Deutsche Telekom is reportedly finalizing plans to launch a drone defense system this year, according to German publication Welt am Sonntag.
The company is looking for a solution to protect airports, stadiums, car test tracks and other critical infrastructure from drone enthusiasts who often venture into no-fly zones.
While this is often accidental, companies are also wary of being subject to hostile drone attacks, and are looking for a more robust way of avoiding near-misses with aircraft. Some reports suggest Deutsche Telekom’s answer is to fight back with its own drone system, while others suggest an electromagnetic pulse could be used to take the drones out of the sky.
Fight drones with drones?
Either way, the decision has been driven by car manufacturers which have asked Deutsche Telekom to provide anti-drone systems to stop drone-users taking photos of prototype tests on race tracks.
German football giants, Bayern Munich, are also said to have requested a system that stops drones being flown over their stadium during football games, according to Reuters.
Deutsche Telekom has answered these calls and confirmed its plans to offer a drone defense system later this year. Supposedly, the German telecoms company invited a number of drone defense firms to a demonstration of its technology in July this year, including U.S.-based Dedrone, Australia’s Droneshield, Norway’s Squarehead Technology and Airbus’s Rohde & Schwarz.
Reaction to Deutsche Telekom
Despite the fact that public and private firms have obviously called for a solution to curb drone use where it’s not permitted, the experts we spoke to questioned which was the right approach.
Art Swift, president of the prpl Foundation, is among those unsure about the move. “While it would help to have an eye in the sky where large crowds gather, I have to question whether ultimately introducing drones to these environments could potentially do more harm than good, given the weak security of these devices,” he said. “We’ve already seen cases where it’s been possible to hijack and remotely control a drone, and while it may not seem dangerous for one, single drone, if criminals can remotely takeover a number of these devices the outcome could be disastrous.”
“Until IoT developers and manufacturers start taking hardware level security seriously to drastically limit the possibility of remote takeover of a device, I would be wary about using them en-masse where the public is involved.”
CEO and founder of Drone Defence, Richard Gill, has a more positive view.
“I think it is good that…Deutsche Telekom is taking notice of the emerging threats posed by rogue drones,” he said to IoB in an email.
“As drone technology becomes more prevalent, airspace will need to be managed which will include identifying and mitigating unwanted drones. In time I could see Deutsche Telekom using their network of telephone masts and other telecommunications infrastructure to provide a foundation for drone flight monitoring…and enforce a ‘drone traffic management system.”
Gill said his drone security business – based out of the UK – has received a number of similar enquiries about drone protection solutions, so he’s empathetic about the concerns.
“I do think, however, that an ‘attack drone’ may not be the right answer at this moment. It would be an expensive and significant technological challenge to produce a drone which could effectively identify and neutralize a rogue drone quickly enough to prevent it from doing harm.”
Gill believes ‘electronic countermeasures’ are more effective solutions to combat commercial drones at present.