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Security company aims to halt expanding drone threats

By Patrick C. Miller | March 02, 2017

Joerg Lamprecht went from being the CEO of a drone manufacturer to the CEO of Dedrone, a San Francisco-based security company that helps keep drones away from where they don’t belong.

Lamprecht co-founded the company about two years about with Ingo Seebach, chief operating officer, and Rene Seeber, chief technology officer. The inspiration for Dedrone occurred in 2013 when a small drone hovered over and then crashed in front of German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a campaign event.

As it turned out, the unarmed drone was flown as a publicity stunt by an activist group trying to make a statement on government transparency.

“If there had been a hand grenade or something on that drone, she could easily have been killed,” Lamprecht recalled. “There was no way they could have protected her. That’s when I decided to do something to protect against drones; that was the birth of Dedrone.”

As Lamprecht sees it, the potential problems posed by unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are increasing every day.

“Every month, there’s been 600,000 new drones sold and entering the airspace. That’s double the amount of commercial airliners,” he explained. “They’re here to stay. Drones are here to fulfill tasks and do good things in many ways, but they can also be used by the bad guys to do really bad things.”

For example, Lamprecht cites recent news reports of ISIS using grenade-dropping drones in the Mideast to attack U.S. forces. He knows of an incident where a drone landed on the roof of an office building and successfully hacked into a company’s network. In another case, a drone flying outside a skyscraper posed as a printer on a Wi-Fi network to steal print jobs.

“We see 10 to 15 incidents a day from malicious drones, but there’s way more that people don’t’ talk about,” he said.

Dedrone’s DroneTracker technology provides physical security and the cyber-security to protect airspace.

“This can be at events like we did for the presidential debates last year or the World Economy Forum or really prominent buildings that have a constant need of protection,” Lamprecht said. “It ranges from protecting embassies in Chili as well as data centers in the San Francisco Bay area. We also protect car test tracks in Germany.”

The system is designed to stop the use of drones for smuggling contraband into prisons, spying, intelligence gathering and to protect the privacy of celebrities from paparazzi drones. Lamprecht is especially concerned about weaponized drones that could be used for terrorist attacks at large events or assassination attempts.

Dedrone uses passive systems to detect and identify drones. Its technology can determine not only the exact type of drone, but also who owns it, where the operator is located, its flight path and sometimes what it’s seeing. What occurs as a result of this information gathering depends on the level of security needed.

For example, protecting the White House requires a higher degree of protection than a prison primarily concerned about drones delivering contraband to inmates.

“The White House would have higher security needs because any drone could be equipped with a weapon or explosives,” he said. “So we need to bring it down—whatever it takes. But keep in mind that anything you bring down could come down some place you don’t want, like a school.

“In the majority of cases,” Lamprecht continued, “there’s no need for active countermeasures. It’s enough that you know there’s a drone and you can prove whose drone it is, it’s serial number and where it’s coming from—and that’s a lot to know.”

Dedrone’s current customers include business, stadiums and prisons, as well as government and industrial facilities. Within the next two or three years, Lamprecht believes the company will have consumer-level systems on the market.