What Drone Detection Solution Does Your Organization Need?

In recent years, drones have become a growing security concern for all kinds of organizations. Drones are now breezing past site perimeters, appearing at public events, bringing in deliveries, aiding in cyberattacks, and interrupting airport operations. That makes drones a potential threat to infrastructure, operations, and people at your site. Whether the pilot is clueless, carless, or nefarious, drone presence in the airspace above and around critical infrastructure sights can cause operational disruption and potential harm.

If your high-risk site security profile includes acknowledgment and concern for drones in the airspace intending to cause harm, it’s time to consider drone detection technology. Even though local entities do not have lawful permission to mitigate drones in flight, those permissions may be forthcoming. For now, better awareness of drone activity improves security deployment and response planning. Here are the reasons different types of facilities may need to track drones and what you should look for in a radar solution.

Protecting Electric Substations from Drones

Protecting Electric Substations from Drones


Drones can be a significant threat to critical infrastructure sites including utilities. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are seeing more suspicious drone incidents near U.S. electrical substations. A pilot program tracking drone activity near a New York City electric utilities site had 8,800 drone alerts within just 6 months, with rising use in restricted airspace.

While small aircraft flying overhead may not seem like much of a threat, they can be used to carry dangerous payloads. Even a small drone can carry up to 4 lbs. of payload intended to damage equipment, disrupt networks, or harm people within the site’s area of operation.

Drones can also act as a surveillance tool for nefarious actors. When equipped with cameras, drones can facilitate documenting the physical layout of a facility or activity patterns that can be analyzed and shared for terrorism or other criminal activity.

To detect drones near utility infrastructure, the best option is a combination of short-to-medium-range radar, high-performance cameras, RF sensors, and/or acoustic sensors. Each of these drone detection tools have both advantages and limitations. Using a layered sensor stack will give you the most comprehensive situational awareness.

Detecting Drones at Prisons

Detecting Drones at Prisons


Amazon is far from the only organization experimenting with drone deliveries. Less savory groups currently use drones to deliver contraband such as cell phones, drugs, and weapons to prison sites, such as when two people were charged with unlawful distribution of illicit cannabis and methamphetamine via drone in New Brunswick. That makes drones a significant safety threat to the population, staff members and, depending on the contraband, neighboring communities.

As recently as November 2023, US prisons have shared evidence of “dark” drones – those that do not emit an RF signal and cannot be detected by RF detectors - dropping contraband into prison yards at night. These covert drone operations challenge conventional detection technologies and operative systems. Security teams are finding it necessary to have 24/7, all-weather radar to ensure awareness of incoming dark drones and drops. Early awareness supports ground team interception of elicit and harmful drops.

To detect drones as accurately as possible, under all conditions, short-range radar should be combined with cameras, RF detectors, and/or other sensors. A highly accurate radar solution covering the area around the prison facility can detect drones in any weather or lighting and precision radar data can boost the performance efficiency of other sensors.

Drone Detection for Airports

Protecting airports from drones


Nefarious or poorly controlled drones have quickly become a major safety concern for airport and port operations. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is now receiving more than 100 reports per month of uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) sightings near airplanes and helicopters.

If a drone collides with a plane, it could damage engines or other equipment and cause human harm. Drones may be used for carrying hazardous substances into an airport. And drones may be used for surveillance, gaining intelligence to inform a more complex criminal plan.

To deconflict the airspace in which drones are flying, airports need precision, short to medium range radar solutions to cover the area around their site. A special consideration for airports is detecting drones using technology that does not interfere with other signals within the airport ecosystem. The radar data is shared via a central command and control system (C2) to inform operations of additional sensors - cameras, RF sensors, and acoustic sensors - as required to provide complete situational awareness. 

Drone Awareness at Stadiums, Arenas, and Events

Protecting Stadiums, Arenas, and Events from Drones


Drones can pose a significant threat in stadiums, arenas, and other spaces where large groups of people gather. A poorly operated or malfunctioning drone can crash into stadiums or fans, even if it’s not intentional. More worryingly, terrorists can use drones to carry explosives or hazardous chemicals into a public gathering.

To keep people safe, large event facility security teams, and/or the local and regional law enforcement teams that support them, are using a layered sensor solution for drone detection. A short-range, high-precision radar designed for urban environments can rapidly detect and assess multiple objects in the air around a stadium or arena. Ideally, the radar is paired with cameras for visual confirmation. For catalogued drones, RF sensors may further help the appropriate authorities locate the operator, when desired and legal.

Detecting Drones at Data Centers and Secure Campuses

Protecting data centers and secure campuses from drones


Drones are being used for cyberattacks, which is a major concern for data centers and campuses of all kinds, especially those that service critical infrastructure and community health and safety services. Hackers can equip drones with devices used for networking sniffing, spoofing, communications jamming, or Denial-of-Service attacks.

