Video posted to social media shows Iranian security forces attempting to blast a reported drone out of the air over the city. What is tech’s answer to the threat of attack drones?
While the Federal Aviation Authority continues to debate how and where it is legal to fly drones in the city, security forces in the Iranian capital offered their thoughts on the matter: opening fire yesterday with anti-aircraft weapons to shoot a reported drone out of the sky.
In videos posted to Twitter, security forces identified what is being called a “camera drone” that by all appearances flew too close to the offices of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
Hearing gun fire in the otherwise quiet city, residents rushed to the rooftops and caught video of gunfire from camouflaged anti-aircraft positions.
— Abas Aslani (@AbasAslani) January 16, 2017
At this point it remains unclear as to whom the device belongs and why it was being flown in the restricted area.
According to The New York Times, this is the second such incident in a month where a drone was shot down over the city. In December, a drone was shot down in a similar case where there was confusion as to who the operator of the drone was, with the initial report stating that it belonged to the state television, an assertion that was later denied by the media outlet.
Growing concern over how to take down drones
Iranians are hardly the only ones concerned with the threat posed by drones flying over their city. As Geektime reported earlier this week, ISIS is making use of homemade and consumer drones like DJI’s popular Phantom to target civilians and soldiers in the embattled Iraqi city of Mosul.
Modifying the drones to carry explosives, ISIS is using the drones either as reusable aerial bombers or simply as kamikazes. Essentially very cheap “smart missiles” like anti-tank weapons, the militants are gaining an outsized battlefield advantage using consumer technology. This is not to mention the intelligence gathering capacities that non-state actors were previously denied.
While there have only been a few deaths reported from the drones thus far, two journalists working for the al-Hurra network were injured yesterday when their van was targeted by an ISIS drone operator.
— ??Iraq Live Update (@IraqLiveUpdate) January 17, 2017
2 journalists working for al-Hurra channel were injured by an ISIS drone in eastern Mosul. Earlier Rudaw footage showed ISIS drones.
— Wladimir (@vvanwilgenburg) January 16, 2017
So far responses from the private market have brought a variety of solutions aimed at bringing down drones without the use of gunfire, relying primarily on nets or signal jamming. Authorities are rightly concerned with issues of live fire over populated areas, either from errant fire or simply the falling debris from the damaged drone.
While some of these contraptions may seem a little far fetched, sort of like the idea of the Dutch police training eagles to snatch drones out of the air like prey, there appears to be increased interest by governments in this technology.
DroneShield with their futuristic looking DroneGun that they say can take control of an offending drone and force it to land, released to Geektime that they have signed a partnership with “a government organisation headquartered in a US Mid-Atlantic state” for testing and showing off technology to other governmental bodies.
If their solution is able to hold up to tests, DroneShield’s jamming solution seems to be the best idea put forward so far. Hitting a moving target with bullets let alone a much slower moving net is already hard enough, never mind the need to reload.
The threat posed by drones has been discussed already for a number of years. What is changing now though is the greater availability of consumer drones as prices fall and more manufacturers enter the market. The impact of this threat is affecting not only the authorities, but the advancement of commerce as well. Until security concerns – along with basic safety issues regarding standard mid-air malfunctions – are addressed, we are likely to see delays in the movement for airborne deliveries from Amazon or others.
It is probably premature for most folks to be worried that the buzzing overhead at your favorite park or beach is capable of anything more than annoyance. However for more sensitive sites, say airports, government offices, or even The White House, you can be sure that solutions are being sought out, creating an interesting market opportunity for creative entrepreneurs.