Methods to Counter Drones

Cheap drones, like the DJI Phantom, are becoming a ubiquitous technology.

They can be cheaply used for surveillance (unmanned aerial surveillance), and in some cases they are being weaponized.

Small drones like the models available commercially from DJI can be used for surveillance – or weaponized. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Mylinda DuRousseau)

How can you perform counter-drone operations?

First of all – we’re assuming you are legally able to do this.

There are “no drone airspace” restrictions in place around many government facilities, including Air Force Bases.

No Drone Zone sign - restricted airspace
Small Unmanned Aircraft The Air Force instituted a ban on drones in response to the rising popularity of private sUAS (small Unmanned Aerial Systems) and the possible security risk they pose, along with the potential physical danger to aircraft from hitting a drone on take-off or landing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Lackey)

Let’s look at the options.

Kinetic Methods

Physical damage to the drone through gunfire is also an option.

But, firing off guns (especially up in the air) can lead to more trouble than it is worth.

Bullets fired on a high arc have to land somewhere – and that’s both a safety risk to people and it is highly likely to cause collateral damage.

Nets can be used to ensnare drones – but this is a relatively short range method.

As we’ll see, there are easier ways to counter drones.

Command and Control Disruption

Systems like the Dronebuster are capable of interfering with the drones radio command frequencies.

Dronebuster device in use during a training exercise for dealing with COTS drones
A DroneBuster device is one option for command and control disruption of commercial drones. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Mylinda DuRousseau)

This effectively neutralizes the drone, and prevents it from being used for it’s intended purpose.

The DroneBuster shown above is capable of commanding the drone to descend – or to return “home” (from where it was launched).

It is a self-contained, hand-held unit – and weighs less than 5 lbs.

The DroneDefender is another technology that works by disrupting the remote control signals of the drone.

The DroneDefender device can be pointed and aimed like a rifle and has a range of 400meters. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Mylinda DuRousseau)

These solutions can also interfere with the GPS signals used by the drones to navigate.

Because these devices use disruption of radio frequencies (ISM and GPS); it is not legal for civilians to own or operate these devices in the United States.

(In general jamming or spoofing any radio frequencies is illegal as per the FCC.)

Types of Drones

Quadcopters (4 rotors) and Hexacopters (6 rotors) are popular designs for drones.

They are stable and easy to control thanks to their multiple rotor blades – and their digital flight computers.

The drone is normally able to “fly itself” given waypoints. It does this using GPS navigation.

A small quadcopter drone used by the U.S. Air Force
A drone operated by Airmen with the 773d Civil Engineer Squadron flies over a training area while capturing aerial intelligence is support of a readiness and training exercise, Polar Force 20-1, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Oct. 8, 2019. Designed to test JBER’s mission readiness, Polar Force 20-1 is a two-week exercise that hones Airmen’s skills and experience when facing adverse situations. Airmen refined their contingency tactics, techniques and procedures in support of the Pacific Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment concept of operations. Agile Combat Support excellence yields multi-domain operations success. (U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Peña)

What You Should Know as a Drone Operator

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) provides information and regulations in regards to flying drones.

Counter Drone Methods – In Summary

Drones are an emerging threat.

But the industry is evolving ways to counter drones.


DroneBuster Marketing Info (flexForce)

DroneDefender Marketing Info (Batelle)

The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

The U.S. Army is developing standard techniques for it’s forces to deal with small commercial off the shelf (COTS) drones. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Mylinda DuRousseau)