Drone and drone pilot with remote control at an airport

Airport drone security

Protection against non-cooperative drones

Airports are highly critical infrastructure that needs to be protected from physical, drone and other attacks. Aviation safety needs to be uncompromising in its efforts to keep pace with emerging threats. Safety and security are non-negotiable, and operations have to stay efficient and flexible. Recent drone related disruptions to aircraft and their impact on airport safety and operations have raised serious questions for airport operators on how to handle such situations. Protection against non-cooperative drones, known as counter UAS (CUAS), is paramount.

The scope

Unmanned aerial vehicles – commonly referred to as UAVs, unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or drones –have become widely available and pose new safety and security risks. In addition to their legal operation, accidents and illegal use now pose a significant security risk, especially at airports. Drone incidents can endanger aircraft and their occupants.

In airport safety and security management, areas within flight restriction zones – both airside and landside – are of primary importance. Drones entering these zones without authorization are a security concern. They can reach the runway in service, disrupting business continuity until operations can resume in safe conditions.

Recent UAS incidents at airports raise safety and security concerns and underscore the need for airports to have clear policies for dealing with such occurrences. Most reported incidents have taken place during the approach and landing or take-off and climb, the most critical phases of a flight. Apart from safety and security concerns, drones can also cause economic and operational damage, such as the disruption at London Gatwick Airport in December 2018. To minimize the downtime such incidents cause, early warning and reliable localization of both the drone and especially its pilot is crucial.

National authorities and airport operators need to coordinate airport requirements in order to implement CUAS technologies. Requirements for airports to implement such technologies should be based on risk and impact assessments that account for local conditions and operational requirements. In implementing these measures, care must be taken not to create unintended safety hazards and unmitigated risks to other manned aircraft, authorized drones or aviation infrastructure.

Protective measures can only be taken after a threat is detected. To effectively counter a threat, early warning is critical – every second counts, especially at airports. R&S®ARDRONIS by Rohde & Schwarz detects commercial drone activity, automatically classifying the type of drone signal, determining the direction of the drone and its pilot, and (on command) disrupting the radio control (RC) link to prevent the drone from reaching its target.

Drones require preflight checks before take-off. During this time, the RC is active and can be detected. R&S®ARDRONIS can collect these RC signals across a large area and provides early warning against drone activity. By doing this, R&S®ARDRONIS provides a key benefit to any multisensor anti-drone system.

This Rohde & Schwarz counter UAS solution can be deployed as a fixed installation to cover a specific area, as a semi-mobile solution providing temporary cover or as a fully portable solution enabling ad hoc security. Modular design translates easily into custom solutions and is especially beneficial for portable systems.

Systems for airport drone security


The R&S®ARDRONIS automatic radio-controlled drone identification solution is a comprehensive solution with specialized capabilities for detecting, identifying, classifying, direction finding, recording and disrupting the remote control link to a drone.It is part of GUARDION.The solution is optimized for countering the threats arising from radio-controlled (RC) drones. Through successful trials, deployments with key customers, involvement in protecting various important and public events as well as VIP persons, R&S®ARDRONIS has proven to be an effective technical approach.

More information

Whitepaper: Counter-drone technology – Follower versus barrage jamming

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