D-Fend Drone Incident Tracker: Just How Big is the Rogue Drone Problem?

drone incident tracker

drone incident trackerD-Fend Solutions Drone Incident Tracker keeps tabs on drone incursions across the globe

By DRONELIFE Feature Editor Jim Magill

As the usage of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) proliferates across the globe, so too does the number of incidents in which drones are spotted flying, either innocently or with bad intent, in airspace where they shouldn’t be.

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In recent notable incidents, unauthorized drone flights have caused a 20-minute disruption of a soccer match in the UK; resulted in the cancellation of an International Music Festival in Hamburg, Germany and caused the Irish Aviation Authority to revoke a pilot’s certification after the pilot flew a drone too close to a stadium in Cork where singer Ed Sheeran was performing.

Seeking to maintain a comprehensive record of drone incursions on an international basis, Israel-based counter-drone technology provider D-Fend Solutions has launched the Drone Attack & Incident Tracker on its website. The database, which uses publicly available resources to track drone incursion incidents, includes the incident description, date, sector affected and the source of the information.

The tracker does not report incidents in which D-Fend Solutions was directly involved in counter-UAS measures or confidential data compiled by police or governmental agencies.

Jeffrey Starr, De-Fend Solutions chief marketing officer, said the company maintains the database as a service to its customers and other interested parties, to provide them with up-to-date data on drone incursion incidents in countries across the globe.

“We were constantly, of course, making our own observations about the sort of trends we saw with potentially risky or dangerous drone incidents around the world,” he said. “And we were, of course also being constantly asked by our clients and others what we saw in terms of trends, what we saw in terms of sectors, timing, locations, the types of drones and the nature of the incidents.”

Starr acknowledged that the incident tracker does not give a comprehensive picture of all the drone incursion incidents that occur, as it is limited to only recording those incidents that have been reported by the world’s media.

“Obviously, there are many incidents that don’t make their way to the public domain. And there are incidents which governments have to deal with in confidence, of course, for security purposes,” he said.

Since its initial introduction as a raw compilation of data, De-Fend Solutions has made improvements to the tracker, allowing users to filter the data in various ways, such as focusing on incidents in a certain location or affecting a certain sector. “Soon we’ll be coming out with additional fields, like for example, what we call the incident type: whether it was a deliberate attack or whether it was an accidental collision or whether it was just a nuisance,” Starr said. “As we get more feedback, we’ll continue to make those enhancements.”

Reports of incidents on the rise

Preliminary analysis of the data in the tracker indicates that the number of reported incursion incidents has been steadily increasing over the time period that the tracker covers. However, it is too early to determine whether this is the result of an increase in incidents, or an increase in the reporting of those incidents that have taken place. “Some of this, of course, we also suspect is due to better reporting,” Starr said.

For example, in recent months, the tracker has recorded an increase in the number of drone incursions near airports. The increase in reporting could be due in part to increased vigilance around airports following a well-known drone incursion incident that occurred at London’s Gatwick Airport in December 2018. That incident resulted in flights being shut down at the busy airport for two days.

The tracker also shows an increase of reports of drone incursion incidents in parts of the world undergoing geopolitical unrest or military action, as well as around prisons and critical infrastructure facilities “In July, 2020 there was a now-famous incident of a crash of a drone near a Pennsylvania electricity substation,” Starr said.

More recently, in January, an unidentified drone was reported flying above the Forsmark nuclear plant in Sweden. Drone incursions were also reported over two other nuclear plants, as well as airports and the royal palace in that country.

Other suspicious sightings of drones near critical infrastructure sites have been reported at a nuclear fuel site in The Hague in The Netherlands, and around the Ocean Stonehouse rail bridge in the UK.

All of these incidents around the world have prompted national governments to take more robust counter-drone measures. In the United States, the White House made protection of critical infrastructure a key part of its recently announced Counter-UAS National Action Plan.

D-Fend Solutions is advocating, as part of the implementation of the plan, the prepositioning of counter-drone technology at critical infrastructure sites to protect against any future threats, Starr said.

“The first step is to measure the problem at your site: to at the minimum do some trials with detection technology to see how many drones per day are at your site; what types of drones? what time of day do they tend to show up? what else is occurring? where are they coming from?”

Given the scope of the problem, private company databases, such as D-Fend Solutions’ Drone Tracker are not enough to mitigate the growing problems surrounding unwarranted drone incursions, Starr said. He called for the creation of a national incident tracking database capable of recording multiple sets of data surrounding incursion incidents, including the nature of the incident, the sector or sectors affected and even the manufacturer and the model of the drone itself.

“All those kinds of things would be an incredibly helpful statistics at an aggregated level to better understand the threat,” he said. Such an aggregation of data would help both security agencies, as well as the critical infrastructure sites and entertainment venues that could potentially be at risk “to better prepare, based on the data that would be coming from such a national effort.”

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Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with almost a quarter-century of experience covering technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P Global Platts, Jim began writing about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones, and the ways in which they’re contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to and his work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, U.S. News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, a publication of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.



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