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Defending Against Drones 368

Posted by Soulskill
from the hobbyist-vs-terrorist dept.
theodp writes "The US has not had to truly think about its air defense since the Cold War. But as America embraces the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, Newsweek says it's time to consider how our greatest new weapon may come back to bite us. Smaller UAVs' cool, battery-powered engines make them difficult to hit with conventional heat-seeking missiles. And while Patriot missiles can take out UAVs, at $3 million apiece such protection carries a steep price tag, especially if we have to deal with $500 DIY drones."
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Defending Against Drones

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  • Defense? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @10:18AM (#31296478) Homepage
    Defense? The purpose of the US military as per the US Constitution? Heck, our military and political leaders forgot about defense a loooong time ago. It's been all about offense since the end of WWII. The US hasn't been involved in any military action that we didn't start in the first place, so this should be a tough one for the brass to wrap their heads around.
  • by confused one (671304) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @10:31AM (#31296516)
    You can't shoot a plane flying at 30,000-40,000 feet out of the sky with a rifle. For that matter, you'd be damn lucky to hit one at 5,000 feet.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Saturday February 27, 2010 @10:32AM (#31296520) Homepage Journal

    That's an incredibly bad idea. Compare terminal velocity and total energy on a .50 cal rifle round to typical calibers and you'll see why. Laser point defense would make more sense; using drones to fight drones makes even more.

  • by confused one (671304) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @10:34AM (#31296528)
    I should add: I've got no problem with teaching everyone to shoot. Mandatory gun training might save some lives currently lost to stupidity.
  • Re:Defense? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 27, 2010 @10:35AM (#31296534)
    Care to name all of these conflicts we supposedly started? Please cite your sources to how we started them too. I think if you take the time to research this subject you're going to get a wicked eye opening.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 27, 2010 @10:41AM (#31296568)

    Your utterly wrong and uninsightful comment is completely offtopic to the issue at hand. The article is about defense against drones.

    What the fuck does your opinion of what constitutes defense have anything to do with it here?

    Moderators, do your job and mod this offtopic bullshit to oblivions please.

  • by sunking2 (521698) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @10:49AM (#31296614)
    It's not about the cost of what you have to shoot down but what you have to defend.
  • Lasers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by selven (1556643) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @10:55AM (#31296640)

    Would it be possible to build tripod mounted lasers to lock onto a drone and just keep firing at it until the battery explodes / circuitry melts? Locking on should be easy since $500 drones won't be going at 200 meters per second. A laser working with household level power should be able to fry a drone in a few minutes.

  • by JanneM (7445) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @10:57AM (#31296652) Homepage

    Even high school students are dabbling in autonomous drones nowadays, and most research on autonomous vehicles is open and readily downloadable. Your jammer is not going to help too much if the drone knows what it's supposed to do without radio contact.

    And you need to know there's a drone to jam a kilometer overhead in the first place.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <> on Saturday February 27, 2010 @11:03AM (#31296698)

    Good luck with that. If I were designing one of those and my objective was to kill innocent people and/or disrupt a country's manufacturing/distribution infrastructure, all I need is a chip that will get it where it's going, run through a series of shape templates (a bus, train or transport truck or specific building, for example), then dive into it.

    Easy, cheap, and no external control needed. Another plus: hardening such throw-away devices is usually easy and cheap. Example: Inertial navigation to target, flip on the video for a quick look-see, then hit whatever's closest. And you build lots and lots of 'em.

  • Re:Defense? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by XPeter (1429763) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @11:14AM (#31296756) Homepage

    The various Cold War military conflicts are a good way to start.

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @11:32AM (#31296854) Homepage
    I would like to see were you get your statistics since I have never seen any that corroborate your hypothesis.
    In fact all statistics I have seen point in the opposite direction.
    Here is one of many []
  • by GuyFawkes (729054) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @11:34AM (#31296868) Homepage Journal

    A 500 buck drone, capable of carrying 250g of c4, with a range of 5 km and an endurance of 30 minutes, could bring a country to its knees.


    Satellite dish LNBs, High Tension cable insulators, refinery pipework, radar dishes on weaponry, etc etc etc.

    use two, the first the blow an access into a window, and EVERY important computer is a target, bank computers, traffic control computers, air traffic control, industrial process, etc etc etc.

    Use 5, meshed together, and the fifth could be flown inside a rabbit warren, SCRAM control sensors in a reactor plant, you name it.

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @11:57AM (#31296974)

    We gotta keep finding new threats. Otherwise defense contractor stock would drop! We can't have that!

  • To Begin With (Score:1, Insightful)

    by LennyP (1383065) <> on Saturday February 27, 2010 @12:03PM (#31297006)
    We should stop selling weapons to everyone and anyone as these same weapons end up being used against us. We should nationalize the defense industry as part of our military; as great as our military is, is it more than capable of being in charge of it's own weapons production. As long as our "defense" industries are profit based, they will require -- and "our" government will provide -- war.
  • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @01:00PM (#31297402) Journal
    If you send just one small drone (which will cost more than USD500 if you include a payload that will actually cause significant damage) across an ocean to the USA, they may not figure out where its from. If you actually hit something of value with that tiny drone it's not going to do much really except maybe cause a few more oppressive/stupid laws to be passed.

