Drones in the urban area - growing threats

Drones become very popular nowadays, especially in urban areas. Starting from 2006 when Company SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd operating under the brand developed first quadrocopter the era of mass production drones began.  Although the high price, the DJI drones such as Phantom and Inspire become very popular, reaching 400 000 units per year in 2014.

Quadrocopter main benefit in comparison with classic radio controlled aircraft model is ability to take off from a small area less that 2 m2. This benefit launched the mass flying in urban areas, where is a potential risk in case of crash. Enthusiasts fly over cities, skyscrapers, bridges, to capture beautiful picture. But due to the high interference risk in the crowded cities, the crashes appear very often. Flying high near by the skyscraper inexperienced drone pilot faces with several problems, like strong wind from the skyscraper corners, interference from the radio antennas as well as limited view. Those factors could affect the flight and cause serious consequences.

Here are some cases with drones in urban areas:

-          A drone flying through downtown Cincinnati struck the north side of Great American Tower on Tuesday afternoon and broke glass that fell on top of the building's garage”.

-          TAIPEI, Taiwan -- a Chinese 28-year-old drone user, surnamed Yang, was interrogated by Xinyi police yesterday afternoon. The drone smashed into Taipei 101 and crashed on Tuesday morning. No one was injured and the building's glass suffered little damage.

-          In Honolulu, quadrocopter pilot created one of Honolulu’s most memorable entries. This Honolulu incident wasn’t acquired as broadly because the drone that crashed around the Whitened House lawn, but the recording has tallied up nearly 100,000 sights in less than two days. And from the comments. it’s clear other quadrocopter aircraft pilots are apoplectic within the poor judgment that led to the crash.

Not only crashes are dangerous in the urban areas, but terrorists or criminals may use the drones to harm people. This case shows, how urban areas and buildings has lack of protection from the drones:

-          Japanese authorities said they were investigating after a small drone laced with traces of radiation was found Wednesday on the roof of the prime minister's office, sparking concerns about drones and their possible use for terrorist attacks.

EASA (European Aviation safety Agency) develops new regulations which will define no fly zones and limitations for drones, but still there will be law breakers. So at the present moment in urban area are a lot of unprotected buildings which are assigned to critical infrastructure.

Only way to protect from the drones is to detect them. Detection could be done using various radar systems, with different range and detection accuracy. At the present moment there is no system which can protect 100% from the drones, that’s why several solutions could be used for protection.

One of the best solutions to detect the drones in urban area is radar system from US manufacturer Spotter RF. Small sensors can be easily mounted on the building (roof, construction poles, and building corners) There are five different radars, which has different detection range from 130 meters up to 1,5 km.

Radar software allows monitoring the perimeter status, and in case of drone detection sends the alert signals. Operator could see the approaching drone from a distance using rotation camera, which is automatically locates the drone. On monitor shown drone trajectory, altitude and speed. This helps to detect the drone and take actions according to security procedures. Most common Spotter RF radar models in urban areas are SP C20 and C40 with the range 130-350 meters and coverage area 16 000 and 82 000 sq. m. Radars have 90 degree angle which allow to minimize the radar units required for protection. For protecting a building there is enough with 4-5 radars mounted on the perimeter.  For the skyscraper the quantity could be doubled depending on building form factor and height. Spotter radar system could be integrated in the security system, allowing the security to monitor perimeter and take actions if the drone appears near the building. 

Solution from Spotter RF has several benefits comparing to other detection systems in urban areas, like compact size, easy installation, and ability to mount anywhere. Other systems require a special mounting place on the top of the building which could not allow scanning the area above it. Spotter RF radars don’t’ react at noises in urban area. But in several occasions acoustics sensors could be installed to improve the detection chances. Solution form the DroneShield allow to detect the drone using acoustic sensors, which in coupling with the software and database of most common commercial drones could detect the drones. But those acoustic sensors are very sensitive and installing them in urban area where the noise level is above normal, could affect detection efficiency and cause false alerts. So DroneShield acoustic sensors could be mounted as additional system in areas where he noise level does not affect sensor efficiency.

So at the present moment there are systems which could be useful for protecting critical infrastructure in urban area. Understanding the threats there’re are more chances to implement the system which could give a protection. Spotter RF radars are one of the best solution in the market at the present moment.

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