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Sounds Can Knock Drones Out of the Sky 120

angry tapir writes: Next week at the USENIX Security Symposium, researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejon, South Korea, are presenting research into knocking drones out of the sky using directed sound waves. They target a component crucial to every drone's ability to fly: its gyroscope. "A gyroscope keeps a drone balanced, providing information on its tilt, orientation and rotation, allowing for micro-adjustments that keep it aloft. Hobbyist and some commercial drones use inexpensive gyroscopes that are designed as integrated circuit packages." For some drones, the gyroscope and its housing have a resonant frequency that's within the audible spectrum. By targeting the drone with sound waves of that frequency, the gyroscope will begin to generate erroneous data, leading to a crash.
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Sounds Can Knock Drones Out of the Sky

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 05, 2015 @09:09AM (#50255145)
    Cheaper to get an armed kentucky redneck drunk to bring one down.
    • Yeah, but it's probably more legal to use a subwoofer than a shotgun to keep some pervert from looking at your daughter.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'd rather use a jammer. It's much harder to track back to you that way.

    • No, no. We must have a more complex solution. People who know nothing about guns have to many irrational fears. They will be much more comfortable with a sonic gyro-disruptor.

  • Not surprising (Score:5, Informative)

    by LaurenCates ( 3410445 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2015 @09:10AM (#50255149)

    It's also been established that sound can put out fires.

    http://physicsworld.com/cws/ar... [physicsworld.com]

  • I guess this would not work on optical gyros?
    • by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2015 @09:42AM (#50255339) Homepage

      Yeah but you are not going to have a ring laser or fibre optic gyroscope in a consumer "drone". It is going to be a cheap MEMS gyroscope, not something that costs thousands of dollars.

      Apart from anything else I suspect that optical gyroscopes need things like export license. Just take a look at the of example ring laser applications on the wikipedia page. It includes things like Trident missiles and a large range of military aircraft.

      In fact a little further Googling shows gyroscopes that are advertised as "Non-ITAR", which should tell you all you need to know.

      • Since you can buy fiber optic gyroscopes on Alibaba for under USD$20, I think issue of US-centric export controls is moot.

        This entire attack mode is now a worthless endeavour given this publicity. Anyone with the inclination can modify the case to prevent resonation.

        • by TheCarp ( 96830 )

          > Since you can buy fiber optic gyroscopes on Alibaba for under USD$20, I think issue of US-centric export controls is moot.

          You would think that since you could transmit RSA in an email and international implementations already existed, they would have become moot for those purposes long before they did.

          • Yes, but I believe you missed my point.

            US ITAR only covers exporting materials manufactured/created in the US. Therefore, any consumer, virtually anywhere in the world can obtain a cheap fiber optic gyro for their consumer grade UAV without concern for the United States's continued irrational paranoia about losing a mythic technological edge.

            On an related note, in this case, the ITAR regs reduce market share for US manufacturers and nothing more.

            • by TheCarp ( 96830 )

              No I think you missed my point.... these issues are fundamentally not only the same but, center around the same regulations. Back in the 90s you could obtain, anywhere in the world, RSA code. Yet it was still restricted the same way.

              This is a long standing pattern of stupid which has not appreciably changed in more than 30 years. You should, in fact, expect it.

    • by rwise2112 ( 648849 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2015 @09:58AM (#50255453)

      I guess this would not work on optical gyros?

      It will if you generate the sound with something, say, like a RPG.

    • I guess this would not work on optical gyros?

      No, to take out drones with optical gyros, folks will be using light wave guns, instead of sound wave guns.

      If you give MacGyver two fistfuls of pen pointer lasers, duct tape, chewing gum, and a Wonderbra, he will MacGyver you an array laser cannon that will be able to take out an optical gyroscope drone. And a lot of other things that don't have optical gyroscope drones.

      • by flink ( 18449 )

        I guess this would not work on optical gyros?

        No, to take out drones with optical gyros, folks will be using light wave guns, instead of sound wave guns.

        Maybe you could combine them... some sort of "wave motion gun"...

      • I guess this would not work on optical gyros?

        No, to take out drones with optical gyros, folks will be using light wave guns, instead of sound wave guns.

