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Long-Distance Jammer Is Taking Down Drones

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The battle for control of the skies continues. As the amount of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) increases each year, contracting parties are stepping up their efforts to keep the devices out of the air. Battelle, a large nonprofit research and development organization headquartered in Ohio, has now developed a portable, shoulder-mounted rifle, dubbed the DroneDefender, that attacks UAVs with radio waves.

In a press release from Battelle, the gun is stated to use “radio control frequency disruption technologies to safely stop drones in the air, before they can pose a threat to military or civilian safety.” A video accompanying the post describes that it operates on standard GPS and ISM radio bands, allowing for it to interference with commercial UAV signals.

Reportedly, the DroneDefender can hit objects up to 400 meters with an effective cone diameter of 30°. This is about as far as Battelle goes with the technical details, so the actual frequency ranges of the rifle still remain unknown. However, it is easy to determine which ISM radio bands they most likely run on by looking at the consumer UAV market.

The DJI Phantom series, for example, as seen in video above, shows that the DroneDefender is likely targeting the 2.4 GHz range (if it is attacking the Phantom 1 or Phantom 2). This puts them on the same range as standard Wi-Fi networks, Bluetooth connections, microwave ovens, car alarms, baby monitors, and ZigBee devices. To disrupt the GPS signal, the rifle needs to broadcast at 1575.42 MHz or 1227.60 MHz, depending on the UAV.

When a remote control signal is interfered with, drones will often enter into their safety protocols, which usually includes one of three options. It will either hover in place until the pilot can regain a control link, attempt to land so the pilot can recover it physically, or try to return to its point of origin. Since the DroneDefender is mentioned to be attacking the GPS signal as well, the likely scenario is that the device will hover for a while or try to land.

On a legal standpoint, the DroneDefender seems to be in a grey area. According to FCC regulations, federal law prohibits the operation, marketing, or sale of any type of jamming equipment, including devices that interfere with cellular and Personal Communication Services (PCS), police radar, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and wireless networking services (Wi-Fi). Operation of a jammer in the United States may result in substantial monetary penalties, seizure of the unlawful equipment, and criminal sanctions including imprisonment.

[Image source: TechJournal]
Photo: TechJournal

The main reason for outlawing radio jamming equipment has to do with ensuring that emergency signals are not interfered with. If an accident occurs and a signal gets disrupted, lives could be at risk.

However, some states are proposing legislation, like in California, that would allow firefighters and authorities to take down drones if they are interfering with an emergency situation like a wildfire. Blocking approach paths to airports, hovering over fires, and flying over freeways could be considered instances where those drones can be shot down. However, whether or not officials would legally be allowed to use a radio jammer like the DroneDefender remains unclear.

For now, the video stands as a testament to the increasing influence that UAVs are having on society. People on both sides of the issue are arguing about whether drones should be allowed to fly in various areas and whether or not people are legally authorized to take them down. Surely, additional videos like this will surface over time, sparking further discussions along the way.

40 thoughts on “Long-Distance Jammer Is Taking Down Drones

  1. “On a legal standpoint, the DroneDefender seems to be in a grey area.”

    No, they are operating in a very black and white area. You can’t intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications (which over those bands the public is authorized to use) and to advertise, sell, distribute, or otherwise market devices that allow someone to do that in the US. They are illegal. Illegal for the public to use. Illegal for local authorities to use. Period.

  2. Most airports now have RNAV GPS instrument approach procedures. So what happens when someone points one of these at a landing 747?

    1. Those same airports usually have a VORTAC or at least VOR approach procedures, too.

      It’s much more difficult to do, but the easiest response to this “technology” is to program VOR / IFR navigation in the navi system. They would have to intentionally jam commercial aircraft navigational systems to stop it then.

      Also, if it detects that it is going from 12 locked GPS signals to 0, it could just switch over to VOR navigation, or navigation via known WIFI hotspots, cell towers, etc. They can’t block it all without serious repercussions.

      Sure, that’s a lot of radio equipment to load into a quadrocopter (or hexacopter, for that matter), but it may be interesting to buzz their facility in a quadrocopter and take a few pictures to demonstrate why escalating a tech war may be a bad idea…

      1. Possibly, however get caught with anything that is commercial technical information could be considered espionage…and flying over my house and collecting information about me..or my property will be considered trespass.

        There are MANY other ways to knock down a device that is trespassing. Believe me. I am intelligent and could easily come up with several workable defenses that would most likely destroy the offending device while it was ONLY over my property. Easy to defend actions then. The drone would have to be at least 400 ft high to avoid y personal rights in most states..and if there was an active camera over my property..then it would still be invasion of privacy.

