Drones – the danger from above
Drones are are readily accessible and their cameras and sensors are becoming increasingly powerful, these unmanned aerial vehicles pose a growing threat to perimeter protection.
Drones for private and commercial use can now be obtained at any DIY store. Because they are readily accessible and their cameras and sensors are becoming increasingly powerful, these unmanned aerial vehicles pose a growing threat to perimeter protection.
In recent years, drones have developed into electronic mass-market products for everyone. Their technological development has proceeded with unprecedented speed, and can be compared to the surges in the development of mobile phones. Companies and authorities in the security sector have long taken advantage of these “eyes in the sky” to maintain an overview for perimeter and event protection. These devices perform essential services in monitoring open spaces, industrial areas and critical infrastructure facilities. If an alarm is triggered, drones can deliver video footage in minutes, thus providing information to protect the area in question.
But with prices starting at €50, drones are now within everyone’s reach, and that includes criminals. They can spot gaps in security from the air, use their cameras to snoop out company secrets, and smuggle drugs across border fences or weapons and tools into prisons. They are also capable of accessing data from company networks. Companies and organizations should therefore determine their individual risk from drones, identify vulnerabilities in their security systems and take the appropriate measures.
EU recognizes security risks
Incidents involving drones are becoming more frequent – including an increasing number of critical situations. In May 2022, for example, the Brandenburg Police reported that a drone had come dangerously close to a passenger aircraft and impeded its arrival at the airport in Berlin. A few months earlier, a quadrocopter missed a Boeing 737 with 189 passengers on board by just a few metres. Apart from the risks to air traffic, incidents in which local residents feel they are being spied on by the flying cameras have become everyday events.
The EU recognized the security risk and in 2021 introduced a regulation placing the operation of drones on a legal footing. This requires drones weighing more than 250 grams to be registered, and the owners must comply with particular requirements. A remote ID functions as a digital identification and recognizable registration. The likelihood of criminals using a registered drone, however, is slim.
A drone is essentially a flying computer. And just like computers, they can be used for cyber attacks – to access data, for example. Anyone using drones for perimeter protection should also be aware that they are also a flying target that is open to attack. It is also conceivable that malware could be smuggled via the drone software, which is often poorly protected. It is therefore essential that drones in service for an in-house security department are checked by the IT unit and equipped with the appropriate security measures.
Passive defence – the only option?
Defence measures are mostly limited to passive or technical options to hinder overflights or recognize unauthorized drones. These include physical structures as well as detection devices. Around prisons, for example, nets prevent drones from entering their airspace. And privacy shields protect sensitive areas in business premises. Even birds of prey have been considered as a form of drone defence: The police in the Netherlands tested the use of eagles to catch drones. But following a test phase, the authorities had to concede that training the birds and ensuring their efficiency was more complicated and expensive than expected, and the programme was suspended.
Fully developed systems are now available to detect and defend against drones. Many of the solutions available for active drone defence, however, are not permitted for use in Germany. The use of jamming or spoofing frequencies, for example, is restricted in Germany to official and military security facilities. Passive defence measures that companies can use for protection range from radar and camera detection to RF-3D detection using high-frequency detectors. In 2023, the sector will present these and other solutions for drone defence at Perimeter Protection in Nuremberg. The trade fair concentrates on the security of perimeter protection zones and outdoor facilities, and incorporates the U.T.SEC platform, which focuses on the technical, legal and practical opportunities available for the use of drones and other unmanned technologies, and for defence against such systems.