        If you give MacGyver two fistfuls of pen pointer lasers, duct tape, chewing gum, and a Wonderbra, he will MacGyver you an array laser cannon that will be able to take out an optical gyroscope drone. And a lot of other things that don't have optical gyroscope drones.

        Are you kidding? He could defeat a stealth fighter with all that equipment! Too much.

        • For that matter, you could take out most hobby-scale helicopter drones with just the bubble gum, if you could aim it accurately enough. A wad of bubble gum hitting anywhere on the drone would probably unbalance it enough to bring it down, particularly if it hit a rotor.
    • I'm not sure anybody knows but it's highly plausable that an optical gyro resonating at an audio frequency would be just as disabling.

  • Not sure if it will work for all drones, but it pissed the dog off to no end... But seriously, does inverse square law not apply here? What's the range on this? DNRTFA
    • by dtmos ( 447842 ) *

      From TFA:

      [. . .] According to this prediction, the possible attack distance is approximately 16.78 cm using the same sound source that we used for the real-world attack with the maximum volume (113 dB). This attack distance range might not be sufficient for a malicious attacker. However, attackers can overcome this distance limitation by using a more powerful and directional source (e.g., a loudspeaker array) than the single speaker used in our experiments. For instance, SB-3F from Meyersound can generate sound of 120 dB at 100 m, and 450XL from LRAD and HyperShield from UltraElectronics can produce 140 dB at 1 m, which is equivalent to 108.5 dB at 37.58 m. Therefore, the possible attack distance is 37.58 m, if an attacker uses a sound source that can generate 140 dB of SPL at 1 m.

    • Not sure if it will work for all drones, but it pissed the dog off to no end... But seriously, does inverse square law not apply here? What's the range on this? DNRTFA

      Those questions are mute. Effectiveness is not a criteria. We are searching for expensive, difficult, and unreliable methods for downing drones.

    • Inverse Square is with respect to point sources. Directional sources can carry much further.
      • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

        inverse square does apply to directional sources, the origin is behind the source is all.

  • Unpractical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Himmy32 ( 650060 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2015 @09:18AM (#50255203)
    For this attack is great if you have to identify the model/gyroscope and have done testing to get a value of the resonant frequencies of the gyroscope before hand and send a sound loud enough to disable it. 140 Db causes permanent hearing damage and that only makes it effective to 40 meters. I hardly think a system that deafens everyone in a large radius to take down a drone for the off chance that you even know the frequency to disable a drone is hardly practical. And if like the ones tested in the article you can attach a speaker to the device before hand, I doubt you even need to think about a system like this to disable the drone.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, but if you can use a directed speaker array to produce the sound (like the ones mentioned in the article) the off-beam effects aren't that important. This is a proof of concept, not a practical method.

      BTW the word is "impractical", not "unpractical".

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      For this attack is great if you have to identify the model/gyroscope and have done testing to get a value of the resonant frequencies of the gyroscope before hand and send a sound loud enough to disable it.

      And Thinkgeek sells or used to sell a TV remote control that had programmed the IR "OFF" code to just about every television system that had ever been sold, and it would blast them all out at essentially the same time.

      If drones become too annoying then people will refine this tech, making the packaging smaller, the directionality better, and the number of frequencies that it can hop-through more extensive and faster to switch through.

      • Amazon sells the Adafruit version of TV-B-Gone [amazon.com] as a kit, so you get the fun of building something and then the fun of going to the local sports bar during playoff time and getting beaten to a pulp when they realize you're the reason all the TVs shut off right before the final buzzer.

        If you carry one in your pocket, make sure you either have no coins or other metal, or put good insulation around the board. I had one in my jacket pocket one time and wondered where the smoke smell was coming from.

      • That would work if the drone used an IR control, and you knew its code. Unfortunately, all the ones I know of use radio waves. Fortunately, those are easy to jam with noise, so the receiver gets no command signal. Unfortunately, that is illegal. Fortunately, by the time somebody phones the FCC and they drive over with a truck to triangulate your signal, you will be long gone with your newly captured drone and there will be no trace of your jammer.

    • The fun of a good LRAD is that you can stand behind it and hear almost nothing.

