Drone Threat

 

“In the 21st" century, populations of drones in the United States have been on the rise, creating a significant hazard to the flying public. Not only has drone numbers increased nationwide; but the size of drones has also grown exponentially. In the early 2000s, a common drone weighed between 3.0-4.0 ounces and sixed around 5-6 inches. Now in 2014, drones have becoming larger, weighing between 1-2 pounds and up to 28 inches.

 


Loomacres Wildlife Management is now proudly offering Drone Management for airports. Loomacres biologists are specially trained in drone identification and are the leading experts in identifying key habitats that attract drones to your airport. Loomacres takes drone management to the higher level, using a variety of harassment and deterrent techniques that are 100% effective at keeping drones from your airport. Common mitigation methods used by Loomacres include, but are not limited to: lasers, tasers, phasers, particle accelerators, mind-erasers, bioacoustics and falconry.

 


 Loomacres is the only company on the market that offers the use of both bioacoustics and falconry in drone abatement. By zeroing in on sound frequencies that drones cannot stand, Loomacres will effectively deter drones flying near any airport. When bioacoustics and other management techniques don’t achieve 100% effectiveness, Loomacres brings in trained falcons and raptors to attack those pesky drones. Falcons have been proven to be 100% effective at removing any drone from the sky. To see the effectiveness falcon and raptors are at attacking, please watch the video at:

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 


Contact Loomacres Wildlife Management today to start mitigating for drones at your airfield.” – Loomacres, 2014

 


Four years ago, Loomacres Wildlife Management introduced to the aviation world the ability to provide anti-drone mitigation services to help curb the threat of a burgeoning drone population. In the time since that initial population explosion, we have seen not only an exponential increase in overall population density, but also a marked evolution in the morphology of artificial fowl, known to the scientific world as The Common Drone (Volucris facticius), which roughly translates to English as “Artificial flying creature”.

 


Editor’s Note: It should be mentioned to our dear reader, that four years ago our original article was written out of jest. It was written in the hopes of bringing humor to the newly available flying contraption known as a drone. Yet, for all the lightheartedness that was instilled in that article, we have now found ourselves at the brink of reality. Drones have become a growing economic powerhouse for both recreational and commercial end users. As such, this increase in use has brought them to the limelight at the forefront of an industry that was once based on feathers and tissue, and now includes circuit boards and rotors.
With new species of drone being discovered by the scientific and hobbyist worlds seemingly every day, there is new found speculation as to whether to separate these newly described drones into a new genus, or even if the need for a new family to be created is required. Currently Circumagos (Rotored) is the only recognized family, although Accipitous or “hawk” is gaining in popularity to describe a newly created subset of drone. As of 2016, the FAA published their estimates of the total populations of Hobbyist (H) and Commercial (C) drones in the United states, with their 2018 estimates showing a total of 5.5 Million drones (2.9M “H”, 2.6M “C”) while continuing rise to 7 Million units by the year 2020 (4.3M “H”, 2.7M “C”). For comparison, using 2017 population estimates, by 2020 there will be as many drones to be found over the United States as there are Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) across all of North America! In the here and now, using the FAA’s estimates, there are roughly the same amount of drones in the US as there are humans (Homo sapiens) living in the Atlanta, Georgia Metropolitan area!


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In today’s world, the word “drone” conjures up thoughts of relatively large, quad-rotored aircraft, reminiscent of what could have been dreamed up 30 years ago in a California movie studio about distant galaxies and blue people, but I digress.  These hovering beasts of photographic burden are generally comprised of metal inner workings, surrounded by a candy colored plastic shell, which allows them the ability to be light enough to maintain flight, in addition to being able to carry a payload. More often than not, this payload consists of a camera that gives the pseudo-falconer the ability to record images from a drones-eye view, that can either be uploaded to the internet for public amusement, or the visual information can be sent directly to the operator in real time. This feature is a real boon to the UAV pilot community, as it opens the doors for a myriad of possibilities. Many of these possibilities have already been realized, with operators using their plasti-fowl for jobs that may require extensive ground-based actions, that can be circumvented with a drone at a fraction of the cost, in terms of time, energy and finances. Jobs such as working on the films in the aforementioned movie studio, conducting environmental surveys, or even conducting runway inspections (a hot topic around todays airports) can all be done remotely and safely in the drone era.

