Present situation - Group 4 - 2018/2019, Semester B, Quartile 3

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Present situation

In this section, we consider the present situation regarding the specific problem description. We interview an airport and look at current solutions.

Airport Interview

In order to get a more unobstructed view of the issues our users (airports) face today we decided to ask them a couple of questions. We want to obtain a clear picture of their current approach to airport security regarding drones, what the consequences would be if a drone were to fly in their airspace right now, and what the consequences were of the 19th of December Gatwick incident. We will then ask them what their requirements would be for a drone defence mechanism.

We asked the following questions:

  • What is the airport's current mechanism for detecting drones?
  • How will the airport respond when the drone is sighted in restricted aerospace?
  • Roughly how much damage will the airport take if a drone were to restrict air traffic for 1 hour?
  • The 19th of December and 21st of December drone attack at Gatwick airport caused over 1000 flights to be affected, did your airport get affected by the knock-on effects?
  • What would be the maximum budget for an automated anti-drone mechanism?
  • What kind of system would you imagine when thinking of anti-drone mechanisms?

We contacted most major Dutch airfields; Eindhoven, Schiphol, Maastricht Aaken, Groningen, Twente, Den Helder, Rotterdam the Hague and Bergen op Zoom.

Eindhoven airport responded to the questions, firstly stating that Eindhoven airport uses the runway and infrastructure provided by the Military airbase Eindhoven. This means that the Dutch Royal Airforce is responsible for air traffic control and hence the safety in the airport's airspace. We had the following answers to the aforementioned questions:


What is the airport's current mechanism for detecting drones?

At the moment the airport has no automated system to detect drones. At the moment this done by sight from the air traffic control tower.

How will the airport respond when the drone is sighted in restricted aerospace?

This depends on the location of the drone. At the moment an incident affecting air traffic has not yet occurred. When a drone is spotted, we will suspend all traffic.

Roughly how much damage will the airport take if a drone were to restrict air traffic for 1 hour?

I cannot answer this question [in detail], for the military activities, the impact will be limited. However, the impact on Eindhoven Airport will be much more significant.

The 19th of December and 21st of December drone attack at Gatwick airport caused over 1000 flights to be affected, did your airport get affected by the knock-on effects?

We were not affected as there are no flights to Gatwick from Eindhoven.

What would be the maximum budget for an automated anti-drone mechanism?

None, for safety there will always be a budget available.

What kind of system would you imagine when thinking of anti-drone mechanisms?

The location, altitude and flight-profile are crucial. The weight of a drone is also very important.


The correspondent also told us he was very interested in our research, offering the opportunity for further collaboration.

Solutions

In this section, we will take a look at solutions against unwanted UAVs at and around airports that are currently/in the near future being used by airports/authorities. These solutions might exclude many solutions that might be useful but are simply not in use due to for example the jurisdiction not being up to date with the current technology. However, a list of all possible solutions including solutions that might not even be feasible right now, but maybe within the next few years will be discussed in the section solutions. It is important to note that there are different rules for different types of drones.

  • There will be European rules and regulations in the near future, expected around June 2019, obligating operators wanting to fly with a drone that is heavier than 250 gram to be registered. Drones will be obligated to send out identification signals such that authorities, for example, the police, can trace and identify the operator of the drone[1].
  • With these same rules and regulations drones will be obliged to be equipped with geofencing software. This will restrict the operator to be able to fly close to an airport[1].
  • Anti-drone systems deployed at two London airports are capable of tracking the devices from as far as six miles away. As well as being able to sever communications with the operator, some models can also destroy the drones using a laser beam. However, it is not exactly been released to the public as to what equipment is used and how it works[2].
  • The police trains eagles to make them consider unwanted UAVs as preys, such that they would catch the UAVs and place them in a safe area. However, the Dutch police have already stopped using this solution because training the eagles is more expensive and complicated than they anticipated[3].
  • In May of 2018, London Southend Airport successfully tested an anti-drone system that combines optical sensor and radio frequency to detect drones[4].
  • The US Federal Aviation Authority trialled the Anti-UAV Defense System (Auds) system in 2016. It uses high powered radio waves to disable drones, it blocks their communication with the controller and switches them off mid-air[4].

