Armed Drones initiating climate of fear- are we ready to confront them?

It is ironic, that the technology designed for human benefit now needs a counter to safeguard humans from it! The journey from 1907 when the world’s first quadcopter was created to the DJI drones with smart computer vision and machine learning technology has been a quick one. 

On one hand, where we are working to make ambulance drones a reality, on the other hand, terrorists are working harder to use drones for illicit practices. Today drones can carry explosives, weapons, shoot bullets and steal sensitive data. 

The severity of the threat

Recent drone attacks have created a culture of fear among the civilians who have now started to see drones as a subject of fear rather than an aerial marvel of technology. The instance of drones smuggling weapons and narcotics to India from neighbouring countries is one such example.

On 14th September, a small drone rained explosives on the Saudi Arabian state oil group Aramco sites at Abqaiq and Khurais. National oil output was halved which cut 5.7 million barrels of crude per day from the company’s production. 

Hackers have started using drones as cyber weapons. Drones can simply aid social engineering techniques to access a victim’s confidential data taking advantage of human errors. By attaching easily available modules like raspberry pi to drones they can now exploit WiFi networks, steal data via Bluetooth sniffing, perform RFID scanning of credit cards and set up malicious networks imitating an authentic one allowing hackers to access all the traffic. 

Drone threats are evolving exponentially, this had led nations to think of ways to protect their airspace.

Anti-drone technology 

Anti drones are counter-drone systems that are designed to detect and disrupt the UAVs engaged in potentially malicious activities. India has over 6 lakh unregulated UAVs. There is a pressing need to develop anti-drone technologies to safeguard airspace. Security agencies are working on numerous anti-drone techniques such as-

  1. Drone gun: capable of forcing the drone to get to the ground by jamming radio, GPS and mobile signals between the drone and the pilot. 
  2. Skyfence systems: it uses a range of signal disruptors to jam the flight path of a drone and prevent them from entering a sensitive installation or event venue.
  3. ATHENA: it stands for Advanced Test High Energy Asset. It works by firing a high energy laser beam on a suspicious drone resulting in its complete destruction in air. This technology is currently being tested by the US army.
  4. Skywall100: It is a drone catcher. It is a ground-based system that can bring down a UAV using a parachute that is hurled through a net from 100 m distance.
  5. Thor: it is a high power electromagnetic weapon that is being developed by the United States Air Force (USAF) research laboratory. It uses energy to disable drones. When the target is identified, it discharges a high powered electromagnetic impact to bring the drone down.
  6. Phaser: it is a microwave-based weapon that is capable of wiping out the digital elements inside the drone. It operates with a speed of light and brings down the target without any explosion, debris or fragmentation.
  7. Drone malware: the malware could be used to disable the onboard autopilot and gain control remotely.

Due to the recent incident of UAVs being spotted on International borders the Border Security Force has sought an anti-drone system that can detect and destroy drones. The system is equipped with radars, radio frequency receivers, jammers and system controllers to combat any suspicious drone.

All this is making the world a warzone, as drones can immediately emerge from nowhere and compromise the security of humans. Both the dark and bright sides of drones are constantly competing on a technological ground, as no one wants to be left behind. 

But the question arises will this battle ever end? Well, the ultimate decision lies within human rationality. It will be thrilling to see who wins! We need to understand that the world around us is a volatile entity, which is changing every minute. We must ensure that the relevance of technology stays intact and significant as a lot of people’s livelihood and societal benefit is interlinked with it.

Written by: Palak Kumar