Clive Robinson August 3, 2022 8:31 AM

@ All,

I kind of expected it to become common.

Stopping it is not going to be easy because there is enough incentive involved to turn it into “an arms race”.

Any second year undergraduate studying the likes of aerospace, electronics and similar will have the skill set to design a drone system that can beat the current anti-drone systems around.

The current conflict at the far easten edge of Europe is pushing the drone boundries / capabilities forwards dramatically (all modetn wars cause techbology pushes).

Which means that such technology will be on the black market imminently.

Whilst this is currently a “prisons” issue, consider what woukd happen to SWAT teams etc in stand offs?

Then take that forward into other areas of National Security concerne.

After all conceptually what is the difference between a half million dollar “Cruise Missile” and a $1000 drone with autopilot and a 1kg payload?

Remember I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing for deterance purposes since the mid 1980’s when Radio Control systems were used in Northern Ireland to detonate hidden bombs. I made the mistake of pointing out to superiors that you could make an RC plane with a sixfoot wingspan that could lift a 5lb load, that would obviate what was then their current defence ideas. Worse I went on to show that you could not reliably stop such aerial attack decices, and you still can not…

So an arms-race looks like it is most definitely going to happen…

Peter A. August 3, 2022 9:15 AM

My impression from Hollywood films is that U.S. prisons are mostly a fenced open-air space with a few buildings. Stopping air drops to such facilities looks like a hard problem. Over here, to the contrary, most prisons are old brick buildings with a small yard in the middle. It’s harder to place a drop (however not much harder, using current technology) and easier for the guards to spot dropped wares.

Winter August 3, 2022 10:21 AM

@Peter A

Over here, to the contrary, most prisons are old brick buildings with a small yard in the middle.

Easy tp [rptect, look for:
anti-contraband Prison Netting solutions

William August 3, 2022 11:36 AM

If they can’t stop drones from entering prisons, what kind of response is prepared should a drone strike be used for a low budget 9/11?

Clive Robinson August 3, 2022 12:39 PM

@ Winter, Peter A, ALL,

With regards,

“anti-contraband Prison Netting solutions”

The operative word is “netting” which is an interesting problem…

In many places one of the few rights prisoners get is access to excercise in fresh air and daylight, that is to in effect be “out doors”.

Thus “netting” can be used but solid ceilings made of say glass can not be used.

Then there is the issue that high value contraband such as mobile phones can be very small and other contraband can be formed into small but long cylinders, wraps, ropes or strings of quite narrow diameter.

For instance I have a couple of very small 2G Phones from China, I bought in London’s Tottenham Court Road for cash no questions asked, nor was video taken of the purchase.

One phone is still in it’s original case that is less than half an inch wide, a third of an inch deep, and an inch long. It looks like a dolls toy, but it’s fully functional including the key pad[1].

So will drop through a lot of netting systems without any problems if pushed correctly. They just have to be retrieved and hidden[2] by a prisoner.

The problem for the net designers is if they make the holes to small then leaves and other materials that will rot or in otherways become significant health hazards get caught if not cause water run off damage to buildings… Whilst in non prison settings cleaning such nets would be possible without much risk…

I’m told that such a small mobile phone can earn more than $1500/month income in US prisons which is actually a colosal amount[4].

The point is though that such netting has technical limitations that depend on a number of factors. And won’t of necessity be able to stop the size of high value contraband a drone can “push through and drop”.

[1] The other phone I’ve taken out of it’s case and connected it up to a tiny microprocessor which can tap into USB. It all fits into a largish pen cap just like one of those give away thumb drives. I use both phones when giving lectures to show just how little is needed to perform surveillance from the other side of the world. Worse just how easy it is to get hold of suitable consumer tech for less than “pocket change” and modify it to do so (it scares a lot of people including some pen-testers). I then go on and show other consumer level tech such as “Software Defined Radio”(SDR) systems that are equally as inexpensive and as easily available, to not just find but jam/neutralize such threats.

