Airport Drone Mitigation
Part 2: The Issues with Jamming Drone Frequencies

November 23, 2022 | Mark Rutherford

In my previous blog post– What is Jamming and How does it Work?, we reviewed “Jamming 101” topics – what are jammers, and how they operate. In this blog post, we will look at the frequency bands that drones operate on, and how jammers deal with them.

Frequency Bands

Commercial drones operate on four frequency bands: 2.4GHz, 5.8GHz, 433MHz and 915MHz.

Most of the more expensive commercial drones operate on 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz and use GPS L1, enabling the pilot to fly the fixed wing or quadcopter up to approximately 5km away, with some as far as 12km. Some of them automatically frequency hop between these bands or allow the pilot to configure it, and some can use one of these bands for flying and the other to send imagery back to the pilot. Amateur-built drones tend to use 433MHz or 915MHz, which may considerably extend their range, but will limit the rate and quality of the video feed from the drone, and at times will reduce the quality of communication with the drone.

The issue with jamming these four frequencies is that they’re not dedicated for use by drones only. These frequencies are also used by hobbyists for controlling models like cars, boats, aircraft, etc., and each frequency also plays a vital role in maintaining normal operations:

  • 433MHz is used by amateur radio operators and is also the wireless standard for home and workplace control and automation, which includes remote controls, vehicle keyless entry devices, door, gate and garage openers, window and door contact sensors, motion sensors, temperature sensors, water leak sensors, wall sockets, watering systems, home weather stations, headphones, baby monitors, etc. The list is endless.
  • 915MHz is used by walkie-talkies and amateur radio operators, and as a radar frequency for aviation and maritime. While its wireless networking is being phased out, it’s essential for long-range wireless access networks where it transmits information from gas, water, and electricity meters.
  • 2.4GHz is used in some radar systems, as well as in CCTV. It is the major operating band for the IEEE 802.11 standard for wireless data networks which serve Wi-Fi hotspots and communication, used by Bluetooth devices, IEEE 802.15.4-based wireless data networks, wireless peripherals like keyboards and mice, microphones, and speakers. It’s used for car alarms, video imagery senders, smart power meters, wireless power transmission, cordless telephones, microwave ovens. Like 433MHz, it’s also used for baby monitors, amateur radio operators, door, gate, and garage openers. Again, the list is endless.
  • 5.8GHz is used for weather, military, and amateur-satellite radars. It’s also a major operating band for the IEEE 802.11. standard for wireless data networks used by Wi-Fi communication, point-to-multipoint equipment for wireless internet service provider (WISP) solutions, broadband internet access, and IP video surveillance, network access points, wireless LAN applications and networks, WiMAX networks, wireless audio, and video systems.

While the above list is not exhaustive, it’s enough to establish that jamming any of these four frequencies could have a detrimental effect on an airport’s operations, as well as possibly a major collateral effect on the businesses and homes which surround an airport. But if you must use a jammer because nothing else is available, you must select a type capable of jamming drones using all four frequencies.

Not easy …

In my next blog – Types of Jammers – we’ll go a bit further on the different types available today.

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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