    • Re:Unpractical (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2015 @10:47AM (#50255837)

      140 Db causes permanent hearing damage and that only makes it effective to 40 meters.

      That is very good. You don't want to take out the drone anyway. Rather the dork who is flying the drone. If you take out the drone, the dork will just buy another one on Amazon, and come back the next day. Drones are cheap now, so that anyone can afford one.

      What you want to do, is to triangulate the control signal, and make a polite visit to the pilot.

      I have been flying RC helicopters for about 20 years now, and I am appalled at the way some folks fly them dangerously in public.

      • Annnnd, if you wanted to really get that dork you could just change the frequency to that of the "brown note" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] and let'm have it!

    • Black Hat Guy has the answer [xkcd.com]. [At least I assume it's Black Hat Guy; in most of his appearances in that comic he's in bed and it would be silly to wear his hat in bed. Unless his girlfriend likes that kind of thing.] Since his noisy neighbor moved away, it's been sitting in his closet; given his personality, I think he'd be happy to modify it for use as an anti-drone weapon.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      For this attack is great if you have to identify the model/gyroscope and have done testing to get a value of the resonant frequencies of the gyroscope before hand and send a sound loud enough to disable it. 140 Db causes permanent hearing damage and that only makes it effective to 40 meters. I hardly think a system that deafens everyone in a large radius to take down a drone for the off chance that you even know the frequency to disable a drone is hardly practical. And if like the ones tested in the article

    • I think enclosing the electronics package inside a re-purposed headphone to cut the sound and provide crash protection would greatly reduce the effectiveness.

    • It only has to be 140dB at the drone, several speakers at much lower volumes could easily achieve this through constructive interference. Both the uplink and downlink on these things is usually 2.4 GHz, your microwave oven is on 2.4 GHz, so if it came down to a pissing contest, the oven has the bigger bladder.

  • I didn't see anywhere in the article about which specific resonance frequencies were used.

    And at 140 db ... I would be more concerned about the damage to my hearing than to the drone.
  • by HighOrbit ( 631451 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2015 @09:22AM (#50255241)
    Well if they are talking about the toy in the picture and 40 meters is the height, a fire hose or pitched base ball can bring it down too. If it is low enough to be brought down by a fire hose then it is too low and a nuisance.

    What would be more interesting is if sound can bring down a more advanced aircraft that relies on computerized gyroscope stabilization like a F-35 from a few kilometers.

    If you were here a bit over a decade ago, you remember these little babies the HERF guns, http://tech.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org] & http://science.slashdot.org/st... [slashdot.org]. They would probably work on drones (and more). Given the Inverse-square law, I don't remember what the range might be though.
    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      I'm thinking that a consumer-grade pressure washer might be enough. It probably doesn't take that much mass or propeller-fouling to bring down a drone, and if the electronics aren't sealed then the water might find its way inside and short it out too.
    • If you were here a bit over a decade ago, you remember these little babies the HERF guns,

      If you were here a bit over a decade ago, you remember that most of the HERF guns were fakes. If you were paying attention, that is.

    • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
      If you weren't on a list before, you definitely are now.
    • What would be more interesting is if sound can bring down a more advanced aircraft that relies on computerized gyroscope stabilization like a F-35 from a few kilometers.

      I seriously doubt they use cheap gyroscopes in the F-35... Most likely they have a set of highly accurate and stable laser ring units which could care less about sound waves..

  • It's like these people have never been to an airshow or close to an airport. Of course the pressure from a sonic boom can disrupt a drone. Ok ok so they took it a step further and are using frequency resonance to crash the drone. This sounds more like poor design on the part of the drone manufacturer, similar to the square windows of the De Havilland Comet.

    Next up, American researchers discover that heavy turbulence can disrupt drones paid for by a $350 billion dollar military science grant!

  • Ah (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The Blue Note of Death.

  • Drone manufacturers come up with a "sound-proof drone." Then your new hi-techy gun is just a worthless noisemaker.

    • Re:That is, until... (Score:4, Informative)

      by TWX ( 665546 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2015 @10:44AM (#50255795)
      As is the case in an arms race.

