Tag Archives: Drones

Dutch police have a new ally in the fight against illegal drones

Bald eagles have long been a symbol of freedom, justice, and downright bad-assery for Americans. The bald eagle is such a majestic creature that is widely adored by many, but Dutch Police are taking these creatures to a whole new level of awesome.

Eagles and falcons have many uses, but Dutch police are using them to solve a relatively new problem: drones. Just about anyone can buy a drone, and as awesome as that is, it’s also caused issues with privacy and safety. Drones have even become an issue at sporting events. Just recently, Marcel Hirscher, a skiing star, just barely evaded being hit by a falling drone which was being used by a broadcasting company. The drones operator was told to stay outside of the the course and at least 15 meters away from the athlete. The operator failed to do this and the drone fell from the sky, narrowly missing Hirscher. Because of this incident, The International Ski Federation banned camera drones from all of its events.

Bald eagles are expert drone-catchers. Graphic from Daily Mail
Bald eagles are expert drone-catchers. Graphic from Daily Mail

Although drones have been banned in many scenarios and by many organizations, event officials and police have had a hard time confronting the issue without causing even more issues. Drone-catchers, which are larger drones that expel an net and capture illegal drones, aren’t exactly fool-proof just yet. Other methods, such as shooting the drones out of the air, cause another safety issue because many times, the drones are overhead of large crowds.

Dutch police have come up with a pretty graceful solution to this issue: bald eagles. That’s right, bald eagles are being trained to scoop drones out of the sky. Just as falcons and eagles have been used in sporting events to fly over the crowd, sometimes with a GoPro camera, eagles are now being trained to take down illegal drones. The reason this is the ideal solution? While drone catchers may swing their nets and hit an unintended target, or knock a drone out of the sky and onto a crowd, eagles can swoop in to grab the drone and take it to a safe area.

While there have been some concerns for the safety of the birds, eagles scaled feet and sharp talons protect them from the blades that enable the drones to fly. The eagles also have excellent vision which allows them to see the blades separately instead of just a big blur. This allows the birds to very accurately grasp the center of the drone and avoid injury. Besides their physical ability to stop drones in their tracks, the birds naturally dislike drones and tend to show a bit of territoriality towards the machines when they’re used in the birds natural habitat.

Overall, this is a huge win-win for both man and beast: man uses the beast to serve a security purpose, while the beast gets to spread his wings and tackle something they see as a threat. Along with full-fledged attacks on the drone, we can harness the birds intelligence and abilities to actually retrieve the drone without endangering any by-standers.

The only regret I have about this idea is that the Dutch thought of it first, and not the country that adores eagles and taking down domestic terrorists (the United States).

Apple censors Drones+ app

Anyone can create an app these days,  so it’s usually not surprising when an app is rejected. Sometimes the idea has already been implemented in an existing app, or the app isn’t considered particularly useful. One can’t help but wonder if there’s a bit more going on with Apple’s decision to reject Drones+, an app created by Josh Begley. Continue reading Apple censors Drones+ app

Fear the reaper

A computer virus is running rampant through the Reaper and Predator drones of the US military. The virus has been running through the drones for the past couple of weeks, and military tech specialists have struggled to remove it.

Photo from Creative Commons.

The virus that is running through the cyber network of drones is a keylogger. A keylogger is a program that copies down and memorizes keystrokes of a user. This type of malware is typically used to steal passwords for online games and social media accounts.

The virus has been particularly difficult for the 24th Air Force to remove, the unit responsible for cyber defense of the military’s drones. Inside sources have reported to Wired that the virus has continued to reinstall itself onto the system as quickly as it has been removed. The program appears to be under control now after several hard drives have been completely wiped of all data.

Some news sources have claimed that perhaps the keyloggers had been installed by a section of the Department of Defense. This program would allow the department to keep track of the control commands of the drone pilots. According to a source close to techzwn, while the virus has been on the system for a few weeks it has not taken anything confidential. Tech services for the Air Force have been deleting it as quickly as they have been detecting it.

An official statement from the Air Force claims that they first discovered the virus on a stand alone support network system that was running Windows. The Air Force then followed protocol and began to backtrace the program attempting to locate the source of the viral infection.

The Air Force is treating the keylogger as nothing more than a minor annoyance. The virus doesn’t appear to pose any threat by leaking confidential information and it doesn’t appear to be intended to duplicate the programming used to operate the drone systems. This brings a larger question to the forefront — if it’s such a benign viral infection, then why are the Air Force’s tech experts having such an issue removing the virus from their system?

While the Air Force claims to have the infection under control, it’s surprising that such a virus would get loaded into their network with no one noticing it. This doesn’t say much for the network security of the Air Force, and brings an even bigger question as to why the drone system would be at all connected to the open Internet if that’s how the infection entered their network. If it’s not, then clearly the Air Force is dealing with sabotage. It is unclear since it appears to be doing nothing more than recording flight operations of the drones and not hindering any of the operations.