Airport Drone Mitigation Part 7: Cyber-C-UAS Mitigation Protection Plan

May 24, 2023 | Mark Rutherford

In my last blog ‘Airport Drone Mitigation -Part 6: So, Is Jamming a Viable Solution for Airports?,’ we discussed how a hand-held jammer could be one of the best ‘conventional’ rogue drone mitigation solutions, but also determined that it’s probably not a truly viable solution as it comes with huge disadvantages with excessively high risks. We concluded that we must continue to scour the horizon for a viable solution from emerging technologies and when doing so, a new technology option arises – Cyber Technology.

With cyber technology, we know what information is available, which makes us ready to create a Cyber-C-UAS Mitigation Protection Plan. Essentially, such a plan determines when something happens, what will happen and what you desire as an outcome, to protect an airport and its airspace.

Specifically, this is what you should expect of a proper Cyber C-UAS Mitigation Protection Plan:

  • An Alert Area: A Cyber-DTI area where you want to be alerted by the cyber-system when it passively detects an unauthorised drone entering the alert area perimeter or one that has popped up in the alert area. This can be a radius around a vehicle or airport or a plotted polygon on the map. Ideally, it will be at a specific distance which gives you ample warning so you can observe it and react in time, but not picking up drones in an area of no interest to your operations.
  • A Protection Area: A Cyber-mitigation no-fly zone is an area where you want the cyber-system to take full control of the rogue drone as it reaches the Protection Area perimeter, safeguarding the critical no-fly zone. This can also be a radius around a vehicle or airport or a plotted polygon on the map. It’s likely this will be the airport perimeter boundary or the outer edge of controlled airspace like the approach and departure paths, with a safe margin. Please note that you can have multiple Protection Areas within an Alert Area to protect critical airport facilities like fuel farms, antenna arrays, etc.
  • A Safe Landing Point: Designated landing points, plotted on a map which you deem to be safe places to land the unauthorised drone, after the cyber-system takes full control of it. Somewhere that will not interfere with operations, out of reach of the drone pilot but easy to collect from.
  • A Safe Route: Designated routes, plotted on map, which a  drone should follow once the cyber-system takes control of it, so it avoids crossing runways and critical infrastructure on its way to your Safe Landing Points. You should have as many Safe Routes to the Safe Landing Points as necessary to ensure the operation is not affected.
  • A Safe Altitude: Once the cyber-system takes control of the rogue drone the cyber-system will immediately command it to hover, so it doesn’t collide with anything. It will then command the drone to climb to a designated Safe Altitude before it begins to follow the Safe Route to the Safe Landing Point. This Safe Altitude should be set so there is no risk of collision with any building or obstacle within the Protection Area. 
  • Listing of Authorised Drones: The unique serial number of all drones authorised to fly in the Alert Area and Protection Area. These must be loaded into the cyber-system so they can fly without unduly alerting the staff operating the system or the system taking control of the authorised drones believing they are rogue drones. 
  • Manual and Automatic Mode:
    • Automatic Mode: The cyber-system will automatically monitor a drone in the Alert Area and as it reaches the Protection Area perimeter, it will disconnect the drone pilot and immediately place the drone into a safe hover. It will then command the drone to climb to the Safe Altitude before following the most appropriate Safe Route to the most appropriate Safe Landing Point, before shutting the drone down. During all of this, the cyber-system will notify the cyber-system operator of what is happening and provide them with the drone pilot’s location so law enforcement and security can deploy to intercept or apprehend.
    • Manual Mode: A cyber-system operator will be alerted of a unauthorised drone entering the Alert Zone. The operator will be responsible for pressing ‘Mitigation’ as the drone crosses the Protection Area perimeter. The cyber-system will then take over, disconnecting the drone pilot and following the same step as that for Automatic Mode.
  • Obtained Data: The cyber-system will store and provide the system operator with all the evidence they need to support any breaches of the no-fly zone, to support a conviction, as allowed by laws and regulations.

Only when a system is capable of all of this can we truly say we now have the next generation Cyber-C-UAS capable of protecting an airport.

Comparing Jamming to Cyber
In my next blog ‘Comparing Jammers to Cyber’ we will compare jamming against cyber, to determine which is the most suitable counter-drone technology for an airport.

Mark brings a vast amount of business and operational expertise, focusing on engaging with airports, critical national infrastructure, and those owning or managing estates and facilities, where the threat from drones/UAS poses a real risk. Mark delivers high quality and reliability to D-Fend’s customers and partners, educating the market about the need for the most advanced solution for safer airspace.

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