Limitations

The jurisdiction regarding drones is not up to date with current technology

As is often the case, the laws we have are not able to keep up with the tremendous advancements of technology [5]. This has happened many times already in history, for example with the rise of copyright laws at the end of the 19th century. Due to the huge advancements in copying and spreading literature, originals authors lost lots of money to people selling the author's work without proper permission. This was facilitated due to the rise in printing technologies. Under the pressure of this growing technology, the copyright laws had been created, albeit years and years later after the problem had occurred [6]. This example is just one of the many examples where the laws come much too late after the technology has been fully developed.

The same problem is currently happening to drone regulations. Over the last decade, the technological advancements in drones have been enormous, and as a consequence, the accessibility of drones for normal people has increased as well. Nowadays, anyone can buy a drone without any license and fly the drone with a camera to any house in his or her neighbourhood for under 100€ [7]. This seems like an obvious illegal intrusion of privacy by laws such as personality rights ("portretrecht"). However, these rules are not properly enforced concerning drones. In Europe, new drone regulations will be enforced, starting halfway through the year [8]. However, there have been huge debates about how the regulations should be changed, with no concrete answers. Just recently, on January 21 2019, the Dutch House of Representatives ("Tweede Kamer") organised a "rondetafelgesprek", where experts discussed what should be done in terms of regulations[9]. These examples show that the regulations of drones are not up to date with the current technological advances of drones.

Limitation of current solutions

As we have described before, current solutions such as the eagle experiment, are simply not good enough to efficiently provide a solution to the problem. For this exact reason, airports and governments all over the world are investing vast amounts of money in the development of technologies to counter drones. Heathrow and Gatwick airport are two examples of airports that are investing millions of dollars in this technology [2].

Apart from the fact that some solutions simply do not work, other proposed solutions have negative side results. For example, shutting the unwanted UAVs down with radiowaves means that they will crash straight down to the ground. If such a drone falls on someone's head, he or she could get seriously injured. Furthermore, the crashing drone can also break specific equipment when falling. Lastly, if the drone, e.g. falls and breaks on the runway, this could also be dangerous. These consequences also apply to the current solution where the drones are shot down with a laser for example.

Other solutions such as geofencing and identification signals also have the flaw that they can be bypassed easily. If someone intentionally wants to fly a drone to the airport, it is not that difficult to make sure that the drone does not broadcast identification signals anymore. The drone operator could also make sure that the drone does not send signals that the geofencing uses, such that the geofence is, in fact, useless for deterring this drone. Furthermore, someone could also build a drone themselves, and choose not to send these required signals. This would indeed be against the law shortly, but since the drone operator is already engaged in criminal activities, these regulations would most likely not stop him. Thus, the technologies can easily be bypassed, rendering them as useless.


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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Drs. C. van Nieuwenhuizen Wijbenga. "Beantwoording vragen van het lid Remco Dijkstra (VVD) over drones bij Londen-Gatwick", Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Waterstaat, 15 January 2019, Retrieved on 14-02-2019
  2. 2.0 2.1 [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/03/heathrow-and-gatwick-millions-anti-drone-technology "The Guardian: Heathrow and Gatwick invest millions in anti-drone technology", January 2019, Retrieved on 13-02-2019
  3. Thuy Ong. "Dutch police will stop using drone-hunting eagles since they weren't doing what they're told", 12 December 2017, Retrieved on 14-02-2019
  4. 4.0 4.1 Adam Bannister. "With anti-drone tech on the market, why was Gatwick Airport so unprepared?", December 21 2018, Retrieved on 14-02-2019
  5. "MIT Technology Review: Laws and Ethics Can’t Keep Pace with Technology", Written by V. Wadhwa, April 2014, Retrieved on 12-02-2019
  6. "Does Technology Require New Law?", Written by D. Friedman, January 2001, Retrieved on 12-02-2019
  7. [https://www.mediamarkt.nl/nl/product/_dji-ryze-tello-powered-by-dji-1556528.html "MediaMarkt Drone: DJI Ryze Tello Powered by DJI", Retrieved on 12-02-2019.
  8. "Bright: Nieuwe regels voor drones gaan medio 2019 in" November 2018, Retrieved on 12-02-2019.
  9. "Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal: Rondetafelgesprek over Drones en killer robots", January 2019, Retrieved on 13-02-2019
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