Are the drones coming after you? Are they spying on you, stealing your company secrets, photographing you sunning in your backyard, following you as you drive to the mini-mart?
Maybe, maybe not. But one company is banking on these fears, real or imagined, by offering a package of electronic equipment marketed as a Personal Drone Detection System (PDDS).
Domestic Drone Countermeasures of Portland, Ore., with technology provided by APlus Mobile, also of Oregon, is currently crowdsourcing funds on Kickstarter.com for development and testing of the product.
To be clear, the type of drones the PDDS is designed to detect are not the high flying, military-operated combat and surveillance drones that are very much in the news. The PDDS is meant to deal with the greater proliferation of small personal drones that can be operated by a simple remote control device, such as those that operate radio-controlled aircraft. These personal drones are already widely available for sale online and at retail outlets.
Regulation of these personal drones has not yet been addressed by the Federal Aviation Administration. It may be at least a year until standards are established for use by consumers.
Even basic drones can be equipped with still and video cameras, infrared detectors and thermal detectors. They are obviously capable of fairly sophisticated surveillance activities. What's more, they can be a dangerous physical presence in the sky, susceptible to collisions with buildings, vehicles, other aircraft and people.
Frequent users of these small drones are the film and television industries. Most of us have seen TV shows and movies containing scenes shot from the air, using camera-equipped drones. Drones can also be used as mobile security cameras for businesses, prisons, hospitals, schools and many other companies and institutions that require sometimes extraordinary surveillance coverage.
The PDDS is marketed as a privacy safeguard. It will alert users to the presence of drones near their homes and businesses. The basic system consists of three boxes -- a Primary Command and Control Module and two Detection Sensor Nodes. These three boxes constitute a mesh grid network that can triangulate moving transmitters (such as those found on drones).
The Primary Command and Control Module sends its data via Wi-Fi to the owner's tablet, smartphone or PC. If the system determines that the transmitter is drone-based, it sounds an alarm or sends a message to your tablet or smartphone. This enables the system to notify the user even if the user is away from home or office.
Additional Detection Sensor Nodes can be used to increase the size of a detection grid. The control module can communicate with nodes from up to 200 feet away, while each sensor node can typically detect drones within 50 feet in all directions. The frequency detection range is from 1 MHz to 6.8 GHz.