    If you send thousands or more you can do far more damage, but then the USA will more easily figure out where they are coming from and bomb your country to bits. If they feel like it (e.g. the drones aren't coming from Russia or China or their allies), they might even get permission from the UN first.

    If you're a terrorist that has already got into the USA, such drones aren't really necessary if you want to cause a lot of damage, especially if you can already somehow get quantities of high explosives that a drone can use (if you can't, your drones aren't going to do much damage - just kill a few people). Might as well just put the bomb in a shopping mall, or cinema, or bus, or subway. Not too difficult to walk into such places and get out (you might even be able to disguise yourself or plant it on another person/vehicle).

    What small cheap drones might be good for is trying to harass the USA out of your country. e.g. they are already in your country and possibly have already bombed it. In these scenarios it's not so simple to just walk in to a US military site, plant the bomb and leave to do it again another day. So that's where a drone might be useful.

    Then the US Military will need to defend itself against such drones.
  • by azenpunk (1080949) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @01:30PM (#31297606)

    If the people dying have no respect for others, yeah.

  • by FrozenGeek (1219968) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @01:39PM (#31297732)
    Not entirely true. Say you're protecting a billion-dollar asset. You have 10 million dollars for defense. I have 100 thousand dollars for offense. For 1000 dollars, I can mount an attack that costs you 1,000,000 to defend. You will have to beg, borrow, or steal, 90 million dollars to defend every attack that I can mount. Now you have a real problem.

    Even worse, Suppose I can easily obtain and assemble the parts I need for an attack. But your, for instance, Patriot missiles take rather longer to assemble (as they are much more complex). If you have 50 missiles at hand, I only need to launch 51 attacks before you get your next shipment of missiles.

    Clearly you are correct inasmuch as you won't spend 1,000,000,000 dollars to defend 200,000,000 dollars of assets. But the relative costs of defense and offense do matter.
  • Sigh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Saturday February 27, 2010 @01:41PM (#31297758) Journal

    As someone who likes flying model helicopters, I can see it won't be long until the government bans that on fears that "I might be a terrorist wanting to fly my T-Rex 600 into something", closing off yet another avenue of harmless pleasure.

  • Re:Defense? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by azenpunk (1080949) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @02:03PM (#31298004)

    Dude, look at a map of Russia, and then look at a map of the USSR. All of those countries that are the difference between the two had their governments overthrown by the Soviets and literally thousands of people executed in a single night in a wash-rinse-repeat cycle all through Europe. Go watch the Yuri Bezmenov videos and remember while you watch them that he was one of the people orchestrating the process. With all of the bad things the US has done, the Soviets were always more dangerous.

  • by AmberBlackCat (829689) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @02:12PM (#31298116)

    If you actually hit something of value with that tiny drone it's not going to do much really except maybe cause a few more oppressive/stupid laws to be passed.

    I wonder how many true terrorists will read that and instantly be sold on the idea of low-cost drones...

  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @03:34PM (#31298904) Journal
    You're wrong. What constitutes defence is PARAMOUNT to the discussion re: defence against drone.

    Let's say you engage in a behaviour like eating sugary things (like gobbling up a huge amount of the world's resources and supporting evil regimes) that attracts bees and Wasps (terrorists, drones, etc.). Sure, you can spend PILES of money on insecticides (patriot missiles, TSA, etc.), or, you could simply stop engaging in the behaviour that attracts bees and wasps.

    Duh. But people like you are greedy, lazy, and stupid, and can't live without their SUVs, McMansions, and daily intake of beef, sugar, and Salads in February, and so rather than change your behaviour, you would rather ramp up the insecticide production. Tards. Keep it up, and expect people to bomb the crap out of you. It's really very simple, almost Newtonian in structure.

  • by zacronos (937891) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @03:40PM (#31298942)
    Eh, maybe a bare few, but I honestly don't buy that crap that "they hate us for our freedom". (There's some serious propaganda.) Even assuming there are some who hate us for our e.g. religious freedom, they won't exactly thinks those new oppressive/stupid laws are progress towards their goal.
  • Re:Lasers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by selven (1556643) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @03:59PM (#31299142)

    You? Legal? We're talking about military defense here.

  • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @05:29PM (#31299764) Journal

    I should add: I've got no problem with teaching everyone to shoot. Mandatory gun training might save some lives currently lost to stupidity.

    Training people to shoot has never been a problem. Giving stupid people guns, regardless of their training, is.

  • by jamrock (863246) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @06:04PM (#31299984)

    It would seem to me if every citizen knew how to properly shoot a rifle, odds are pretty good one of those things could be knocked out of the sky with a barrett.

