The following is a guest post by Mary-Lou Smulders, Chief Marketing Officer of Dedrone. DRONELIFE neither accepts nor pays for guest posts.
The year ahead for airspace security: 7 predictions from Dedrone’s CMO
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Drones have become more capable and accessible over time. Drones are found in nearly every area of public life – from industry and agriculture to entertainment, law enforcement, military operations and critical infrastructure.
This trend shows no sign of slowing down. Drones are and will continue to be an increasingly important fixture in our personal and work lives. Therefore, governments must find ways to allow drone users and manufacturers to continue to innovate while mitigating the potential harm of malicious and/or careless use.
Fortunately, 2023 promises to provide much-needed clarity on this front. We will see progress in establishing a coherent regulatory framework for how governments (local and national) deploy and use counter-drone technology. The unmanned aerial systems (cUAS) industry will also continue to innovate as it attempts to protect commercial and government personnel and property where the risk of drone interference is high.
In addition to these overwhelmingly positive developments, we will also see malicious actors adapt their tactics to circumvent existing counter-drone measures. As malicious drone users become more sophisticated, government entities and private sector organizations will be under pressure to adapt.
To learn more about this changing threat landscape, and how industry and governments are responding, read on for Dedrone’s seven top predictions for 2023.
DJI’s market loss is bad actor’s gain
It’s clear that DJI will continue to have the largest market share of flying drones in the near future, but it’s losing out to competitors in China and elsewhere. The non-DJI market share is clearly gaining ground in both commercial and hobbyist use. As more non-DJI/DIY drones are produced, bad actors will use these Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to evade detection by AeroScope sensors. AeroScope only senses DJI drones and is blind to all other drone manufacturers
As a result, open spaces, airports, correctional facilities, and other locations will require some form of drone detection without relying solely on AeroScope. This means that sensor fusion capabilities will be key to a robust cUAS solution. This approach is the only way to provide true airspace awareness and protection for facilities with open-air components to ensure the safety of event attendees, passengers, pilots, correctional staff, and more. As more venues look to develop airspace safety, expect a surge in cUAS vendors applying for Safety Act certification.
When it comes to drones, people will realize that drone hardware is just as important — if not more important — than drone software.Most drone manufacturers have invested in AI and CV (Computer Vision) technology to enhance the user experience for customers, but as use cases move from consumer/hobbyist to serious industrial and even military applications, ruggedness will be required military-grade airframe
Beyond sight becomes a universal reality
In addition to the need for regulatory and government action around the threats drones can pose, we also expect to see drone-as-first-responder (DFR) pilot programs pop up around the world, pushing the U.S. regulatory horizon around the Beyond Visual Line Of ( BVLOS) developed faster. DFR has had limited use in the US and has shown positive results in a number of use cases, providing real-time visual data in incidents before responders even arrive, documenting crime scenes, finding missing persons, and more.
Currently, BVLOS flights are prohibited in US airspace without the FAA’s strict waiver process. Although the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed in 2022 that BVLOS is more positively welcomed, it is still in the recommendation phase. With the FAA still in the process of developing the rules, the technology is moving beyond regulation and progress is slowing.
Ongoing technological advancements in drone capabilities and slow mobile regulation underscore the need for local law enforcement to have mobile drone detection options that can address concerns surrounding BVLOS – avoiding any collisions and identifying unauthorized drones among many licensed drones machine. With drone pilots as bad actors able to stay away from their targets, more methods and vulnerabilities are now exposed.
Contraband in corrections continued
In-person visits and physical mail remain limited due to protocols and technologies introduced to stop the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities. We’re already seeing more and more drone deliveries of contraband like cellphones, weapons, and drugs, but not all correctional institutions are ready for it. Also, a sturdier or larger drone could deliver more types of contraband, or use a better/bigger camera to observe patterns and rotations before the contraband drops.
This not only threatens the safety of security personnel on site, but also the safety of prisoners, as the falling objects could spark fights. The rate of incarceration may fall, but that doesn’t mean the risk of contraband falling with it.
