Back in the 90s, when we were kids, we used to ask for bicycles or retro consoles on our birthdays or for Christmas. Those things were quite fancy at that time and we loved to have one of those.
While smartphones, smartwatches, and Hoverboards became the trendy gifts of this decade, there’s another gadget on the list that has just gained the popularity. Do you know what it is?
We all know how popular drones have become among almost every gadget lover, adventurist, and filmmakers. There was a time when shooting Ariel scenes in movies without using helicopters was impossible. But now, it makes much more sense to use a quadcopter which is more convenient and pocket-friendly.
This popularity of drones has boosted drone sales in the recent years. 67.7 million units of quadcopters will get sold annually by 2012, predicts Tractica.
This huge popularity is not just due to photography & filmmaking only. Drones play a key role in security tasks, too whereas they help in power line inspections, disaster rescue operations a lot easier than before.
Israel even revealed surveillance drones that can completely replace security guards. These drones can automatically detect and follow a trespasser which can help authorities to easily capture an intruder, fascinating but creepy at the same time (You know what we’re trying to say).
Let’s pin the sales and popularity stats right here and move on to a concern that is also rising with the same speed.
That concern is of privacy. Not too much time has passed when last time we heard a person shooting a drone down.
How serious is this drone privacy concern?
Pretty serious in my opinion.
Drones have become a nuisance to people’s privacy. Nobody wants a camera hovering over backyard filming young ladies basking in the afternoon sun. Well, I’m not giving you a hypothetical situation.
This incident actually happened in July 2016. The house owner turned $1800 drone into a falling stone with his shotgun.
This doesn’t end here. A thief can do a recce of a house before sneaking in. A sulky person can even drop acid over your beautiful garden that he hates!
I mean possibilities to abuse it are endless. Everyone doesn’t own a shotgun. People can get creative, you know. I may be making flowers rain for my GF!
You know must be getting that privacy, though is biggest, isn’t the only concern. There are reports of drones being used in drugs delivery and other illegal goods in jails. That’s another thing to worry about now.
I told you people get creative and this creativity is sometimes a matter of worry!
What solution do we have?
Many. But nothing is too concrete. Even though the USA and many other countries now have statewide regulations for drone owners. We, however, find “drone shot down” headlines in news frequently.
People, thus, have taken drones quite seriously. They have devised multiple methods to prevent these flying cameras from invading their privacy.
Taking down drones have become a research topic now. In October last year, Robi Sen, a researcher from department 13, a counter drone product maker, revealed a tiny attachment that can give you complete control of a drone in your vicinity while locking the original controller.
He’s not alone in his pursuit against rogue drones. I just finished with analysis of a patent that discloses a fully automated device that can hijack any drone within an area without giving the owner even a slight hint.
How does this automated drone hijacking device work?
The device keeps scanning for drone signals within a defined area, and as soon as a drone is detected, it analyses its signal strength to detect the drone make and model and then initiate a termination signal.
The termination signal then locks the original controller of a drone, letting the device fully control the drone.
This full control also includes the video feed.
Brief explanation (Nerd friendly)
The drone hijacking device includes four 90° sector antennas (image below), few directional antennas, a connected computing device, and a cannon (yes, a cannon that shoots tennis balls).
The device, using the sector antennas, keeps scanning an area for trespassing drones. The antennas can focus on common ISM bands 915 MHz, 2.5 GHz, and 5.8 GHz, used by almost every drone in the market.
As soon as it detects a drone flying in its vicinity, it figures out the location and direction of the drone (using the signals from individual sector antennas). The antennas also detect and analyze the hopping intervals, frequencies, center frequencies, modulation types, frequency spreading factors and other non-standardized drone control signal protocols to precisely predict a drone make and model and its location.
The antennas also detect and analyze the hopping intervals, frequencies, center frequencies, modulation types, frequency spreading factors and other non-standardized drone control signal protocols to precisely predict a drone make and model and its location.
This information helps the connected computer in generating an override signal for each drone. After the analysis and override signal generation, directional antenna comes into play. It emits the override signal in the direction of drone which then suppresses the original drone control signal and connects it with a new control signal.
The device, after the takeover, quickly emits another override frequency to take over the video feed as well. Now, the drone is driven to a secure area where it is then seized by authorities (I’m just making up this situation, original procedure might be different).
You might be thinking now, what was the role of the cannon then?
The cannon is a failsafe. If the override signal fails or somehow is not able to take over the drone, the cannon can then shoot a tennis ball at the drone to neutralize it.
This was just an example of how people are taking drone surveillance seriously and taking a step ahead to prevent illegal acts. This patent is a great fit for prisons and secured areas where authorities cannot tolerate trespassers.
But now, as the idea is out there, let’s see how long it’ll take to reach the market.
Also, a popular drone company DJI has designed a drone for walking our pets outside without our help.