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Drone Detection

The number of drones is constantly increasing – and not just in the private sector. In addition to hobby drones, these “unmanned aerial vehicles”, as they are properly called, have a long military tradition. This is one of the reasons why security professionals have, for some years now, been discussing the threats posed by drones, whether they can in fact be used for economic and industrial espionage or for terrorist attacks, and if so, how to prevent that.

So, anyone who wants to invest in drone detection should first of all establish what kind of threat drones actually pose to their company or organisation. Basically, it doesn’t take much to plan a drone operation: commercially available drones with corresponding control systems are available on the internet and a laptop, tablet or smartphone can be used for image transmission. In addition, drones can be equipped relatively easily with additional camera systems, for example for night vision, with thermal cameras or with sensors for WiFi spying.

Nevertheless, it’s by no means as easy as one might think to deploy drones for spying. However, there are scenarios in which the threat is real. Prisons have already had to deal with drugs or phones being smuggled in using drones. Increasingly, drones are also being incorporated into event security concepts. Even civilian drones are currently capable of transporting a weight of 100 kilograms. Terrorist attacks by this means are thus conceivable.


To date, there have not been any significant personal injuries, although plenty of incidents have occurred. In addition, interested parties who are seriously considering drone detection are often not sufficiently familiar with the legal requirements in Germany.

The most important prerequisite is to detect the flying drone. This can, for example, be achieved by enhancing existing video surveillance systems and video image analysis. The software then triggers an alarm in the case of flying objects of a certain size. Every commercial flying drone (i.e., not homemade) has unique identifying features which can be detected with sensors. This is one way to detect drones; others are radar or detection based on typical acoustic patterns. Others recommend combining all the known technologies. Basically, this is a relatively young market and consequently a lot is still in the testing phase.

Since December 2015, drones have not only had to be registered with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but also have to carry a kind of licence plate. In Germany, there is now a similar regulation for drones above a certain weight. Mounting a real defence against these buzzing threats is difficult. Here, it definitely isn’t allowed to do whatever one likes. Some manufacturers rely on “geofencing”, a kind of programmed fence based on GPS.

GPS spoofing, i.e. jamming the radio signal, is controversial and not permitted everywhere. There are also more military defence methods using trap drones, net guns, firearms, lasers – or even birds of prey, as is being tested in the Netherlands. The systems are mainly intended to protect locations like airports, sports stadiums, car testing tracks or major events with celebrities. Who should take drone detection measures and if so, which ones? You’re more than welcome to discuss this point with our experts.


Peter Dupach
Security Consultant

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