Detect, decode, hack. Sound like the plans of a spy network or rival government? In this case, they’re the actions of an artificial intelligence program. The program is being developed to keep people safe. Soon these covert tactics could help hijack dangerous drones.
Every month, the Federal Aviation Administration handles more than 100 illegal drone sightings. These so-called rogue (unauthorized) drones sometimes delay—or even ruin—outdoor public events. Officials have stopped football games and tennis tournaments because drones flew over or crashed into stadiums. Last Christmas, drones grounded hundreds of flights at London’s Gatwick Airport during the busy holiday.
But rogue drones can be more than pesky. They actually can be dangerous. Criminals use drones for terrorism, assassinations, and other evil deeds—a reminder that such struggles are against more than human foes. (Ephesians 6:11-13)
Current methods of dealing with rogue drones have limits. For example, some simply cause drones to crash. That can pose a risk to people or objects below. Anti-drone systems are expensive too. Some cost upwards of $12 million! That kind of price tag makes them too expensive for smaller airports or private companies.
“Dronejacker” is the brainchild of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) assistant professor Houbing Song. He and Drone Defense Systems Founder Sotirios George Kaminis are collaborating with ERAU to market the Dronejacker software.
Song has degrees in computing, communications, and transportation. He says his varied background equipped him well for this task. It allows him to “develop novel ideas at the intersection” of computer science, communications, networks, and cybersecurity. (What combination of gifts has God given you, and what will you do with them?)
Dronejacker has advanced microphones that “hear” approaching drones. Then its computer software analyzes the sound. If Dronejacker spots a rogue drone, it decodes the drone’s video channel and interrupts it with a warning message. If the drone (or drone pilot!) ignores the message, Dronejacker can hijack the drone.
Kaminis explains what that hijacking is like. “[Dronejacker] disrupts communication between the pilot and the drone. It detects the drone, finds out what language the drone speaks, . . . mimics the drone’s language, and snatches control away from the pilot.” Boom. Threat neutralized.
Because Song’s system takes control of the drone, it doesn’t crash. And Dronejacker costs much less than other systems on the market. Song and Kaminis are continuing to test their system. Hopefully, manufacturing it will begin soon. Then for the drone-busting Dronejacker, it’s all systems go.