Drone tracker technology

David Prantl (right), a representative from a drone detection technology company, and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Commander Col. Patrick Duggan fly a drone in the parking lot of JBM-HH’s Building 59 Dec. 2, as part of a demonstration of the drone tracker technology. A team of JBM-HH personnel watched how the system worked from inside the building. The demonstration was part of JBM-HH’s research and evaluation as it works to aquire the technology for the base.

There is hardly any other technology currently developing as fast as drone technology, but as drones become more mainstream, so too are the opportunities to misuse them for terrorist and criminal purposes; this according to a company that specializes in drone detection technology, launched to provide protection against civilian drones.

Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Commander Col. Patrick Duggan noted at a recent meeting with a neighboring Arlington County civic association when asked about the possibility of another 9/11 attack, “The question is not if, but when,” he replied, adding that an attack may not be on the magnitude of the 9/11 attacks with airplanes, “but with miniaturized tools of terror, specifically drones carrying home-made bombs.”

Duggan continued his talk to the neighborhood group by explaining the importance of area communities working together to establish an aerial infrastructure “to better monitor the inexorable trend of drone traffic above our cities and bases.”

Accordingly, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall is taking the next steps to protect itself against multiple, possible threats to the installation.

“We are in the process of procuring a drone detection system designed to counter the growing use of civilian drones in our communities,” said William Johnson, JBM-HH Chief of Police and Deputy Director of the Directorate of Emergency Services (DES). “This technology will help DES identify approaching drones by means of visual, acoustic and frequency sensors.”

“In the next few months, we will be phasing in these systems to build a broader capability for all of JBM-HH’s facilities and locations,” said Johnson. “We have been working with several companies and agencies to provide the best product for JBM-HH.”

At a recent demonstration of the drone detection technology, a sensor was set up near JBM-HH’s headquarters building and a drone was flown in the parking lot. David Prantl, a representative from a drone detection technology company, and Duggan flew the drone in the parking lot, while a team of personnel watched how the system worked from inside the building.

According to Johnson, noise, movement patterns, silhouette, and Radio Frequency (RF) and WiFi signals are processed by the sensors and evaluated by the drone detection technology. “Correlation and analysis of this information identifies approaching drones and will trigger alarms to alert our staff,” he said.

“This technology will enhance our overall force protection posture,” added Johnson. “This will also assist with FAA’s drone policy prohibiting the flying of a drone within 15 miles of Regan National Airport.”

The National Capital Region is governed by a Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) that restricts flights within a 30-mile radius of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

“This includes drones,” said Johnson, “D.C. is a No Drone Zone.”

Johnson explained that the SFRA is divided into a 15-mile radius inner ring and a 30-mile radius outer ring; flying an unmanned aircraft within the 15-mile radius inner ring is prohibited without specific authorization by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

According to the FAA, the airspace around Washington, D.C., is more restricted than in any other part of the country. Rules put in place after the 9/11 attacks establish “national defense airspace” over the area and limit aircraft operations to those with an FAA and Transportation Security Administration authorization.

“This drone detection system is just the next step as Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall moves to enhance its security and emergency response posture; to better arm our law enforcement in the never-ending race against tech-savvy terrorist threats,” said Duggan.

“Our next step is to partner our limited security resources with Arlington County and Washington D.C.; our mutual security depends upon it.”