trade fair will now take place in January 2022
Intersec 2021 cancelled, Messe Frankfurt announces that Dubai trade fair will now take place in January 2022

Intersec, the world’s renowned security, safety, and fire protection trade fair, has been rescheduled to take place in January 2022, organiser of the trade event, Messe Frankfurt Middle East confirmed on September 24, 2020. The 23rd edition of the three-day event was originally set to run from January 24-26, 2021, at the Dubai World Trade Centre, in Dubai, UAE. However, the event has now been moved to 2022, after extensive consultation with key industry stakeholders. Intersec Dubai 2022 “We’ve spoken to many of our exhibitors, industry trade associations, supporters, and partners over the last couple of weeks and have heard first-hand the many challenges they’re facing putting pressure on their ability to participate at Intersec in January 2021,” said Alexandria Robinson, Intersec’s Show Director at Messe Frankfurt. He adds, “Moving Intersec to its customary January dates in 2022 at the Dubai World Trade Centre will allow time for recovery.” Webinar series in 2021 Ms. Robinson said Intersec will be very active throughout 2021, via its ongoing webinar series Ms. Robinson said Intersec will be very active throughout 2021, via its ongoing webinar series, while the team is now working towards creating a virtual event early next year, so as to engage industry leaders, regulators, government agencies and opinion formers. “We might be restricted physically, but we know there is a definitive need for critical conversations and discussions to address the challenges the industry has faced,” said Robinson. Digital forum to share ideas and solutions He adds, “By hosting these talks via a digital forum, it enables us to keep connected to the industry and nurture our existing relationships, whilst sharing solutions and common goals. We’ll share further details and plans about the digital event in the coming weeks.” Intersec’s popular free-to-attend webinar series, of which there’ve been 11 so far in the last four months, have kept thousands of attendees abreast of the latest industry trends and opportunities. Ensuring safety in COVID-19 pandemic period “We know we have a vital role to play in connecting and supporting the industry, and the Intersec webinars stimulate meaningful conversations, collaborations and success stories,” stated Robinson, adding “We will continue to run these and support our stakeholders in every way possible until we meet again personally, and safely, at Intersec 2022.” She further said, “One thing is absolutely certain, our community is resilient and will bounce back. It has been involved in many frontline situations throughout the course of this year and it will continue to play a critical role in the months ahead. Throughout 2021 and come January 2022, we’ll have much to share and learn from each other.” Intersec 2020 Intersec in 2020 featured 1,100 exhibitors from 56 countries, while attracting 33,872 visitors from 135 countries. The global industry event is supported by Dubai Civil Defence, Dubai Police, the Security Industry Regulatory Agency (SIRA), Dubai Police Academy and Dubai Municipality.

What is the role of higher education to create next-gen security leaders?
What is the role of higher education to create next-gen security leaders?

Traditionally, security industry professionals have often come from backgrounds in law enforcement or the military. However, the industry is changing, and today’s security professionals can benefit from a variety of backgrounds and educational disciplines. The industry’s emphasis on technology solutions suggests a need for more students of computer science, engineering and other technology fields. The closer integration of security with related disciplines within the enterprise suggests a need to prepare through a broad array of educational pursuits. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What is the role of higher education to create the next generation of physical security leaders?

Transport security: utilising the cloud to manage passenger flow and improve health & safety
Transport security: utilising the cloud to manage passenger flow and improve health & safety

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring the safety of passengers and staff aboard public transport has been an ongoing concern. The scenes of underground trains, still packed with commuters as infection rates soared, will have raised alarm bells with bus and train managers, transport officials and government representatives alike. Now, as infection rates hold steady and people slowly return to the workplace, a rise in commuter levels, coupled with a need for strong infection control protocols, is putting a strain on an already overburdened transport system. Managing passenger flow through bus terminals and train stations, while ensuring adherence to social distancing and mask-wearing policies, can be a difficult task. On buses and trains, staff have the unenviable task of challenging any individual who flouts the rules, while attempting to maintain safe operation for the benefit of all passengers. This is where advances in digital surveillance technologies can play an important role in enhancing security, improving operations and supporting the customer facing teams in their day to day roles.  The power of the cloud Keeping businesses afloat and people connected throughout the pandemicCloud or hosted technology has played an important part in keeping businesses afloat and people connected throughout the pandemic. When it comes to physical security such as video surveillance and access control, today’s cloud-enabled systems are far removed from the outdated CCTV and manual access control technologies employed in the past. Cloud connectivity brings with it many benefits, from a security, operational and also business intelligence point of view, thanks to the powerful data that these solutions produce which can be used to inform decision making. The advantages of cloud-based physical security technologies are many, and have wide ranging applications for all areas of the transport sector; across stations, transport hubs and vehicles. When used to support staff and complement existing processes, such systems can prove invaluable for transport professionals in helping to create a safer working environment, promoting confidence among personnel and passengers, and assuring passengers who are fearful about the current pandemic that all possible precautions are being taken during their journey. Managing occupancy across bus and rail Monitoring the movement of staff and passengers is an essential part of being able to maintain a safe operation. Through the utilisation of surveillance cameras at entrances and exit points, as well as at key areas within transport terminals and on the transport mode itself, occupancy thresholds can be determined to ensure passenger numbers do not exceed safe limits. Network surveillance cameras, accessed via mobile device, can enable transport officials to check passenger flow in real-time, while live alerts to warn that health and safety protocols are being breached, enable swift drafting of security or operations personnel to address the situation. Live alerts to warn that health and safety protocols are being breached Through internet of things (IoT) connectivity, additional devices can be easily added to complement the surveillance solution and unlock further benefits. Network audio speakers can be triggered to play pre-recorded messages to alert or inform passengers. Similarly, frictionless access control, enabling customers and staff to move ‘hands-free’ through gateways and ticket checkpoints to avoid viral spread, is made possible by having an access reader which is activated, for example, via QR codes on a mobile phone. And when access readers are integrated with surveillance cameras, this will act as a second layer of authentication to grant or refuse access based on valid staff credentials. Improving security in challenging times Such technologies, interconnected and able to share data, can be used to more effectively report in real time on activity that threatens to have an adverse effect on passengers, staff and the transport environment. Significant parts of the rail network are relatively unmonitored, and inevitably these areas are more vulnerable to vandalism. Similarly, on bus services, abuse of passengers and staff, and acts of criminal behaviour remain a concern. By alerting security staff to a developing situation before it occurs, an incident can be dealt with quickly, minimising disruption to transport services. Cloud based technology can be relied on Cloud based technology can be relied on to not only help improve current services, around passenger occupancy in the current pandemic, but also to help transport officials plan for the security challenges of the future. Simple customisation and easy scalability, plus software upgrades and firmware updates to ensure the system is always up to date and operational, form essential components of a future proof solution which is capable of bringing peace of mind to the transport industry. Additionally, predicted future benefits include the potential for customers to check transport occupancy levels via a mobile app. This would inform them of particularly busy times of passenger transit, allowing more choice over when and where to travel based on real-time data, and ultimately helping to even out passenger numbers to balance journeys and greatly improve efficiency and flow. In a busy world where the demands on our rail and bus networks are now impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and indeed the possibility for further related challenges in the future, such cloud-connected technologies represent a worthwhile investment.