        In fact, a nude sunbathing person could probably effect an arrest that included sexual charges. That has already happened and been upheld in other ways with remote operated cameras….fun being a registered sex offender for wanting to fly a device..isn’t it? Better think it through a LOT more.

        1. My point in flying over the company that makes these anti-drone guns is to demonstrate their ineffectiveness. The pictures would just be proof.

          While I’m sure you can come up with a defense against drone overflight, it wouldn’t be impossible to defend against anything you can come up with. What it comes down to is cost.

          You could make a catapult that fires heat-seeking avocados at the drone. Call it the Guacamole Gun. But how expensive would that be? This is the tech war I was talking about.

          As for flying over a nude sunbather resulting in sexual charges – you have to prove intent. And today’s drones have sophisticated onboard equipment to keep track of exactly where in 3D space the drone is at all times.

          If my drone is flying at 60 MPH and 800 feet over Class G airspace in farm country, and Emma Sue from the kumquat farm 2 miles down the road is sunbathing nude, and I happen to fly over, she would have to prove that it was me, that I even saw her, that I intended to look at her, etc., etc.

          The drone will log that I never went below a certain speed and altitude, and kept the gimbal pointed straight ahead. Hard to prove I had intent there.

          But if I flew over, saw her, then stopped the drone and lowered it to 40 feet and hovered it there for 3 minutes, *that* could prove intent.

  3. Not a rifle, not a gun. It is an emitter with a directional antenna. Don’t sensationalize MAKE, you have a great, engaged, educated audience, why insult them. Also, what Chris said.

  4. Not a grey area at all, not even a little. This is illegal, period. Selling, buying it, using it are illegal. The only grey zone is whether this article is a violation of the communications act of 1934 which makes it clear that marketing this sort of device illegal.

    1. Posting this article is NOT in a grey area… I guess you didn’t hear we have freedom of the press here in the US. Make: does NOT sell this device.

      1. If the article is marketing the device it is illegal, whether you approve or not. If they are not marketing it, then it is not illegal. They don’t have to be selling it. You should learn to separate your opinions and your emotions from objective reality, life will get much easier if you do.

        1. Sorry, you are 100% wrong and your comment is irrelevant… Make: is in the business of posting articles about the maker scene. That’s what they do! I would suggest you take your own advice.

          We can wait and see if the feds come and get them but the article has still been up for almost a month now.

          1. So you are saying that I am wrong that marketing such a device is illegal? You are really not very smart. Marketing it is illegal, if they are marketing it that is illegal, if they are not marketing it then it’s not. That is absolute, objective, verifiable truth, with the source cited in my original post. But perhaps the FCC is wrong and you, some random troll, are right, and the FCC is wrong.
            Please, prove to us how smart you are and cite your source for claiming that marketing this sort of device would be legal.

          2. Are you just an idiot or a troll? English not your first language? I have been pretty clear Make: is not marketing the device but are in the business of reporting on happenings in the maker scene. Don’t comment on a site if you don’t know what they are about…

            Thanks for playing asshole.

          3. Now you are just lying asshole. I said, in my first post, that it would be illegal if they are marketing it, and only under that specific circumstance. You, asshole, said I was wrong. I’m afraid, asshole, that no matter how much you want such a thing to be legal, it isn’t. Asshole. My god you are shockingly stupid. Asshole.

          4. Your first comment…

            “The only grey zone is whether this article is a violation of the
            communications act of 1934 which makes it clear that marketing this sort
            of device illegal.”

            My first comment…

            “Posting this article is NOT in a grey area… I guess you didn’t hear we
            have freedom of the press here in the US. Make: does NOT sell this
            device.”

            YOU implied the article was some grey area and I said it wasn’t and in my second comment directly said they were NOT marketing the device. YOU are the only one here talking about marketing this device is illegal and that’s what Make: may be doing. YOU are the only one who refuses to read my comments and understand English.

            Another thing… Don’t say shit online you wouldn’t face to face where you be picking your teeth off the ground faggot. Further comments by you won’t be read but I know in about three days you will take a break from your child porn viewing and comment again. Sigh…

    1. Law is funny like that, it is not an absolute rule of the universe but a human construct made by the most powerful groups currently wielding power – and designed to protect the interests of those groups – very strange eh?

  5. hmmm…. there are compelling arguments on both sides of the legal issue. You can say using this device is protecting OR violating your civil rights! The battle will drone on……

    1. if it is OVER my property or spying or collecting any information about me or my property..it is an invasion of privacy and a trespass. PERIOD>

      1. @sophiacamille: Thank You! I will read it. I thought I was the only one with that mindset as Ive never had any feedback on the statement the many times I’ve posted it on various sites.