      Perhaps eventually we'll have air guns firing very fine lengths of tungsten wire to physically foul the propellers.
      • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 05, 2015 @11:23AM (#50256085) Homepage Journal

        Perhaps eventually we'll have air guns firing very fine lengths of tungsten wire to physically foul the propellers.

        You don't need anything so exotic; cheap and readily available nylon monofilament will do just fine. But if I were going to use something fancy, I'd use carbon fiber thread.

        • by TWX ( 665546 )
          Something too light won't have good flight characteristics, it'll be inclined to slow and deflect as it passes through air. Tungsten might be overkill, but it'd probably still need to be heavier than nylon.
          • Something too light won't have good flight characteristics, it'll be inclined to slow and deflect as it passes through air. Tungsten might be overkill, but it'd probably still need to be heavier than nylon.

            I think the ideal would be a CO2-driven pellet which trailed the line... You could get the whole thing to be pretty small and light, ideal for mounting on another drone.

            • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
              If you are going to shoot at it with a pellet gun, skip the hassle of trailing a thread and just shoot it directly with the pellet or BlackBerry or .22LR
              • If you are going to shoot at it with a pellet gun, skip the hassle of trailing a thread and just shoot it directly with the pellet or BlackBerry or .22LR

                The problem with that is that with many designs, it will take many shots to have a hope of reliably disabling the model. A lot of these things are just a big wad of polystyrene, which can take a whole lot of hits without really caring if they're not really good ones. Then there's the ones made of carbon fiber rods, yeah that stuff is fragile in its own way but if you don't get a solid hit with your pellet you can't expect to do anything good. Props are fragile but there's a substantial chance of a miss ther

                • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
                  A tail might work, but bird shot or target shot will work better and be more reliable and be cheaper
            • by TWX ( 665546 )
              That sounds plausible.

              Though we're essentially reinventing the old, "cannonballs tied together with a length of chain" design but in miniature, aren't we?

              I wonder if water with its associated surface tension could be used, if water would itself be inadequate. Use the mass of the water to carry the fibers...
              • Though we're essentially reinventing the old, "cannonballs tied together with a length of chain" design but in miniature, aren't we?

                We've got a long way to go before we reach the scale at which classical physics breaks down :)

                I wonder if water with its associated surface tension could be used, if water would itself be inadequate. Use the mass of the water to carry the fibers...

                Now I'm imagining drone-killing silly string.

            • I think the ideal would be a CO2-driven pellet which trailed the line...

              Taser darts trail a wire behind them.

          • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

            Dacron (a polyester-cotton mix) would be perfect, I think. A single strand of Terko Satin (an industrial brand I have a mile of in three ply twist, that I use for fishing mainline and netmaking for snares) has a breaking strain of 25kg and is the same thickness (and about the same weight) as 2kg nylon monofilament.

            A little history: Dacron used to be the preferred alternative for fishing line as opposed silk or cotton (the former of which was not very waterproof unless soak-treated with beeswax, the latter v

      • Barrage balloons. Look 'em up.

  • Sounds real good.
  • by ITRambo ( 1467509 ) on Wednesday August 05, 2015 @10:37AM (#50255731)
    And say "Muad'Dib" really loud. Take you spice first so you don't run out of juice. Only works with blue eyed people.
  • Give them to firefighters to knock down these idiots flying them over a forest fire.
  • The Agent Zero Sonic Blaster. Destroying drones and kid's hearing since 1960.

    http://www.retrothing.com/2009... [retrothing.com]

  • ... on the one article in which the Moo Cow guy should post (e.g., using cow moos to take down drones, or something like that), he can't be bothered to do so (at least, not yet).
  • My wife's farts can knock birds out of the sky.
  • High decibels can kill fish in a lake adjacent to an outdoor rock concert. A directed sound weapon can quell a riot or liquefy internal organs. None of this is new. Shotguns loaded with "drone shot" are the answer.
  • Huh, they really do have a use
  • You read that right. One of these: https://www.vat19.com/item/air... [vat19.com] will kill a drone from 40 feet. And that's basically a breadbag cannon. A three inch plastic pipe and a can of butane gets you an air cannon with a range of a couple hundred feet. Drop in a tennis ball, you're firing that thing a quarter mile with a kill range of one hundred yards.

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