[2] Such small phones can be fairly easily hidden in body cavities[3]. Whilst many have heard of the obvious ones, they might not of heard of putting it in a bag and swallowing it. Thus the prisoner can wait for it to pass. However they can also tie it to a length of dental floss that the other end is fixed to their back teeth. Thus it sits in the stomach and can be pulled up again fairly easily with practice.

[3] I’ve not actually seen it done, but I’ve heard about it through people who have tried to “cyber enhance” themselves. Apparently you can without too much difficulty create a hidden pouch… It was found out by people that have surgically inserted RFIDs, Magnets and much larger active electronics into themselves. The result the body creats a fibroid around it and this can be lined as a permanent hidden pouch like cavity… The idea scares me because the bodies natural defences have effectively been breached thus the risk of infection would be high.

[4] The way to stop this to break the artificial monopoly created by the “Prison Phone” companies who profit at well upwards of 5000% and record all prisoners conversations and then sell them to Law Enforcment and other Agencies. That in the normal course of events would not be able to eavesdrop on such conversations.

vas pup August 3, 2022 2:53 PM

Associated Press
Navy expedites waterborne drones to close gap with China

“The Navy is speeding development of those robotic ships as an affordable way to keep pace with China’s growing fleet while vowing not to repeat costly shipbuilding blunders from recent years.

The four largest drone ships are being used together this summer during a multination naval exercise in the Pacific Ocean.

Other smaller waterborne drones are already being deployed by the Navy’s 5th Fleet in the waters off the Middle East.

===>The goal in coming years is to see how these research vessels’ radar and sensors can be combined with artificial intelligence, and integrated with traditional cruisers, destroyers, submarine and aircraft carriers, to create a networked fleet that’s resilient because it’s spread over greater distances and more difficult for enemies to destroy, the Navy says.

The Navy believes the technology can help with the three keys for military success — weapons range, scouting, and command and control — at a lower cost and risk to personnel, said James Holmes, a professor at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

Based on the success of multinational exercises last winter, the 5th Fleet said the U.S. Navy and international partners intend to deploy 100 crewless vessels by next summer.

All told, Adm. Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, envisions a mix of 150 large crewless surface vessels and undersea vessels by 2045. That’s on top of more than 350 conventional battle force ships.

The Navy’s spending proposal for the new fiscal year includes $433 million for crewless surface vessels and $284 million for underwater vessels.

Those vessels coupled with artificial intelligence have the potential to make the Navy’s fleet much more effective, said Gilday, the Navy’s top officer. But the Navy is going about research and development “in an evolutionary, deliberate, informed kind of way,” he said.

!!!The biggest advantage of robotic ships is that they could be built at a fraction of the cost of conventional warships as the Navy struggles to keep pace with China and Russia, said Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute. The U.S. already lags behind China in ship numbers, and the gap is growing each year.”

MikeA August 3, 2022 4:03 PM

@vas pup: “Costly shipbuilding blunders”

Do you mean genuine mistakes, or the blunder of politicizing the award of contracts while striking down campaign funding reporting?

The article itself, in raving about cooperation among various gangs
that are normally enemies, reminded me of tales from the beginning
of teh U.S> “experiment” of prohibition. One author (don’t recall which, it was some time ago) mad a good case for prohibition creating the modern organized crime syndicate, to address “supply chain issues”, enforcement of contracts, and retail distribution.

The more things change… (and what’s wrong with the “have it taken in by a bent guard” approach. Been working for hundreds, if not thousands, of years?)

Ted August 3, 2022 9:42 PM

Thank goodness the administration introduced some direction on this threat with the Domestic Counter-UAS National Action Plan.

It looks like this plan could help roll out counter-UAS support to SLTT (state, local, territorial and tribal) law enforcement agencies as well as to critical infrastructure operators.

The nature of this threat definitely merits coordination at the national level. It’d be extremely unwieldy for states – or state prison systems – to try to independently deal with matters generally based at the federal level (think FAA, FCC, DOD, DHS, etc).

