U.T.SEC 2017 – Unmanned Technologies and Security Expo & Conference in Nuremberg


Destruction can be so easy – about drones and drone defense

Recently, I had the pleasure to meet with representatives from the industrial fields of safety/security and autonomous vehicles and aircraft at the U.T.SEC in Nurenberg at the begining of March 2017.
In this context, the focus was on the use of drone technology, not only on its risks with regard to the use of UAVs, but also on the evaluation and comparison of various technological methods for counter-drone defense („Counter Drone System“, CUAS).
This article distinguishes between the designation „UAV“ (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) for the individual aircraft and the designation „UAS“ (Unmanned Aircraft System) for the system of UAVs and control units in combination with other necessary infrastructure. The term „drone“ is equivalent to „UAV“.

Unified in perplexity

There was a consensus at the U.T.SEC on the question of why there has not happened any kind of heavy attack with the help of drones in Europe, although aircraft required for this purpose were ready for retail (online and in various versions as well as the necessary components) Stationary) – including the required know-how.
There was a real surprise among the engineers at the U.T.SEC (including myself), that the government and the authorities seem to be making no effort to ensure legal certainty both for the innovative use of UAVs and the use of counter – measures against the abusive or unlawful use of UAVs.
On a small scale UAVs are already used for a large number of crimes.

Reactive drone defense

The relevant providers of counter UAS services and products are currently addressing inquiries from a variety of directions:
Event organizers who want to protect the affected area or building against drones (threats / attacks / spying / mass burials)
Affected companies, e.g. after a proven UAV visit on their site, receive information about 3D printouts of their prototypes at trade fairs in the Far East
Tourists accompanied by a „holiday-pickup” in relevant holiday destinations ask for CUAS measures, as they are harassed by drones.

Apart from the fact that the (safe!) detection of drones alone is already a certain challenge, a defensive measures following the detection represents a danger of collateral damage as well it is subject high legal hurdles (material damage of the intruding drone). This is not a joke. If the drone operator cannot be found to have any intentions or malicious intent, the administrative fine for him would be far less than the cost of the defended drone. On the contrary, the „defender“ would have to compensate the drone operator for the damage of the intruded drone and in addition might be charged for dangerous interference with air traffic – at least in Germany and most parts of Europe.

Preventive drone defense

These defense measures mentioned before are comparatively expensive because they are only related to the concrete incident-and only to this. Thus, reactive defense measures („Drone Defense by Incident“) represent only one side of the medal. Clearly preventive measures would be more effectively.
Currently there are only basic approaches, e.g. Drones prohibition zones. As the name implies, this kind of restriction is based on a „blacklist“ approach: National air traffic zones are identified, which the UAS manufacturers can implement in the firmware of the UAV but are currently not obliged to do to.
In addition, even where Geofencing is implemented, users can turn off this mechanism. Of course, this can make sense in professional assignments.

In view of the already massive availability of UAV, it is only possible to use white- or greylisting in connection with further measures with regard to Geofencing:
The Geofencing mechanism implemented in the UAV must be protected by encryption from manipulations by the drone operators. Currently, neither the implementation nor the protection of Geofencing mechanisms is mandatory. Only individual vendors (e.g., DJI) provide Geofencing implementations that users can easily circumvent after entering a registered email address.
All freely available drones over a certain very low weight must be equipped with a „general operating license“. Exceptions would only exist for very small drones, e.g. in the range up to 100g or less with very limited action radius. Of course, such a little weight restriction would steadily become smaller over time, which would be due to technical progress.
Thus, every UAV manufacturer would provide his UAV with a general operating license in case of doubt, if the service life of the respective UAV type were expected to be subject to a license in the course of its service life.
The Geofencing mechanism is based on a satellite-based navigation system (GPS, Galileo) in connection with a database stored on the UAV containing the Geofencing information. This, of course, is the miniaturization of UAV with operating license limits.
A blacklist only exists for UAV with operating permission up to a certain size/wight and certain properties.
From this size/weight on there is no valid blacklist any more, but only a graylist and a whitelist:

  • A greylist contains areas where UAVs may be operated by the owner after registration or identification. All movements of the drone are subject to tracking and storage. Modern mechanisms, e.g. Based on a block chain may help to limit the number of UAVs running at a particular time over a Gray List.
  • A whitelist determines the areas that UAVs are allowed to fly over without registration or identification. All areas not explicitly listed in the whitelist are forbidden for UAV operations.