    You really put a lot of thought into this didn't you? No, the odds are far from "pretty good". There's a reason why people hunt flying birds with shotguns: the spray of pellets is much more likely to hit a fast-moving target than a single projectile, and while there are any number of people in the U.S. who are quite proficient with shotguns, only a very, very few have the requisite skill necessary to hit a bird with a rifle, much less a drone, which would probably be flying MUCH faster than a bird, and if flying low, would be in sight for only a fraction of a second.

    As to your suggestion that citizens be armed with Barrett sniper rifles, it takes months of intensive training to become a proficient sniper, and they start off with expert marksmen. Even then, the very best snipers would probably be ineffecive against a target such as a drone, which, given the the advances in small off-the-shelf turbine engines that are readily available to R/C hobbyists, would be travelling at a couple hundred mph, and if flying at low altitude, would only be visible for a split second. Add to that the mass of the Barrett, which makes it difficult to maneuver quickly enough to track a fast-moving target. Plus there is the wholly unanswered question of readiness: how to alert this civilian air defense artillery corps and give them useful targeting data IN TIME to be effective. What are they going to do? Lug a large heavy weapon plus ammunition with them to work, the beach, on dates etc, on the off chance that they might be alerted to incoming drones? The idea of training large numbers of ordinary citizens to the level of proficiency required is not a tenable one, to put it charitably, and would be FAR from cost-effective.

    There is also the danger of falling bullets, as another poster pointed out. And if you don't think the danger is real, tell that to my friend Cathy, whose uncle was killed about four years ago in Miami by a falling bullet. He was sitting on his back patio with his wife watching the New Year's fireworks and having a glass of champagne when he slumped to the ground dead. The first thought was that he had suffered a massive heart attack, but the medical examiner noticed a small hole near his collarbone, and the autopsy revealed that he had been killed by a small caliber handgun bullet falling from a steep angle, fired into the sky by some unknown, and unknowing, person celebrating the fireworks. The thought of masses of people firing enormous volumes of .50 caliber rounds into the sky over populated areas is a terrifying one to me personally.

  • Re:Defense? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Saturday February 27, 2010 @11:55PM (#31302324)

    The tactics the Soviets used were more dangerous that all the money and guns the US ever threw at anything.

    That is why the Soviets took over the world! Or at least control most of its finances, shove laws friendly to their business interests down the throat of pretty much every nation out there and have forward military bases in over 60% countries on the planet and spend more on offensive weaponry than the rest of the world combined ... oh wait!

    The hysterical bullshit US war-mongers spew would be comical if it weren't so blood soaked.

    Go watch his videos.

    Right after I finish watching the Ahmed Chelabi videos about the great big stockpiles of WMDs in Iraq all set to go off at 5 minutes notice.

    You have no idea what you are poo-pooing.

    On the contrary, I have pretty good idea, although the verbal feces here are all yours.

    It's not about guns and money, it's about dissolving the fabric of a society from the inside over a generation or two before you create a crisis and move in.

    Oh so the Soviets invented the doctrine of "Disaster Capitalism" []. Clever Commie .... err... Capitalist bastards.

    The Soviets were invading South Vietnam and South Korea, using the northern counterparts to each to provide the muscle.

    Hence the Great Tank Battle of Saigon where thousands of T-72 tanks of the Red Army squared off against the M48s of the US Armored Divisions with the sky above full of Soviet airmen dogfighting with US Air Force, with tactical nukes going off in the background ... uhm ... what?

    Number of US Soldiers killed in the Vietnam War: 58,159. Number of Vietnamese killed: 1.3 million. Soviet citizens dead: 16 (that's six and ten since you are having obvious difficulties with numbers) ... who was invading whom, again?

    The Soviets were attempting to conquer the world with a poison ideology.

    Words of a religious fanatic. Capitalism is also a "poison" ideology that has been used to do countless acts of unspeakable evil.

    ....And Blah Blah Blah, Bleh Blah Blih .... This Just In: Iraq War Justified Because USA is Always Righteously Right Even When Totally Wrong! Hurrah! We Kick Ass! They Deserved It! ... Go USA! Go USA! USA #1 ... Blah Blah Bleh Blah .... and so on etc, ad nauseum ...

    So while I sometimes enjoy taunting raving lunatics such as you, I am not in the mood today. Go play by yourself in that delusional universe you've created for yourself.

  • by IWannaBeAnAC (653701) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:54AM (#31302740)

    Reminds me of my days when I was a counterculture Left-wing hippie radical (basically, what "mainstream" Democrats are today).

    That is ridiculous. The USA Democrats are certainly to the left of the Republicans, but I would suggest that they are to the right of any mainstream political party in Europe. But perhaps you can suggest any counter example?

"A mind is a terrible thing to have leaking out your ears." -- The League of Sadistic Telepaths