Meet the drone hunter

Pur­suit craft lined up to in­ter­cept aerial drones

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Shoshana Ke­dem @B_Shosh shoshana@7days.ae

A new Drone Hunter that can chase down and iden­tify un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles that breach re­stricted airspace has gone on dis­play at GI­TEX Technology Week.

En­gi­neers from the UAE-based tech firm Ex­po­nent said it can iden­tify and chase down rogue recre­ational drones “within min­utes” to limit the time of air­port dis­rup­tion.

Since 2015, Dubai has ex­pe­ri­enced three air space clo­sures, in Jan­uary 2015, June 2016 and Septem­ber 2016. The long­est was for 80 min­utes and the short­est for 30 min­utes, a Gen­eral Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity (GCAA) of­fi­cial said.

Maroun Han­noush, Com­mer­cial Man­ager at Ex­po­nent, said the clo­sure in late Septem­ber hap­pened when a pi­lot spot­ted a drone at 2,000 feet from the cock­pit.

He said it took the GCAA 30 min­utes to de­ploy a he­li­copter, by which time the drone was gone.

He said: “The whole idea be­hind the Drone Hunter is that once the pi­lot con­firms the lo­ca­tion the hunter is ready to take off in three min­utes at a speed of 110km per hour.”

He said the air­ports, and build­ings like Burj Khal­ifa and Burj Al Arab, are among the sites that are ‘geo-fenced’ – pro­tected by in­vis­i­ble soft­ware made by DJI, a con­sumer drone-maker.

But those sys­tems can only de­tect and de­ac­ti­vate drones made by DJI, so a drone man­u­fac­tured at home, or by a Chi­nese com­pany, will not be recog­nised by the soft­ware, al­low­ing it to breach the perime­ter. Han­noush said: “The good news is that most of those con­sumer drones that are sold here on the mar­ket are DJI. It is very rare that peo­ple who will go and tinker around and change the pro­gram­ming. “There will be some drones that are home-built, and dif­fer­ent types of Chi­nese drones, that are not reg­u­lated, but hope­fully with the Drone Hunter we are able to spot those.”

The Drone Hunter’s func­tion is to tag uniden­ti­fied drones and take a close-up pic­ture of the reg­is­tra­tion on the drone. It would then be re­ported to the au­thor­i­ties on the ground, added Dani­jel Jo­vanovic, UAV Man­ager at Ex­po­nent.

A GCAA of­fi­cial said the Hunter will be launched “to min­imise the clo­sure du­ra­tion of air­ports by drones” in 2017-2018, after the project has met their re­quire­ments and.

IN­TER­CEP­TOR: The Drone Hunter on dis­play at GI­TEX

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