From the drone that crashed into a San Diego Padres baseball game earlier this year and nearly hit several fans, to the drone that invaded the lawn of the White House, it is clear that there is commercial viability for options that can prevent unwanted drone trespassing, as well as a need for legislation governing their use.
A recent Federal court ruling determined that the FAA’s drone registration rules do not apply to non-commercial drone flights, and that hobbyist drone operators do not need to register with the FAA.
Currently, if a drone hovers over a football game, a private residence, beach, or venue, it is unclear who has jurisdiction in the 200 feet or so above the ground. While some localities have rules governing the use of drones, lawmakers in Washington have been slow to enact legislation. It is uncertain whether Federal or local authorities control the time, place and manner of drone usage.
There is proposed legislation, the Drone Federalism Act, that lays out the division of Federal, states, and local rules governing drones. The bill gives Federal authorities jurisdiction over safety standards for drone equipment and the ability to protect airspace for interstate commerce, while giving state and local authorities jurisdiction for drone flights under 200 feet. The act enjoys bipartisan support from Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn,) as well as endorsements from the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislators, the National Association of State Aviation Officials, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. So far, Congress has not moved on this bill.
Given all this, there is a need for safe, effective anti-drone technology for use by stadium, concert, beach and venue owners, as well as for use by local law enforcement. There are currently a number of counter-drone system companies that enable owners to be safe from small unmanned systems and have peace of mind.
XiDrone Systems, a Naples, Florida-based technology company, is the first counter-drone technology company to obtain U.S. patents for multi-sensor systems and is working on patents that integrate their multi-sensor system to disable small unmanned systems threats on land and sea. XiDrone Systems incorporates various products and technologies together into a modular system. Currently there is not a single purpose, commercial response that can effectively deal with the small drone threat.
“Drones today are everywhere – open-air concerts, football and baseball games,” Jim O’Neill, chief strategy officer at XiDrone Systems told GovConWire. “Drones are a cheap and easy way to deliver chemical, biological and other forms to large crowds virtually unnoticed. You can buy a drone for under $1,000, put something nefarious on it, fly it over a stadium, and no one would even know it was there.”
While stadiums and concerts invest a lot of money and take great precautions with ground security to get into the venue, there should be equal attention to the 200 or so feet above, O’Neill remarked, especially when tens of thousands of people attend such events.
The military invests billions of dollars a year in very sophisticated UAS and anti-UAS technology, but there have been instances where the military has responded to an enemy drone by shooting it out of the sky with a million-dollar missile, said O’Neill.
“That’s kind of crazy,” and a good example where anti-drone technology, which has the ability to disable a drone and track the operator, would be very useful, he said.
Additionally, commercial drone use has exploded over the past several years. Counter-drone technology will become a $1.5 billion-dollar market by 2022 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24% between 2017 and 2022, according to some economists. Leading legal experts also believe that counter drone technology will have a higher profit margin than drone sales themselves due to fears of the threats that small drones can pose.