UAS in security and safety

UAVs themselves have long been available for preventive measures in many situations.
It is therefore probable that the disaster at the Love Parade on 24 July 2010 could have been prevented if a UAS-supported permanent airspace monitoring system had given early information on the movement of the audience streams. Of course these measures would have undermined the data protection and / or privacy rights of the visitors.
It is therefore clear that every day on which the legislator does not create the legal framework and hence legal certainty – both for the use and defense of UAV, the likelihood of people being harmed by UAS would heavily increase through

  • The Influence of abused UAS
  • Non-use of UAS for danger detection and defense
  • Use of CUAS measures, which are not sufficiently effective for legal restrictions

… also a possibility to have blood on the hands.

⇒ The challenge is therefore to create administrative prerequisites and to implement regulatory measures as well as to apply them efficiently WITHOUT stopping the use of the UAS technologies.

Practical suggestions

The reference to a necessary Europe-wide coordinated approach is not effective and represents in my opinion an attempt to play down the issue. An exemplary push on national level, on the other hand, would rather accelerate the European process of drafting a legal framework. The reason for this assumption is that in the regulation of CUAS technologies the most important obstacle is the uncertainty in technological terms and the lack of experience on the side of governments and authorities.
An important legal framework in which development can be pushed forward concerns the certification of commercial UAVs, both the original model produced as well as all future changes made to such a UAV.
As described in my book „Drones as a Service“ (https://www.amazon.de/Drones-Service-Strategy-technical-concepts-ebook/dp/B01G7ORN7U/), each UAV with all its installed instruments would subject to certification by a „Type Certificate“, in order to certify the „Airworthiness“ of the UAV’s original „line fit“. Correspondingly, any subsequent amendment would be subject to certification by a „Supplemental Type Certificate“, in order to certify the airworthiness of the retrofit.

For drones up to 2.5 kg (private & commercial), TÜV & DEKRA could get involved. Anything beyond this could be an EASA issue.
DEKRA and TÜV are technical auditing bodies whereas the EASA handles safety in the aviation industry.

In October 2015, the EASA (European Aviation Safety Organization) has shonw a last sign of its efforts to regulate the operation of UAV (A-NPA 2015-10). A 41-page strong general and basic convolute. Of course, EASE has continued to work on this matter…
It could be closer to reality that industry and associations of unmanned aeronautics in Germany may embrace the latest proposals of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the USA and suggest to the EASA. The aim of the FAA’s approach is to promote UAV-based business models and to simplify commercial UAV use in general. Specifically, the proposed ones are in the following directions:

  • The certificate of competence for the commercial management of UAVs under 2.5 kg should be available online. (In contrast to private use, the commercial use of UAV in the US is not permitted without special permission).
  • The liability issue is to be regulated in such a way that the manufacturers of the aircraft are held responsible, not necessarily the operators. This suggestion, which is almost brain-threatening for European or even German ears, makes sense when one considers that commercial UAVs are to be operated primarily automatically or even autonomously. Since a UAV operator must already have gross negligence
  • This suggestion, which is almost brain-threatening for European or even German ears, makes sense when one considers that commercial UAVs are to be operated primarily automatically or even autonomously. A UAV operator must show at least gross negligence or even intent in order to become liable in case of an accident involving material or personal injury.
    According to the FAA’s proposal, manufacturers of copters with four rotors would have to guarantee that the risk of serious personal injury is less than one percent if the drone crashes and hits exactly one pedestrian – within built-up areas.

Outside of built-up, this risk of serious personal injury must be below 30%.
These two rules should be valid even if there are only people who have implicitly or explicitly agreed to the UAV assignments over their heads – for example, at events like the Love Parade. In the case of emergency transports of blood bags within urban areas, no one can assume an implicit or explicit consent, even if life is to be saved.
In this case, accident risks have to be compared with the potential for life saving – for example, during maintenance work at high altitudes.
Another reason for the hindrance of the legal institutions is the fear of the democratically elected authorities before the non-acceptance of the technology and its defenses by the population.
On the contrary, the discussion and preparation of UAS defense measures also means awareness of the dangers created by the UAVs – which could increase the non-acceptance of the population and generally fuel a paranoia against unmanned aircraft.

