Protection against the malicious use of unmanned aircraft systems

AuthorVasilis Karlos - Martin Larcher
6!Protection against the malicious use of unmanned aircraft systems
An unmanned aircraft system (UAS), commonly referred to as ‘drone’, consists of an unmanned aircraft (also
known as unmanned aerial vehicle), the remotely located operator and the components (usually ground control
system) through which the communication between those two is achieved. Initially they were constructed and
operated within a military context, but their technological advancement, cost reduction and diverse capabilities
have led to their extensive use in the civilian domain as they can satisfy the needs of the industry, business
and consumer sectors. Many industries have been employing UAS for conducti ng various activities, including
but not limited to, inspections, surveillance, agriculture-related activities, courier services, topographical
mapping, mar keting, cate ring and emergency response. Over the last years, the public has been extensively
using UAS for recreational purposes as a result of the increased accessibility to a great number of affordable
solutions. Beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights that allow a drone to fly beyond visual range and the
expansion of 5G networks that support faster data speeds and lower latency are expected to revolutionize the
use of drones, while increasing worries regarding security.
The fast proliferation of UAS has raised security concerns, since they can be used by malicious actors, including
terrorists and organized crime. Their accessibility, difficult detection, simple and remote piloting make them a
valuable tool in the hands of aggressors who can use them to conduct surveillance, spread propaganda, disrupt
services or even target assets and people by weaponizing UAS with grenades, CBRN agents or Improvised
Explosive Devices (IEDs). Recent examples from around the world demonstrate that UAS are becoming a
significant security issue for both public spaces and critical infrastructures, as even off-the-shelf units can be
easily transformed into effective weapons and be used intentionally for malicious purposes. Moreover, attention
has being brought to the data being generated by the drone use, such as images of critical infrastructures, and
whether this information is stored by the UAS manufacturer, thus being exposed to cyberattacks. For instance,
certain UAS produced in China have been recently being banned by the US authorities as they failed to meet
the ‘data management assurance standards’ as stated by the US Department of Interior.
Tackling the security threats posed by the use of UAS for terrorist and criminal actions poses several challenges
that may be addressed through a combination of different approaches. Some of these approaches include
measures that set up a legislati ve framework regarding pilot licenci ng, aircraft registration and introduction of
flight restricted zones. The latter may be imposed by the employment of geo-awareness and geo-fencing
functions, that are pre-installed in the UAS software and alert the operator (geo-awareness) or prevent (geo-
fencing) the drone from approaching and entering a sensitive air space (geo-restriction). Clearly, these measures
do not offer protection against determined aggressors that may ignore/find ways to circumvent them in order
to strike. As a result, there are a number of available countermeasure systems (C-UAS) that incorporate
technologies that are able to detect, identify, track and/or intercept a single UAS or a potential ‘swarm’ attack
that exploits multiple drones to accomplish a common objective. Such systems have already been employed in
conflict environments, some of which (especially effector-type solutions) cannot be directly used in the urban
layout, due to the presence of civilians and other facilities. In this chapter, the current threat from the use of
UAS for malicious purposes is presented, followed by an overview of available coun termeasures intended for
use in the civil domain, underlining the effectiveness and limitations of each system.
6.2!UAS categories
As mentioned before, UAS are used for a variety of different purposes, resulting in different designs depending
on the use. When it comes to the protection of a building agai nst UAS non-cooperative intrusions, the design
and capabilities of the UAS in the considered attack scenario is of importance, as each countermeasure is rarely
effective against all available UAS types. The main UAS categories are the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL)
systems and fixed-wing systems, the most popular being the VTOL category which can take-off and land in a
vertical manner, having the advantage of a hovering ability and increased capabilities in an urban environment.
Each system has a maximum take-off mass (MTOM), that includes its payload capabilities, and depends on its
size and motors. The MTOM is a prerequisite for assessing the consequences from an attack with a modified
UAS that is transferring an IED, a grenade or a CBRN agent.
The European Commission in 2019 issued two regulations setting out requirements for the design and
manufacture of UAS (delegated regulation EU 2019/945) t hat are intended to be operated under the detailed
provisions of (implementing regulation EU 2019/947). In these regulations a UAS classification system is

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