As the XXI Commonwealth Games get underway on the Gold Coast, there is plenty going on in the skies above it.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has recently signed off on the Radiocommunications (Commonwealth Games Anti-Drone Technology/RNSS Jamming Devices) Exemption Determination 2018.
This permits Queensland Police “the use of RNSS [radionavigation-satellite service] jamming devices to disable UAVs [unmanned aerials vehicles] and UASs [unmanned aerial systems] which may operate, or are operating, in the relevant frequency bands, in the protected zone.”
In other words, the police are armed with drone-disabling technology.
The ‘DroneGun’, by Australian company DroneShield, has been selected by the police as the official anti-drone technology of the games.
DroneShield's technology has previously been used at the Boston Marathon, the Hawaiian Ironman and the World Economic Forum in Davos.
CEO of DroneShield, Oleg Vornik, said drones bring with them far-reaching threats and nuisances, particularly at major events like the Commonwealth Games.
“At events and in stadiums, drones are a big threat,” he said.
“There are a range of particular scenarios that the security is concerned about.
“On one side is terrorism – any kind of public event is a target and drones are rightly considered to be a very effective way of conducting terrorism now.
“Then there’s people filming the event, which doesn’t really work with media rights.
“Then there is people just generally creating havoc flying drones and distracting… imagine watching an athletics event and then some person decides to fly a drone above the athletes!”
How does it work?
Although it looks like a modified rifle, the DroneGun does not simply shoot down drones from the skies.
Rather, it ‘jams’ the drones by sending a large amount of electromagnetic noise to “overwhelm” the drone.
This then overrides the connection between the drone and the pilot, while also ceasing video transmission instantly.
Depending on the drone, it will either initiate an emergency landing sequence directly below or go back to where it came from, returning undamaged.
Jamming is within the 2.38Ghz-2.483Ghz and 5.72Ghz-5.825Ghz frequencies, which are the two most common frequencies when dealing with drones.
It is effective on drones within a two-kilometer radius.
The DroneGun. Source: www.droneshield.com
The police force
Anti-drone technology is no longer an infant field.
As the popularity of drones has continued to grow in recent years, the need for innovations such as the DroneGun has also elevated.
Vornik explains that the product underwent extensive screening from the Queensland Police before it was selected for the Games.
“The Commonwealth Games effort came as a result of the Queensland Police being forward-looking and understanding that drones create a threat, and that traditional responses like bullets don’t really work in these kinds of situations,” he said.
“They took a lot of due diligence before they settled with us, it wasn’t simply them saying ‘well it’s a nice Australian company let’s just use their product’, there’s been a very long evaluation process involving multiple government agencies."
The Commonwealth Games will be held on the Gold Coast from 4 to 15 April.