DroneTracker can spot, identify and track problem drones

By Patrick C. Miller | August 04, 2016

Those concerned about privacy or drones intruding where they’re not wanted now have the option of fighting technology with technology.

DroneTracker 2.0—manufactured by German company Dedrone GmbH—enables individuals and organizations to identify and track unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that might either be too nosy, jeopardizing safety or posing a threat to the public.

“We have not seen any other passive sensor out there that’s at the point of where we have our technology,” said Lee Jones, Dedrone’s sales manager for the Americas. The system can detect drones up to a mile away and send alterts to the system operator, he noted.

The DroneTracker 2.0 system is totally passive, meaning that unlike radar which emits energy that reflects off objects, the tracking technology listens for a drone’s radio frequency (Wi-Fi signal) and its acoustic signature—engine noise. It also uses video to spot and track an intruding UAS. Infrared vision is available for low-light or night operations.

The Wi-Fi sensor—added earlier this year—detects drones through the signals that control them or their sensors. It also reads the MAC address of the emitting device, enabling it to identify drone models and individual devices.

The software used with DroneTracker is called Drone DNA. Jones said it relies on UAS manufacture data to develop profiles of specific drone models. New profiles are constantly added to a cloud-based system.

“It allows us to identify drone activity and label what type of drone it is,” Jones explained. “We know all the specs of the drone so we can determine the potential threat. Is it capable of holding a camera or carrying a significant payload? We also know its range of operation, which can tell where the operator might be.”

While the FAA admits that few UAS operators violating its rules ever get caught, Lee said DroneTracker could change this.

“The technology uses a network to triangulate the position of the operator and gives the coordinates of the receiver,” he said. “It can be an operator or a computer. Through the wireless link, we can locate the drone and then find operator by tracking the flightpath of the drone in real time.”

Even if an illegal drone pilot isn’t caught immediately, Lee said DroneTracker gathers forensic information that can be used in an investigation. The visual, acoustic and flight data collected can be used to pursue a legal case or lawsuit, he said.

Jones said Dedrone's customers include security professionals and managers of airports, schools and stadiums, as well as private citizens.

“Keeping the public safe is our greatest priority; that’s our ultimate end user,” he said.

According to Dedrone, more than 100 partners distribute DroneTracker worldwide, including international corporations such as Securitas and Bosch Security Systems.

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