June 19, 2014
Personal Drone Detection System Launched On Kickstarter
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Drones continue to be an effective tool at getting straight to the enemy. On Wednesday a U.S. drone strike killed five militants in Pakistan's North Wariristan tribal region, and the Wall Street Journal reported that this was the first drone strike in the country since Pakistan launched a full-scale military operation against militants earlier this week.
However, there has been a growing debate on whether drones should be used in America either for surveillance or commercial purposes. The debate intensified last month when a small drone – a DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter equipped with an HD camera – reportedly slammed into the Metropolitan Square building in St. Louis. The drone was found on a 30th floor balcony and so far the police and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials are uncertain as to who might have been flying the craft.
While drones have legitimate uses in filmmaking and even farming, there has been growing concern that commercially available drones – which can range in price from $500 to $1,500 – could be used for surveillance and violate privacy. Personal drones are also not currently regulated by the FAA, and only a few municipalities have any laws forbidding the use of drones.
This week APlus Mobile, Inc. of Portland, Oregon launched a Kickstarter campaign that looks to provide some anti-aircraft security for those who fear drones. The Personal Drone Detection System won't actually shoot down a drone, but instead is designed to block the signals sent from a drone's camera and surveillance systems. The basic system consists of three boxes including a "Primary Command and Control Module" and two "Detection Sensor Nodes."
These three units can be used to create a mesh grid network that can triangulate moving transmitters. The C&C Module provides a user interface via Wi-Fi that can connect through a tablet, smartphone or PC, and if it detects a drone the user will receive a notification. The module runs on APlus Mobile's MotherBone PiOne open source software platform.
"There are legitimate uses for domestic drones, but there are still concerns about privacy and surveillance by various entities," Amy Ciesielka, the founder of Oregon-based Domestic Drone Countermeasure, told The Verge.
The developers also noted that the module and nodes utilize a mesh grid network that only communicates within itself, and while the Primary Command and Control Module can communicate with a user's personal Wi-Fi network, it acts as an isolated device. Neither this module nor the nodes will extend a user's personal Wi-Fi network and it will not be susceptible to outside hacking or other infiltration via the grid.
The grid can also be enhanced and enlarged with additional Detection Sensor Nodes, which can be placed up to 200 feet away.
Ciesielka and APlus Mobile have been working on the Personal Drone Detection System for more than a year and are using the crowd-funding site to raise funds to develop a production model that would be commercially available. The Kickstarter campaign will run through July 15, and the goal is to reach $8,500. At press time the campaign had nine backers and raised more than $220.
While most people probably won't ever need to fear drones, the fact that there is such technology does mean that there is likely a place for counter-measures and the Personal Drone Detection System looks to fit the bill.
"With the number of drones in the air, folks are getting bit concerned about what these things can see," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told redOrbit. "Clearly they can fly near and see through windows, into yards, and into confidential areas in companies and hospitals, (which) are particularly sensitive about cameras due to privacy laws."
It could be argued that drones are the new "black helicopters" among conspiracy theorists, but as the saying goes, "Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean someone isn't out to get you." The technology could also appeal to anyone who truly fears for their privacy.
"When there are concerns, real or not, there is an opportunity to sell protection and for some believe they can sense a drone nearby," added Enderle. "Let's say if they were growing marijuana or are a celebrity. It would give piece of mind although unless you can disable the drone immediately I doubt this provides much real protection. But if you can detect, given these are wireless, it likely won't be long until you can aggressively disable these flying devices and it could literally be raining drones near areas where celebrities are having events after that point."