Countering Drones with Cyber Warefare

D-Fend Solutions from Ra’anana, Israel, announced this week its new RF cyber-based counter-drone takeover system, EnforceAir2. This highly mobile non-kinetic solution consists of multiple receivers and transmitters and real-time processing in a compact form factor, enabling tactical teams to overcome deployment challenges on the field. The system was adopted by the US DoD, who has ordered over $3 million worth of EnforceAir counter-drone security systems and components to various United States federal security agencies.

But what makes the EnforceAir an interesting product is its concept: instead of using classical sensors and counter measures, D-Fend adopted techniques and methods brought from the world of cyber warefare, and had stacked them over a wireless layer. Legacy counter-drone systems rely on sensors such as radars, electro-optical sensors and RF directional finders. Older radar systems can detect larger aircraft but often cannot track drones.

The limitations of Legacy Systems

Modern anti-drone radar systems cannot always differentiate between small drones and other flying objects such as birds. Radars are also impacted by weather and are sensitive to refractions and reflections, which can lead to multiple signals from different directions originating from the same object being received by the radar.

Electro-optical sensors are used for identification of drones, but they are usually triggered by other detection and tracking systems, such as radars. When combined with radars, they are used as a validation technology to reduce the number of false detections. The biggest disadvantage of EO/IR solutions for detection is that they require a clear and direct line-of-sight, which is not always available in dense, crowded, or urban environments. Darkness, fog and rain can also hinder the effectiveness of EO/IR detection solutions.

RF directional finders utilize sensors to detect and track UAVs. They monitor common frequency bands that they can match to a library of drone control signal profiles to classify these types of signals and can estimate the radial direction these signals come from. They may not be able to identify specific airframes or provide the most accurate real-time location of the drone. In addition, in urban and complex terrains, directional finders may point to the wrong direction due to RF reflections from objects like buildings or mountains.

Hacking Hostile Drones

D-Fend idea combines wireless expertise with cyber practices. EnforceAir systems continuously scan and detect unique communication signals used by commercial drones. Once detected, the solution analyzes the drone’s information and protocols,  for a classification process, and tag specific drones as authorized or unauthorized. The system can extract the telemetry information, to determine the type of drone and its accurate position. This includes the take-off position and often also the pilot position in real-time.

Cyber solutions do not require a quiet environment, a direct line-of-sight and is not affected by weather conditions. Once an hostile drone is detected, the system can activate Takeover procedure: Taking over command of the drone and directing it to follow a predetermined route and to safely land in a prearranged location.