Counter-Drone: Taking Public Safety from Land to Air
Author: Maximiliano Grass Araya
Dec 17, 2021
At Axon, we are strong believers that drones have tremendous potential to do good - look no further than our Axon Air offering for proof. At the same time, we know that for the drone economy to reach its full potential, there must be an effective way of detecting and mitigating the threats posed by careless, clueless or malicious drone operators. As the global leader in connected public safety technologies, we saw this as yet another opportunity to strengthen the capacity of our ecosystem to address our customers’ needs, which is why today we are announcing our investment in and partnership with Dedrone, the market leader in smart airspace security.
Traditionally, public safety agencies and corporate security providers have been focused on perimeter control, and have assumed any intrusion or violation will happen by land. However, with the proliferation of drones, this is no longer the case. Just last month, it became known that a drone that crashed near a Pennsylvania power substation in 2020 was likely meant to damage or disrupt the electric equipment. It’s not just critical infrastructure at risk of being a target, other industries are also monitoring for drones. Including:
- Airports, to protect their runways (with the incident at Gatwick being the most disruptive to date)
- Prisons, to catch contraband (two brothers got caught doing so in Georgia last July)
- Corporations, to prevent corporate espionage (selected papers published on the topic)
- Stadiums, to keep their audiences safe (NFL Super Bowl LV in Tampa instituted a “No Drone Zone“)
These are just a few examples and by no means fully inclusive. For a more detailed list documented drone incidents, read here.
After extensive research into the up-and-coming counter-drone market, we are excited about Dedrone’s technology and achievements. Dedrone’s platform employs a “sensor fusion” approach that combines radio frequency (RF) sensors, radar, and pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras. This has a clear impact on drone detection as it is incredibly reliable given that one sensor identifies and the other can verify. Dedrone’s RF sensors detect drone position via triangulation and identify the make and model of the drone via RF signature matching, without ever having to decode the RF signal. This ensures Dedrone remains compliant even in countries with more stringent RF regulations, such as the US. If a drone is autonomous and therefore has no RF signature, radar can still detect it, and in all cases, PTZ cameras equipped with artificial intelligence can lock onto a drone using Dedrone’s proprietary database containing millions of drone images for identification and verification. All-in-all, we believe this approach is a powerful solution to detect potential threats with minimal false positives.
While currently only four federal agencies have the legal authority to mitigate drones in the US(Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and Department of Energy), we expect to see regulations evolve as the need to secure domestic airspace increases. In preparation for that eventuality, Dedrone already has RF and GNSS jamming capabilities that deliver effective mitigation electronically, and continues to invest in enhancing them. In the meantime, even with no direct mitigation authority, state and local public safety agencies benefit from detecting drones and locating drone pilots in order to mandate compliance against unauthorized flights. For more insight into the case for state and local law enforcement to be granted drone mitigation authority, read here.
As the nascent counter-drone market grows and matures, we believe that our partnership with Dedrone will position Axon to best serve our customers and to keep delivering on our mission to protect life, capture truth and accelerate justice.
Through this partnership with Dedrone, we continue to strengthen the value proposition of our Axon Evidence platform. Dedrone Sensors and integrated external video cameras record forensic evidence of drone intrusions. A combination of forensic data is automatically captured by the Dedrone Tracker software, including drone manufacturer, model, flight path with timestamps, and video verification. In the future, it will be possible to ingest this type of evidence seamlessly into Axon Evidence.
We also expect to integrate Dedrone’s data feed into our Axon Respond real-time operations platform to provide enhanced situational awareness for public safety agencies, allowing officers to see where they are in relation to a drone and its controller while engaging in a counter operation to mitigate a threat. We will also enable agencies to distinguish between “whitelisted” drones (e.g., Axon Air managed drones) and unknown/unauthorized drones.
About Maximiliano Grass Araya:
Maximiliano is Axon’s Director of Corporate Strategy. With prior experience including corporate strategy at Fiserv and management consulting at both McKinsey & Company and Matrix Consulting, Maximiliano has worked for 7+ years the field of strategy. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an Industrial Engineering Degree from the University of Chile.
Dedrone is a trademark of Dedrone Holdings, Inc. and Super Bowl is a trademark of the National Football League.