Considerations before implementing drone detection technology

Maintaining security and safety is more than installing a product and collecting data


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By Linda Ziemba

We all know the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This is especially true when it comes to drone detection and response tactic planning.

To be clear, a drone detection system that consistently provides accurate information is a great place to start. But more importantly, security and safety are more than a product or collection of products – it’s a process. Both the technology and response to the intelligence that technology provides are integral for success.

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drone detection technology

According to a March 2020 report, 1,103 law enforcement agencies in the United States use drones. While there are many positive applications, drones have also led to threats from clueless/careless hobbyists and bad actors, urging correctional facilities to take action to detect nefarious drones.

Drone flight and drone detection technologies in the United States are governed by federal law and informed by important policy considerations like air safety, national security and public privacy. But in order to meet the market demand for a solution to these threats, some drone detection and mitigation companies created products without full consideration for the environment they would be operating in or the laws surrounding them.

Some drone detection systems:

  • Were developed and tested in the desert where there are no obstacles or competing signals (cars, buildings, wi-fi, etc.).
  • Do not adhere to strict Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations protecting public safety and privacy (a recent federal advisory goes into more detail).
    • Many drone detection vendors either blatantly or quietly disregard the privacy laws (DOJ).
  • Were designed to meet wartime conditions where aesthetics and regulations don’t matter as much and price isn’t a limiting factor.
  • Generate too many false alarms and cause staff to ignore alerts.
  • Miss too many drones.
    • Correctional facility delivery pilots understand some drone detection systems don’t detect certain drone manufacturers and plan accordingly.

Corrections entities do not have the authority to physically or electronically take drones out of the sky, so traditional mitigation systems aren’t an option. But that doesn’t mean security and safety teams are defenseless against drone threats or should wait for the laws to change.

A drone detection system that locates the drone and pilot (controller), when legally deployed, can be an extremely valuable piece of technology for safely mitigating aerial threats.

With so many false claims out there, finding legal technology that can accurately tell you where the drone and pilot are located with few false alarms is half the battle. But it doesn’t just stop there.

Realistic response options

Correctional facilities must carefully consider drone detection objectives before embarking on technology deployment.

Priorities, tactics and response protocols for both drone-borne contraband prevention and capture, as well as pilot/controller apprehension, should drive how the technology is configured and deployed.

Correctional facilities may want to respond quickly when drones are detected by putting the prison on lockdown so officials can seize any contraband and send response teams or local law enforcement to apprehend the pilot. Conversely, officials may want to track the drone carefully to prevent contraband from entering the facility when they house a high-profile gang member. Their objective could be to quietly send a response team for pilot apprehension in order to flip them to become an informant to work back up the supply chain. When correctional officers are not peace officers with arrest powers, collaboration with local law enforcement to alert them immediately and work out response tactics improves detection outcomes significantly.

Regardless of the deployment, tabletop exercises with key participants across agencies enhance technology deployment outcomes to help alert the appropriate people at private industry facilities and law enforcement.

The bottom line is drone detection is technology. The lower the false positives and the higher the number of drones detected, the more effective the system. But the detections and alerts are not what will reduce drone risk alone. The organization’s consistent, quick response to the actionable intelligence provided by a drone detection system will prevent and reduce drone risks.

NEXT: How to buy drone detection (eBook)


About the author

Linda Ziemba is the founder and CEO of AeroDefense, which provides a Radio-Frequency-based system capable of detecting, classifying, locating and tracking UAS/drones and their ground controllers (pilots). Ms. Ziemba’s Internet security experience, coupled with her communications engineering background, enabled her to imagine the concept, and build and lead a team that developed the only drone detection system to receive a Department of Homeland Security SAFETY Act designation. The system is deployed at MetLife Stadium and several correctional facilities across the United States.

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