New devices promise to spot any radio-controlled aircraft or drones in the area
They are already being installed at airports worldwide amid flight safety fears
The new technology could also be bought by residents of exclusive enclaves
Several companies displayed drone-detectors at a London security conference
They are the must-have gadget blamed for putting aircraft at risk, smuggling drugs into prisons and even spying on neighbours.
So perhaps it is no surprise that the popularity of remote-controlled drones has sparked an industry in anti-drone technology.
New devices promise to spot any radio-controlled aircraft in the area and pinpoint on a map the person operating them.
Some work by identifying the wireless signals between a drone and its controller while others use radar or electrical pulses.
They are already being installed at airports worldwide amid fears that passenger safety is in jeopardy from illegal drone flights. Last month it emerged that a plane approaching Heathrow had near-misses with two drones.
The new technology could also be bought by residents of exclusive enclaves who fear being spied on by high-definition cameras on drones – or prison governors who want to stop contraband being flown in over jail walls.
There are also potential applications for the military. In Syria and Iraq, terrorist group Islamic State has used drones to gather intelligence and drop bombs.
Several companies were displaying drone-detectors at a security conference in London last week.
US-based DeTect installed its DroneWatcher system at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport last month.
A sensor placed on the control tower detects the radiofrequency signals of unmanned aircraft, while airport security staff use an app on their smartphones as ‘roving drone detectors’ that employ wi-fi to locate operators and identify the make and model of any drones nearby. A surveillance radar is also being set up to ‘provide a third layer of drone detection and defence’. DeTect’s President and CEO Gary Andrews said: ‘This is one of the first airports in the US to install a comprehensive drone detection system. While drones offer great promise to the benefit of society, the ability to detect and control improper or illegal use is a critical requirement for public safety, privacy and security.
DeTect is also in talks with a residents’ association which is concerned about drones over their homes, marina and golf course. It is hoped that a network of neighbours will be able to spot drones across a wide area by using the app.
Police at the University of Boulder, in Colorado, have used the system to monitor drone activity over a local stadium and on campus.
German firm Aaronia has also developed a device to ‘detect the incursion of unwanted drones, based on the directional real-time measurement of the electromagnetic emissions of the drone and its remote control’. It sends out alerts as soon as it detects that a drone is switched on – before it is airborne.
The firm boasts that its detector can track the location of the drone operator, and can be combined with a jammer to force a landing.
At the Counter Terror Expo at Olympia, British security firm Kelvin Hughes demonstrated a drone detection system called SharpEye SxV.
It uses mobile radar scanners ‘to monitor and intercept threats from drones in remote and difficult to access locations and also easily move locations’.