In one recent incident, a drone carrying a modified Wi-Fi Pineapple device spoofed an employee Wi-Fi network and intercepted data from workers who connected to it. This data could have been used for a highly damaging attack if the security team hadn’t taken action. While a more severe attack was prevented, the perpetrators were never caught.

Drones can also be used for espionage. Operators can use a drone to map out both the inside and outside of a campus, locate sensitive equipment, find patterns in personnel movement, peer through windows, and even record meetings.

High risk and high security data centers and campuses will improve their security capabilities by investing in drone detection technology, anchored with precision radar. For comprehensive situational awareness, radar should be used with a camera, or cameras, for visual confirmation. RF sensors can provide location data for cataloged drones and their operators, which can then be reported to the proper authorities.

Does your facility need drone detection?

Drone detection is a great fit for facilities where a drone could interfere with operations or cause human harm, whether accidentally or purposefully. Drones can drop harmful substances, physically damage infrastructure, and carry devices used for cyber-attacks or listening in on company secrets. In most high-security situations, using high-performance radar together with a combination of secondary sensors is preferred to maintain awareness of the airspace.

 

Radar: The Cornerstone of Effective Drone Detection

Radar sensors are the cornerstone of drone detection, tracking and classification:

  • Radar detects drones at any time of day.
  • Radar detects drones in all weather conditions.
  • Radar detects everything that moves, including “dark” or “silent” drones.
  • Data generated by high-performance, precision radar serves as the “one source of truth” for threat detection, enhancing the operation of other sensors.

However, radar does not provide the “eyes-on” confirmation preferred for double authentication of threats. Cameras cued by radar data can.

 

Adding Additional Sensors to Radar for Airspace Awareness

The site risk assessment will likely recommend which sensors should be included in the drone detection system. While radar, cameras and RF detectors add value to drone detection systems, none of them are complete solutions on their own. Most progressive security deployments begin with radar and cameras, and add other sensors as needed.

Cameras – PTZ, EO, IR

There are several different types of cameras designed to support site environments and risk. These three types of camera capabilities are often considered for secure properties and are an effective complement to drone detecting radar:

PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom)

PTZ cameras are effective for tracking targets on the ground and in the air. The range of movement means there is a wide field of view and the capability to zoom is useful for “eyes-on-target” at great distance. However, when zoomed-in, PTZ cameras lose sight of the broader field of view and can leave sites exposed to additional unobserved trespassers – which is why PTZs are most effective when combined with radar. Radar continues to detect everything that moves, even when the camera field of view is narrowed. Unless specially equipped to do so, PTZs will struggle to recognize threats at night, in low light, when weather conditions are present, and when there is a lack of visual contrast between the threat and the background.

Electro-Optical (EO)

Electro-optical (EO) cameras produce higher-resolution, more detailed images. However, they usually can’t track objects. A standard EO camera is ineffective for drone detection. However, an EO capable PTZ camera may be an asset to meet specific risk profiles.

Infrared (IR)

Infrared (IR) cameras, aka thermal cameras, create images based on infrared energy — the heat that objects emit. They can work in complete darkness, fog, and smoke, but typically don’t produce high-resolution images. Infrared imaging technology is often combined with EO systems to create an all-in-one EO/IR system. While a static EO/IR camera is not effective for maintaining sight on fast moving drones, an EO/IR capable PTZ supports drone detection at critical sites well.

 

RF Detectors

When building a comprehensive drone detection system or when only concerned about clueless or careless pilots who will not cause operational disruption or harm, RF sensors add value. Multiple RF detectors are spaced apart to detect and identify radio frequency signals between the drone and the operator. When multiple RF units’ data is analyzed, the triangulation yields the drone’s and the operator’s location. This is helpful when engaging law enforcement to locater and engage with the pilot.

That said, many nefarious drone pilots, with intent on espionage or to cause physical harm, fly “dark” drones. These drones are operated using Wi-Fi or utilizing on-board GPS waypoints and therefore do not emit a catalogued RF signal. This renders the RF detectors ineffective. For sites whose risk profile includes pilots who intend to do harm, there is high probability that drones are “dark” and will not be detected by conventional RF detectors, alone.

Drone detection sensor stack


Building a drone detection sensor stack at high-risk sites should always begin with radar and PTZ for best coverage, with additional sensors added as the risk profile determines.

