AI News, Can We Detect Small Drones Like the One That Crashed at White House? Yes, We Can

Can We Detect Small Drones Like the One That Crashed at White House? Yes, We Can

Last week, a small drone belonging to a federal worker crashed on the White House grounds.

The New York Timesreported thatthe ill-fated drone, a DJI Phantom, was “too small and flying too low to be detected by radar,” according to government officials.So how might the U.S. Secret Service—or others worried about drone incursions to the properties they oversee—detect them?

The tricky part, he says, is not so much in sensing the subtle radar returns but in distinguishing a small drone from the many birds that your radar will also pick up.

Despite the difficulty, Kelly says it’s indeed possible to distinguish small drones from birds, by measuring the motion of the targets and other subtle aspects of each radar return and then applying machine intelligence to the problem.

And, I would surmise, such a system wouldn’t be able to detect an incoming fixed-wing drone programmed to dive silently toward its target while unpowered—in the style of an early V1, say.

Can Small Drones Be Detected by Radar?

The incident attracted much interest regarding the capability of White House air defense system should someone want to use such a small drone to cause trouble.

Although he admits it is true you cannot detect a small drone with ordinary radar, air security companies like his have been building systems capable of doing just that.

The challenge lies not in detecting the elusive radar incoming signals but in telling the difference between a small drone from the birds that the radar will also detect.

It is truly possible to tell the difference between detection of a small drone from a bird by evaluating the movement of the targets and other elusive aspects of each radar return.

Machine intelligence would help tell the difference by automating the mechanism of detecting any sources/targets that don’t measure up to par with what you would presume to be a bird or other source of radar muddle.

Most microphones only listen well at 25 to 50 feet, so, because of the ambient noise in urban environments, any audio detection would be rendered useless.

A Drone, Too Small for Radar to Detect, Rattles the White House

A counterterrorism official at the meeting warned that small drones could also be used to launch chemical and biological attacks, according to Daniel Herbert, who attended the conference.

Mr. Herbert, who runs an online business that repairs drones and trains people to operate them, said that the official with the National Counterterrorism Center told participants at the meeting that the drones present a serious threat to the nation’s infrastructure, and that the DJI Phantom is the terrorist’s drone of choice.

In a statement Monday afternoon, the Secret Service said a man had called the agency about 9:30 a.m. Monday to report that he had been the one controlling the drone when it crashed on the White House grounds.

A military official said that the Defense Department “typically scrambles fighter aircraft for aerial threats over Washington, but when it gets to a toy, that’s not something the military typically addresses.” Officials said a drone like the one that crashed on Monday was probably too small to carry enough explosives to significantly damage the White House structure.

McDonough, the White House chief of staff, walk outside when the weather is nice, making their way along the circular driveway on the south side of the building.

Several years ago, the Secret Service’s air security branch, which protects the area around the White House, began a classified study of how to bring down small drones.

Brian Hearing, a founder of Droneshield L.L.C., which makes drone detection systems for prisons and nuclear facilities, said radar systems are effectively useless for catching such small drones.

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