Dedrone's DroneTracker software integrates RF scanners and video cameras. Image: Dedrone

Dedrone updates c-drone detection system

Equipment & systems Security • law enforcement • countermeasures

Dedrone, a German-American startup with offices in San Francisco, Sterling, VA and Kassel, Germany, has added a new radio frequency sensor to its airspace security system. The RF-300 unit scans a wide radio frequency range for known “signatures” of c-drones such as popular models from Chinese manufacturer Dà-Jiāng Innovations (DJI) and remote controllers, and provides realtime plotting of drone and pilot on a map in bespoke software.

Following the RF-100 which detects c-drones, one or more RF-300 units feed the company’s DroneTracker software, triangulating radio signals to pinpoint c-drone and pilot positions. The company matches the frequencies and data protocols used by many c-drones, including “homebrew” models, to its proprietary database dubbed DroneDNA which is regularly updated with new signatures. Tracking begins as soon as the c-drone and its controller are turned on, typically several moments before actual flight. Encrypted protocols and channel-hopping units can be identified, the company said. Range is 1000m in normal conditions, subject to radio interference from buildings or other RF emitting sources.

The DroneTracker software can integrate other sensors, in particular one or more video cameras which can red-box a c-drone on a video feed in realtime; the integration with the RF data reduces video false positives in particular birds. The software runs on a site’s local IP server, available to browsers on the network. Standard reports enable a site security manager to provide forensic evidence of c-drone incursions to law enforcement.

The RF-300 was deployed for the first time in January for the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, the second year running Dedrone has assured the detection and tracking role of c-drone countermeasures in conjunction with H.P. Marketing & Consulting Wüst who provided mobile radio jammers to the Graubünden canton police. Dedrone has also provided its detection solution to Citi Field, home of the New York Mets baseball team near LaGuardia Airport, and the US state of Georgia Department of Corrections.

In the United States, it is illegal for non-government entities to jam radio frequencies. In addition, the FAA discourages airports from using active c-drone countermeasures without authorization. Dedrone recommends passive countermeasures, such as blinding a drone’s video lenses with strobe lights.

C-drones without a pilot in range, or on a preset flight path for example using GPS, are detectable by Dedrone RF sensors whenever the drone “phones home” with a video signal or telemetry data such as wind speed or battery level, the company added.