The Use and Abuse of Drones
They are here and like any weapon, they can be used by you and against you.
The old Dirty Harry movie, the “Dead Pool”, has Dirty Harry chased by an RC car that was going to explode. The moviee was panned by many as the dumbest chase ever imagined. It does not seem so dumb today after RC cars have actually been used to convey bombs. The ability of RC cars is greater than before, the new Traxxas Xo-1 can go over 125 miles per hour, you cannot out race it. RC boats can hit over 200 MPH, and just recently an RC controlled jet traveled at 440 MPH. At these speeds who needs explosives? These high performance RC devices can maim and kill with kinetic energy. The cheap drones, those for $700 and under can be used, as simply as a platform to harass or to view what should not be viewed. These are not low resolution pictures. At 16 MP – these entry level drones can produce darn good images and travel at over 40 MPH. There are also stories of drones used to fly drugs over international boarders, drop drugs weapons and cell phones into prison yards, and to spy on cheating lovers.
So what is one to do for defense from drones?
Well a few companies are making drone detection systems. These detection systems rely on the radio waves generated by both drone and controller to steer and direct the drone.
Many just have a “notice feature” – a notice that a drone is operating in range and others have three or more receivers to not only tell you a drone is operating within range but also where it is reasonably precise in indicating the make and model of the drone. Other systems identify the drones by use of an ultra sensitive microphones and not only can detect the drones but can also identify the make and model of the drone based upon their unique acoustic signature.
There are few legal countermeasures. Broadcasting a disruptive signal, RF jamming is not permitted. Furthermore, skeet shooting drones is also illegal and most likely the drone operator will have an excellent picture of you shooting down the drone. If the drone is a paparazzi drone – you’ll make the headlines, if it is a real threat – oh well, those folks don’t sue. Than again, we shot a drone down in a Latin American country. We required the owner to retrieve the drone on our property. However, we did pay for his drone to be replaced. It was a good warning to the drone operator and a good response to mend the fence that was overflown and damaged.
As for legal drone countermeasures, lasers to blind the cameras have been mediocre in their effectiveness, firstly the lasers have to be strong enough and secondly you have to hit the camera lens when the lens is open and recording. Some of the new Blue 700mW lasers are more than strong enough to do the trick, some are even strong enough to catch paper on fire and ignite gasoline. These lasers cost under $300 USD. I like ‘Wicked Lasers Arctic Spyder3’ Laser – but that’s is me.
The other purpose is to possess an even cheaper drone and ram the offending drone. While we have not seen this done, we like it conceptually. It is legal and might prove to be effective.
How can the Grayman use drones?
We have seen drones used to survey an area very quickly from a slight elevation. The drone survey routes, properties and venues so that the team can get a good view of a given location and know more of what to expect. Drones have been used to take multiple photos and videos over time to look for changes in a route, property and venues. Viewing the aerial footage side by side from the previous filming it makes it easier for the team to spot small changes such as the movement of a park bench or the addition of a new trash can, things that might otherwise go unnoticed.
I have also used a drone to fly in front of a lead car in a city, where the speeds were generally slower, under 40 mph, and the drone flew up to a mile ahead to look for mischief. Mostly it has been helpful in spotting traffic congestion, but the drone has also helped us to avoid a few paparazzi ambushes.
RC cars, boats, planes, and helicopters are here and here to stay. As the price and skill required to operate drones drops so will the deployment of these tools for offensive and defensive uses.
The intended use of drones by Graymen should be shared in advance with local officials. The use of the drone should conform to local laws and customs where possible. A drone spotted flying low over traffic will generate many calls to the gendarmes, it is best to have them ready. Sometimes we offer to leave the equipment after our use for the local officials experimentation or have one of them join us when using the drone. These offers have seemed to overcome most hurdles we have encountered. Most equipment used is about €1,200 ±, but becomes amazingly valuable when you can show a client how we, their Graymen, defeated a paparazzi ambush. Maybe one day, they will help to stop an armed ambush.
This Executive Protection article was written or edited by Baron James Shortt, the Executive Director of the IBA.