For Drone Detection, Not All Small Form Factor Radars Are Equal

 

Radar is the core component of a reliable drone detection system for secure sites concerned with drones intending harm. However, not every radar is equal. It is critical to discover and choose the radar that meets site threat assessment need. When evaluating radar for drone detection, use these questions to identify performance characteristics that support comprehensive drone detection:

    1. Does the radar utilize micro-Doppler to capture a fourth data dimension – velocity?

In addition to capturing a target’s azimuth, elevation, and range, the velocity measurement provides users with the speed of a target in a given direction. This is critical for understanding and anticipating drone movement in the airspace. Processing the micro-Doppler frequency shift helps radar software distinguish targets - drones from birds, for example. And micro-Doppler makes it possible to detect hovering drones near or far from a facility and as the drone approaches. This is important for sites that, in addition to risk of physical breach, have a moderate-to-high-risk of sensitive data being compromised or stolen using a hovering drone carrying a surveillance or data theft device.

    1. Why is angular accuracy of radar important?

As little as a .5% variance in accuracy can result in meters, at distance. This means imprecise radar data will slew cameras to the wrong point in space, delaying or negating eyes-on-confirmation via camera.  Imprecise radar may also interpret multiple objects as a single threat. Accuracy is affected by three primary radar attributes: the number of transmit (Tx) and receive (Rx) modules, the way in which radar emits and receives energy – interferometric versus beam forming, and the sophistication of the onboard software.

    1. Does the radar deliver equal efficiency, accuracy, and value in both ground and air domains?

This is especially important for sites concerned with intruder approach from the ground and air. With the change in the threat landscape, many critical infrastructure sites are rethinking their conventional PIDS (perimeter intrusion detection system) solution to include drone detection. A radar that performs equally well in both domains provides a centralized threat detection data source, simplifies systems integration, and improves the cost-to-value exchange.

    1. Will the radar detect multiple threats at the same time regardless of domain?

Recently, a critical infrastructure security professional shared their observation of two drones approaching an undisclosed site from opposite sides. One drone appeared to act as a distraction, moving evasively, while the other continued toward the center of the property at a slow and steady pace. Ensuring dual coverage of multiple targets within multiple domains helps futureproof sites against unique tactics. And radar provides better protection against emerging technologies; after all, regardless the technology, a threat will be moving toward a site and radar will detect that movement.

    1. What is the radar’s track update rate?

The track update affects data sharing and integration with other sensors and systems. For example, a 10GHz data exchange rate eliminates the slew lag common in many conventional, small form-factor radar units. The result: cameras slewed using radar data that is rapidly processed are more likely to retain target lock and smooth tracking throughout an incident.

    1. Does the radar utilize standard connections, open software platform, and application program interfaces (APIs)?

Radar that uses standard cables and connections, has an open software platform and APIs makes integration with existing systems easy. Radar data sets are easily ingested by C2s and VMS and is used to slew cameras and trigger alarms, for example.

 

MESA Radar is Most Effective for Drone Detection

 

With Echodyne radars, you can now protect infrastructure, privacy, and civilian safety with military-grade drone detection technology at an attainable price point. Echodyne’s proprietary technology, the metamaterials electronically scanned array (MESA), delivers breakthrough radar performance in a compact, solid-state form factor. MESA radar provides data on drone location, range, velocity, bearing, closing time, and more — all while integrating with other sensors within the surveillance system.

EchoGuard drone detection radar

EchoGuard

EchoGuard is a compact, high-performing short-range radar that works for a wide range of use cases. It offers a 120° azimuth and 80° elevation field of view with excellent accuracy. This radar can consistently track a Phantom 4 drone at 1 km and a Matrice 600 at 1.4km. EchoGuard is an excellent choice for airport and port surveillance, stadium and VIP event security, critical infrastructure protection, and more. In fact, EchoGuard is fielded, tested, and trusted for accuracy that supports military security applications; the U.S. Army Force Protection program upgraded to EchoGuard radars in 2022.

EchoGuard CR, part of the EchoGuard family, is specifically built for urban, semi-urban, and other close-range environments. It is a highly accurate radar solution that can rapidly detect and assess multiple threats in a dense environment. It can consistently track a Phantom 4 drone at 225 m and a Matrice 600 drone at 250 m. EchoGuard CR is the preferred choice for stadiums, arenas, data centers, campuses, and events located in city centers.

EchoShield radar for Drone Detection and Counter-UAS

EchoShield

EchoShield is a highly accurate compact radar with a medium range. With high-accuracy classification, it delivers a decluttered data stream and extensive information about tracked objects. It can consistently track a Phantom 4 Drone at 3 km and a Matrice 600 drone at 6 km. This radar is a good choice for airports, ports, remote public gathering sites, and critical infrastructure that are bordered by open space.

Find the Right Drone Detection Radar for Your Facility

Ready to learn more about radar drone detection solutions for your facility? Schedule a consultation with an Echodyne radar expert today.

 

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