The emergence of drone technology has been followed by a meteroic rise in popularity. Drones are used on a global scale for a huge variety of use cases. IHS Janes predicts that be 2021, over USD12 billion will be invested globally in drone hardware. That’s a pretty impressive figure for a nascent market. Drones can play an integral role in government and business, providing a useful tool that can reach remote areas without the requirement for manpower. They are used for aerial photography, express shipping and delivery, precision crop monitoring and border surveillance to name just a few applications. Available in all shapes and sizes and from tens to hundreds and thousands of pounds, for short and long range, drones are in great demand. However, they can also be hazardous and can have a darker, more sinister side
Drone Defence is a UK-based technology security company that aims to help individuals and organisations to protect themselves against the harmful use of drone technology. “Harmful use can mean several different things,” explains Richard Gill, Founder and CEO, Drone Defence. “It could be anything from criminal intent to reckless or non-malicious but ignorant use that could bring harm to people or businesses.”
So, the fun toy that was bought for Christmas could become a dangerous threat if not used properly and within regulations. Incidents of drone misuse or invasive use of drones are on the rise and, with rising sales of drones of all sizes, this is already becoming a growing problem. “It is happening a lot more than people actually realise and this is the critical thing,” continues Gill. “We believe that it’s a bit of an iceberg scenario where there’s only one tenth of the activity actually recognised and even less being reported in the news. It’s one of those things that is growing at a phenomenal rate.”
But what do drones have to do with superyachts and why are owners increasingly concerned about the potential threats they pose? The biggest and most obvious threat is to privacy. For superyacht owners, privacy is of paramount importance and drones, whether they are being flown by innocent users or used invasively by paparazzi, can be a source of great concern. “It’s always a worry to yacht owners as to who is behind the controls” says Gill. “It could be an innocent user trying to get a picture or it could also be something more malign where someone is looking at who is on board and what security protocols the boat employs or even to deliver a weapon or an explosive device – the owner of the boat and the crew could be at risk.”
Drone Defence offers technology solutions that focus on disrupting the signal from the operator to the drone in the sky, essentially preventing the drone from communicating video feed or being controlled by the drone operator. The products create a protective bubble around the superyacht.The company’s Dynopis E1000MP drone jammer is specifically designed to be back-pack mounted, man-portable & future-proof. “This be purchased by a superyacht owner immediately and deployed this summer to address the concerns for this season. It’s very simple to use and can be operated by the crew,” says Gill.
For more complex deployments, Drone Defence offers systems that can be fully installed and integrated into a boat’s security system during a refit or can be specified at new build stage. This is a permanent installation and renders the boat drone-safe.
At this stage its probably useful to address some drone jamming myths that have been circulating about the effect that jamming technology can have on other ship’s communications systems. Is it more trouble than it’s actually worth? “Some people are selling really high powered jammers,” Gill explains. “With any radio transmission, if you burst out a really high powered radio transmission it has the potential to damage other radio devices in the vicinity. Our philosophy is to use the absolute minimum power required to have the effect that we want to have on the drone. Our levels are so low that you would get more RF radiation from your mobile phone being placed next to your ear than from our devices so it really is a tiny amount of power that we use to disrupt the drone. The drone is also operating on a tiny amount of power. It’s a fine balance but one that we believe we have struck, using very high quality components and minimum power. We can effectively disrupt a drone but have a minimal effect on other systems. We have experienced no impact of using a drone jamming device on other systems.”
The concern over the drone threat to superyacht owners and users is a very real one but there is some confusion over what is available in terms of solutions and some providers that may be more reliable than others. “We have a UK-made and designed capability, a solution available for this season that will absolutely protect the boat and can be available within weeks of ordering that can solve the immediate issue. We provide, economical and effective solutions for a wide range of customers including the UK government and overseas. We have a proven track record in the market,” concludes Gill.