As I have remarked in the past, the recent population explosion of small UAVs will almost certainly lead to a recapitulation of the history of piloted aircraft. Overflights and harassment will lead to countermeasures, which will lead to counter-countermeasures, and combat. I’m not looking forward to it.
The Open Briefing folks just released a sobering report on “hostile drones” . Much of the tech media has been uncritical and giddily enthusiastic for anything UAV (e.g., Wired.com’s headline for this report was “When Good Drones Go Bad”, clearly betraying their own narrative spin.) This report is a useful reminder that these devices may be more trouble than they are worth.
The report does a quick run through many nefarious actors who might us drones for disruptive and dangerous purposed. This is rather obvious. Anyone that you would worry about having a gun or a bomb can now have a small private air force, too.
I was most interested in the section on “countermeasures” (pp. 14-18). This is grim reading, filled with military terminology and thinking. I really hate this kind of stuff, so you know that I am reading it only because it is very, very important.
As I have already said, much of this recapitulates military history.
Their “passive” countermeasures are methods for detecting and tracking drones. This describes the first moves in the inevitable cat-and-mouse game between detection and stealth. Beyond detection and warning, things get nasty fast, involving attempts to jam or hack into the control system of intruding UAVs–pretty much acts of war. While plausible for important targets such as public infrastructure, honestly, these are not technologies that I want in my home.
It will not stop with jamming, of course. “Active” countermeausres will surely be deployed including “kinetic” measures (projectiles and explosives) and lasers. The undesirability of deploying antiaircraft guns, missiles, and raygun emplacements in your yard should be obvious. Thus, less dangerous methods such as the MTU idea are definitely needed.
This report is mainly concerned with public policy, so they did not focus on the “lower grade”, sub-lethal threats to wildlife, pets, privacy and public order, such as snoopy neighbors, neighborhood bullies, and small time crooks. Snoopy neighbors with drones will certainly motivate countermeasures such as discussed in the report, but also will probably engender other behavioral and social measures.
For example, camouflage and concealment (even widow shades) may be an effect countermeasure against casual surveillance. One might also want to trace back to the nearby operator, and apply rough justice at the “airbase” itself.
This is all a headache I really didn’t need. Airwars in my neighborhood? Commando attacks on drone bases? No thanks.
This is a very timely and useful report. Recommended reading.
- Chris Abbott, Matthew Clarke, Steve Hathorn, and Scott Hickie, Hostile drones: The hostile use of drones by non-state actors against British targets. Open Briefing, London, 2016. http://remotecontrolproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Hostile-use-of-drones-report_open-briefing.pdf