    1. You should probably use #8 or #10 bird shot. That way it can’t hurt anyone when it comes back down. That’s what I intend to use on anything that comes over my privacy fence.

      1. That’s exciting and scares the s$$t outta me, the buzz of that thing, in the near future, is the sound of nightmares.

  6. That gun is crazy. I just saw an episode of scorpion and they used one. Although its still in tv so chances are it wasnt a real one. Im from ohio so its cool theyre developing technology to deal with the drone problem here too. I love flying them but I can see its definitely a way for evil people to use them for evil ways. They need to refine or tune or even develop new radar systems to pick up all these things flying around potentially armed or trafficking drugs. They can equipt the drone with something that puts off a signal that identifies that specific drone. Having a updated new radar system that also was able to receive and identify that signal from all drones legally registered. This is all talk of what i think it could be like in the future and now.If they use factors like flight path speed and elevation of any of the objects (drones birds planes etc) they could most likely determine wether its a bird or not if it didnt have an identification signal emitting from it along with those factors right from the get go. I mean come on i know its not easy but really were The United States of America! GOD BLESS US ALL!!!! Any unidentified drones would have to be dealt with accordingly wether its the dronedefense guns or drones that carry or emit that type of defense to take them down or take them over or whatever considering the situation or case. obviously if the drone was shooting someone or trafficking or causing troubles for police or firefighters or the airport the authorities would want that drone for evidence i would assume. But to think that any or all law enforcement could be equipped with this dronedefense gun and get to determine wether or not to take it down. That sounds kinda scary to me for the drone industry. It would really make it easier to determine and confirm that specific drones objective and information using something like i was saying earlier. On one end im all for that gun, armed drones or any of the like is all no good for anyones saftey and wellbeing overall. On the other end i can see it being taken advantage of or used for the wrong reasons. Drone are getting popular really popular. All sorts of Companies want to do all sorts of things with drones. Point is theyre going to be prevelent everywhere in the future. The guns need to have that detection system too reading the drones information tag signals that are around that gun like a radar. Police could use drones in the future for a tactical advantage against terrorists or any criminal at that, who knows what can come of the future. Dont you think the police drones should be immune to that jammer dronedefense gun so that if a criminal gets one then they wouldnt be able to shoot down the police drone.

    1. Oh, so you want to give away your freedom and have to register your drones…another liberal at heart.

      No..registration means CONTROL by government. Better that the control is in the people’s hands..and that for instance drones are not allowed over private property without written permission…and not allowed to use cameras or listening devices directed AT private property without written permission.

      personal rights a privacy is the issue. Flying a drone over rights of way and streets makes sense. over private property is very questionable.

  7. I would think if drones were being shot down that the realities had changed and the laws were irreverent.

  8. its a gun that disrupts instead of kills, sounds legal since we have the right to bare arms?

      1. Actually, that could be arguable. George Washington and many of the founding fathers not only had rifles, but owned mortar and cannon personally as well. In fact even in the civil war much of the “official” weapons were purchased by the officers themselves and paid for by their own resources.

        The Constitution allows for this specifically and being “armed” has changed in technology. Bullets and guns have never been the issue…we are allowed them. Cannon and nuclear weapons the government does NOT want us to have but the founders meant us to have only the same limit our government does. They made that perfectly clear in their arguments, writings and words recorded among them.

        Even body armor is now considered questionably illegal by authorities even though it is DEFENSIVE in itself. IT is considered a weapon..arming one’s self just like old style armor…which is and was covered by eh Constitution itself!

        I believe that We should be able to protect our privacy and “arrest” offending drones. Instead of a jammer, possibly a computerized controller that would overtake the controls and land it under arrest. that is not a jammer and would not be prohibited..yet.

  9. I say that if a drone is OVER my property and under say…500 ft elevation then it should be fair game to knock it out.

    I own the space over my property and the right to peaceful enjoyment and MY PERSONAL PRIVACY. Any drone flying over WILL have cameras and will be invading my privacy. Therefore I should have the right to “arrest” the trespasser.

    With regard to actual altitude, it is already known that any height that one MIGHT possibly be able to build to is legally owned by the property owner. Right to pass over is dependent upon laws…such as aviation law…and other issues.

    Private industry should NOT be allowed to take pictures or invade privacy by eavesdropping or spying or otherwise collection ANY data over a person’s property

  10. I understand drones in airspace above airports, freeways being an issue, but whats up with firefighters? I can see news crews using these things instead of helicopters for getting their stories.

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I'm a virtual reality, wearables, and technology art journalist who focuses on emerging trends in the maker, hacker, and inventor cultures. I like to travel around from place to place researching what is being made.

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