Cheap GPS jammers a major threat to drones
With rotors whirring and airframes hurling through the air, drones can be very dangerous when flights don't go as planned. There's been much teeth gnashing over the FAA's measured approach to commercial drone policy adoption, but the fact is there are real dangers, including from bad actors using inexpensive GPS jammers.
GPS signal jamming technology is evolving, decreasing in size and cost. Today, jammers can be bought online for as low as $50. Long a threat to military assets, jamming is now a commercial concern as commercial drone deliveries become a reality, and attacks are becoming pervasive globally. This threat now affects commercial, law enforcement, and defense drones on critical missions.
During a choreographed light show in Hong Kong in 2018, a jamming device caused 46 drones to fall out of the sky. The resulting property damage and loss of hardware cost an estimated HK$1M. Nearly all drones have safety protocols to send them home or to some safe landing location in the event of disruption. But those features proved ineffective at the Hong Kong show.
These are professional drones, which are already built with technologies that would direct them back to the take-off origin. But the signals were so strong that many of them just dropped from the air.
Drones and their services are decidedly dependent on GPS signals. Even though the drone may be equipped with back-up methods (INS/OPS), GPS references are still required for positioning, navigation, and stabilization. GPS attacks, therefore, are the easiest way to take a drone down and potentially cause harm to life and property.
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