Detection Systems Listen for Drones Flying Under the Radar

By Bryan Lufkin on at

On the heels of reports that drones are mysteriously buzzing around the Eiffel Tower and crashing into the White House lawn, a Japanese security company is developing a new drone detector — a system to sniff out any shady eyes in the sky buzzing around the wrong places. The march toward dystopia continues.

Tokyo-based Alsok, also known as Sohgo Security Services, is out to rid government office buildings and power plants of unwelcome flying robots. Why? The firm says privacy concerns and terrorist threats are why the unmanned aircraft need constant surveillance.

To spot the unwelcome UAVs the detection system listens for drones’ tell-tale sounds. Each drone has an “audio fingerprint”, which is formed from the sound of its whirring propellers, explains the Nikkei Asian Review. Alsok will detect any drone humming in the area with mics that have listening ranges of 500 feet in all directions. The audio is then matched to an Alsok database that’s full of drone sounds.

According to the company, security personnel will not only be able to detect where a drone could be coming from, but also what type of drone it is. Handy, since many of the aircraft are invisible to radar.

The company will also dispatch what it calls “hyper security guards”: personnel strapped with wearable cameras and smartphones who will aid in the drone-corralling mission.

Drones aren’t super popular in Japan right now. Last month, one laced with teeny amounts of radioactive material plopped onto the roof of the prime minister’s office. And last week it was announced that the flying robots are banned from parks in Tokyo, to keep kids safe.

But these kinds of detection systems aren’t exclusive to Japan. Washington DC-based Drone Shield deploys the same type of audio recognition method as Alsok. According to its website, Drone Shield uses “a database of common drone acoustic signatures so false alarms are reduced (i.e., ignores lawn mowers and leaf blowers) and in many cases the type of drone is also included in the alert.”

As much as drones can be a force for good, the more dystopian uses are clear, and we should expect more anti-drone technology to come.

[PC World and Nikkei Asian Review]