 


Sticking to the thought of drones around an airport, these plastic beasts of burden are more often seen as a nuisance and a potential threat to the safety and well-being of persons on board any aircraft that may be coming or going from an airport. Much like their feathered counterparts, drones can be hit by passing aircraft, and cause damage from the impact, or worse, be ingested into an engine. Unlike actual birds, drone flight is partially controlled by the government, with laws and ordinances in place that restrict, or even prohibit the flight of drones in certain high-risk areas. The government has tried to place similar laws on real bird flights but failed in the enforcement aspect of these laws when it was discovered that most birds can’t read (although some corvids are working on it!). Just as a quick overview of drone usage laws, many drones used today (any drone over .55lbs and under 55lbs) are subject to a requirement by the FAA that mandates their operators to register them with the government, much the same as your car or puppy.  In addition, these drones are relegated to such acts as staying under 400’ AGL (Above Ground Level), staying within line of sight, steering clear of restricted airspace as well as not flying over or near any emergency action. There are even more regulations in place that directly relate to drone usage, but it will be up to the reader to look them up as I have been asked to keep from “droning on” with this article (insert under-the-breath chuckle here).

 


In the event that a drone does come within Class B airspace, which is highly restricted airspace within 5 nautical miles (5.75 regular miles) of an airport, that pilot (and they are considered pilots) can be subject to charges and fines in relation to their heinous act.

 


Now that we’ve dabbled in the background of drones and their regulation, we are getting into the fun stuff. What do we do when a drone has become a threat? Well one new option that has become an exciting new trend is the use of… wait for it… a drone! That’s right, one of the newest trends in drone technology is the creation of “drone catchers”, in which larger (and legally flown) drones are being outfitted not only with the classic camera rigs, but they have also been geared with one and done style net guns, similar to the kind used for wildlife capture. For those of us that still need to remove a drone, yet are limited to Terra Firma, technology exists for us as well. Ranging from the cheap and effective shot shell-based nets, from which mini nets are fired from everyday shotguns, to ultra-high-tech arms utilizing the latest in sighting and firing technologies, the use of physical nets makes capture as easy as shooting fish in a barrel (ok, maybe not that easy, but they’re working on it). Another advancement straight out of Sci-fi uses controlled energy to scramble the electronics onboard an errantly located drone in order to bring it down (it’s basically a drone dog whistle that looks like someone mounted a TV antenna to a shotgun stock). Another interesting advancement in techniques surrounding drone capture is being tested in Europe, and it involves a very old school approach. Falconry, a practice that is used world wide for the capture of prey species (mammal and bird alike) has been fine tuned using specially trained eagles to seek out and capture rogue drones from mid-air, where they then bring the captured plasti-fowl to earth where authorities can investigate it further.

 


Before you can capture a drone, you need to know that one is around. Short of being onsite 24/7/365 while on drone watch duty, the next best option comes in the form of specialized devices with programing specifically engineered to find drones. Using detection and information interception technology, current models are capable of detecting illegal drones that are operating within the regulated no fly zone surrounding an airport, as well as providing the detecting agent with information about the drone, such as it’s FAA registration number. You may be wondering about how to lay your hands on this drone hunting technology. Well, there’s an App for that! Companies such as Drone Watcher, provide an app that can be downloaded right to your Android device (Sorry IOS users) and can sniff out basic drones up to ½ mile away, providing the app user with information about the offending drone, such as what type it is, it’s personal ID, and more. In addition to the app, there are also mobile and hard-mount drone seeking units that can seek and identify drones at higher distances, as well as detect a higher percentage of drone. This includes drones that have been pre-programed to follow a GPS route, rather than being manually controlled with Radio Frequency (RF) signals, as well as drones that have had their information encrypted.

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 


Lest we not forget, this is a wildlife management article. Drones are finding their own niche within our small, and formerly wildlife-centric world. There is a growing movement within the wildlife and airport communities in which drones are being seen in a more positive light than they have garnered in the past, as new models are being developed that can aid wildlife staff in their efforts to curb bird flights on and around already congested airspace.  Fast and swift moving models are being created with duct fan engines for a streamlined appearance and agile body, that along with a snazzy paintjob can adequately mimic the coloration and flight patterns of raptors, specifically Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus) to chase away unwanted birds. Other models utilize the classical quad-rotor designs while being paired with acoustic and visual aids to help deter deer and other large mammals away from runways and infields on airfields. It seems as though, for every job that a wildlife professional could want a tool, there is an oft paraphrased quote… “There’s a drone for that!”

 


Drones are a growing sector in the today’s world. From recreational to professional, new uses for drones are being developed and implemented regularly. With this increase in usage, it has become paramount for Wildlife Professionals and Airport Managers alike to keep a vigilant eye on the skies surrounding their airports for Volucris facticius, as well as it’s growing family. If there’s a drone buzzing in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Loomacres!

 

 

   

 

 

Jesse Warner

Wildlife Biologist

Loomacres Wildlife Management

Phoenix, AZ Office

(800)-243-1462 ext 511

www.airportwildlife.com