Drone shows need safety
Drone shows will increasingly be used for entertainment, and we can expect to see more of them in 2023 as drones are further refined and their flight accuracy increases. We’re starting to see new traditions of celebrations, such as the 4th of July, where drone shows are taking center stage in place of fireworks — visually stunning. Major events over the past 18 months, such as the presidential election and the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, have featured drone shows, demonstrating their rapid adoption across the globe. But with the use of drones instead of fireworks, better drone safety is needed to quickly distinguish good drones from bad ones when hundreds or even thousands are in the air at once. The show featuring many drones gives bad guys the ability to hide in plain sight and then accomplish their goals.
If drone safety becomes a real concern, existing technology will be tested in real-world conditions. Security professionals will quickly learn which solutions actually work outside of a demo environment. This dynamic will quickly drive the industry to pick winners and losers. Likewise, cUAS companies betting on one mode of detection (as opposed to sensor fusion) will soon be eclipsed and move into niche vendor status under true command and control (C2) solutions for airspace security.
As the industry matures, counter-drone technology will become a foundational part of modern security infrastructure. cUAS vendors will be most successful if their solutions can be easily integrated into existing security infrastructure and they can work overtime to build functionality for their customers. You will see traditional security integrators evaluating and adopting cUAS partners to increase their offerings to end customers.
drones in war
So far, drones have made their debut in the Middle East and then played a huge role in the Armenia/Azerbaijan conflict. It wasn’t until the early months of the Russo-Ukrainian war that the public saw their potential to turn the tide. Ukraine won several propaganda and military campaigns using its fleet of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2s, while the Russians started with Russian-made Orlans and Elerons before moving on to larger Iranian-made drones.
As the war dragged on, both sides were using drones and cUAS technology in incrementally innovative ways, while the rest of the world supported and learned from the conflict. Drone mitigation techniques and technologies are expected to go through a rapid development/real-world testing cycle this winter to protect critical infrastructure and citizens.
Within NATO member states, with the changing dynamics of modern warfare, overall funding for drone and cUAS programs is expected to increase. These include the need to provide close air support in contested airspace, the need to engage opposing drone fleets, and the desire to maintain readiness despite personnel issues. Some of the most innovative and affordable military drones and cUAS will come from smaller entities. These companies will innovate and iterate faster, and nimble users will outperform the more traditional large primes used to slow innovation cycles and increase defense budgets. At the same time, Iran will become the main supplier of military drones to countries that are not in the interest of the West/NATO.
Open-air activities, open-air drone protection
Drone invasions are a reality at major sporting events and other open fields, including this NFL season. These incursions are destructive at best, potentially game-stopping, and haven’t caused any real physical harm yet. We can expect coalitions and organizations to push harder next year for legislation that will enable the use of broader and advanced cUAS technologies.
Just as importantly, the NLF, MLB, NCAA and NASCAR will invest in enhancing the security of the airspace allowed under current law to keep players and fans safe. We are likely to see a wider range of outdoor activities requiring the use of or some form of drone protection in place. The cUAS company with a portable and easy-to-deploy solution will win. Contracts will also be won for its ability to defend against various drones. We see drones invading other sectors of the economy and public life — from prisons to airports. But these venue-based drone incidents are different because they interrupt events watched by millions at home, as well as events watched by thousands in stadiums. As such, they will be a major factor in increasing consumer awareness of malicious drone use. We can expect malicious operators to rely more on DIY hardware or non-DJI drones. So 2019 with DJI drones!
the road ahead
2023 will bring new challenges to the counter-drone industry and governments. But they were ready for them.
With regulatory clarity, governments will have the ability to deploy counter-drone technology where it is most needed. This clarity will also benefit the private sector, the risk of malicious drone intrusion is very real and has the potential to wreak havoc.
Accompanying this regulatory push will be a new generation of more portable and capable counter-drone technology. If the counter-drone industry innovates faster, we can protect more places.
But malicious drone actors aren’t going to sit still. They will try to find weaknesses in anti-drone technology. The industry has a responsibility to stay one step ahead.
Mary-Lou Smulders is Dedrone’s Chief Marketing Officer, where she leads Dedrone’s global marketing and communications team.
Miriam McNabb, Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, is a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the drone regulatory environment. Author of more than 3,000 articles on the commercial drone space, Miriam is an international speaker and industry recognized figure. Miriam holds a degree from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and new technology marketing.
For drone industry inquiries or writing, please email Miriam.
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