More suggestions

Remedy can only be a transparent and speedy procedure. The result of which would go beyond the existing legal framework as well as the already existing framework:
Regulations for the use of commercial drones, also with regard to the out-of-sight operation of individual UAVs and swarms. Both are not allowed today for civilian use of UAS.
Rules for the use of safeguards for public and non-public events. Since drones are not permanently installed in one place, but are active only during a particular event, regulations for the use of UAS could be adapted assuming implicit consent by the participants. This would relate both to the use of threats and to CUAS measures.
Introduction of a personal license for the use of drones in connection with a security check. It can be staggered. For the operation of small drones the presentation of an impeccable guide could be sufficient.
A personality test for all types of commercial or private drones.
A safety check according to §7 Lufttsicherheitsgesetz (LuftSiG) for all UAV operators when using UAVs with a weight of 250g and more.
No one may claim that the elaboration of the required regulations will be very simple. However, this is not an excuse not to speed up the process.

The facts

The United States of America

Since December 2015, drone owners who use their aircraft exclusively for private purposes must register these before the first flight in wild. This costs US $5.
This measure affects are all UAVs weighing more than 250 grams and a maximum of 25 kilograms.
The idea behind it: All UAV operators are ‚pilots‘ and carry a correspondingly high responsibility.
Each owner of one or more UAVs gets an (one) identification number which s/he must at his drones or at. The registration is valid for three years.
Non-commercial small drones is allowed to fly higher than 120m and shall be only controlled within sight remaining at a safe distance from people and busy places as well as 5 miles from any airport.
The minimum age for UAV operators is 13 years. Younger persons may only fly drones accompanied by adults.

The Federal Republic of Germany

At the time the US had already passed regulations, the Federal Government of Germany has planned that all drones with a weight of 500 grams and more should be registered and marked. Commercial UAV operators are to acquire a license that is a kind of driving license. Flights are prohibited over certain places, such as industrial facilities, law enforcement institutions, military installations, disasters or disaster areas.
No rules have yet been implemented. Only the planning has become more concrete: In the planned revision of the German drone regulation There is the value for a marking requirement with a plaque for UAV from 250 grams planned.
The operation of aircraft models and unmanned aeronautical systems weighing 2 kilograms or more will be required to have a knowledge of the drone („drone driving license“). If this were realized, Germany would be more advanced than the US in setting up a legal framework for business operations of UAVs.

The reality

Currently popular quadro copters from the private or at best semiprofessional range, e.g. the relatively new „Phantom 4 Pro“ of DJI, including battery and charge, e.g. A camera, camera around 1.4 kilograms.
A rascal, who thinks badly when DJI recently in December 2016, called for an increased weight limit for privately used UAV up to 2.2 Kg – thus nearly ten times compared to that one currently in discussion (http://www.mynewsdesk.com/ Uk / dji / documents / defining-a-lowest-risk-uas-category-65321).

And it gets even better, …

… if you look at the performance data of the latest drones, such as the Quadcopter „View“ of the Chinese manufacturer High Great (HG) presented on the Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona. This near-production-prototype is equipped with a Snapdaragon system-on-chip – a kind of smartphone processor.
This cute little beasty (35.2 cm × 36.3 cm × 17.1 cm) does not bring 800 g to the scales with the battery and camera and is 13 MPixel camera 4K videos in 1080p quality over a distance of up to 2 kilometers – for 20 minutes.
But that is not all …

… the beastie also flies automatically …

Thus it has an „intelligent“ tracking mode, which allows the drone to distinguish between persons and objects. By the way: of course, the UAV still contains the usual features for the automatic flight, such as following a route along waypoints and „Return To Home“ (at the push of a button back to the starting position) and – also nice – the possibility to set a Geofencing zone. It is possible to define a range that the drone is not allowed to leave.

According to the manufacturer, beginners should be able to safely operate the Copter. However, not so good-hearted beginners and advanced operators can simply start the thing and cause damage in a defined area while leaving the parameter. This would cross the line between „automatic“ and „autonomous“ – with a „toy drone“.

To Close the loop

According to DJI as mentioned above, for such a thing there should be no mandatory registration necessary – seriously? To me it seemes that DJI and other lobbyists already use their UAVs to transport the herb they smoke in order to come to such inspirations …
For such UAVs above 250 g, a safety check according to §7 Air Safety Act (LuftSiG) should also be mandatory.


If it happens …

… do not tell anyone s/he could not have known about.

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