Clive Robinson August 7, 2022 7:28 PM

@ ALL,

Re : Drone drops and observation.

As I noted above,

“The current conflict at the far eastern edge of Europe is pushing the drone boundries / capabilities forwards dramatically (all modern wars cause technology pushes).”

Thus two questions arise,

1, What capabilities now and in the near future.
2, How to negate the benitits it gives to others.

The following to videos, are various things considered usefull viewing,

The first is a general overview and update on what is comming back from the far eastern edge of europe,

This second –earlier– video is on a future subject for sUAS commercial or consumer drones. “Synthetic Apature Radar”(SAR) is a technically complex subject, however think of it as a camera using radio wavew rather than light, that can also measure distance to such a small amount it can see soft tire vehicle tracks on hard dusty ground by the depth distances.

SAR was “a thing on jumbo jets” bot so long ago, but is now capable of being put on larger drones. Within half a decade I can see it being sufficiently small to be put on commercial drones that can carry a 1kg or above payload.

What neither video mentions and it is important is that ground troup OPSec involving radio communications has to significantly change.

The military still have not updated on the issues with HF, VHF, UHF and microwave systems.

The assumption being that enemy radio location forces are “ground based” thus have a very close “radio horizon” is now nolonger true.

Gum-stick Linux computers are well below $50 and are very small and if ARM based tend to be quite low power. They can be fitted with veru small and light WiFi or Mobile Broad bsnd USB devices weighing just a few grams as well as the likes of RTL “Software Defined Radios”(SDR).

Basically giving quite exceptional ElInt and SigInt “head end” capabilits for a little under $100. That can be hung from a larger consumer drone which can fly at a hight of upto 300m. Thus the “radio horizon” would be over 60km.

So even on very low transmission power of 10mW as it’s “line of sight” it will be picked up at 60km by the drone. Where as a squad of dispetsed soldiers over a 100m diameter area who are “ground hugging” because they are not line of sight, would be hard pressed to communicate…

Back in the 1980’s I took advantage of this, if you look up the “Epsom Downs Race Course” you will see it is has a high stand mounted at a high point of the downs. There was a 2m VHF Amateur Radio Repeater that you could use from there with just 1W from a hand held walkie talkie (Icom IC2E) and the standard inefficient “rubber duck” antenna. That repeater was also usable by people in cars on the Isle of Wight… and I regularly went “up the downs” with a much more efficient “folded dipole” and could get into the repeater from a “grassy knoll” up towards Tatenham Corner using only 150mW and chatted to people I knew from the Royal Yacht Club in Cowes…

I know of people on current construction sites that are at most 100m wide who can not get reliable VHF communications with hand held / Walkie Talkies pushing out more than 5W…

That “line of sight” makes a very significant difference, and for troops on the ground a couple of drones they can neither see nor hear can fix their location dead within seconds the moment one of them presses that “Push To Talk”(PTT) button…

Winter August 8, 2022 2:05 AM


That “line of sight” makes a very significant difference, and for troops on the ground a couple of drones they can neither see nor hear can fix their location dead within seconds the moment one of them presses that “Push To Talk”(PTT) button…

This is an arms race. So, the same people who want to deploy such drones will also find ways around this. Just throwing stuff at the wall:

  • It is remarkable how much the militaries in Ukraine keep using cell phones
  • A small drone flying among the tree/roof tops can also be a low-powered repeater, communicating with other repeaters. It can also just sit on a tree/rooftop.
  • These repeater drones can use directed beams for communication [1]
  • Wireless connected drone swarms are already a thing [2]
  • Ground based repeaters can be connected with wires in combination with drone repeaters

I know, this is really not my field and there are ample counter argumetns telling that this is impossible. But it shows there are many venues of research to foil drone surveillance with drone obscuring and cloaking

[1] Ultra-high-capacity wireless communication by means of steered narrow optical beams

The optical spectrum offers great opportunities to resolve the congestion in radio-based communication, aggravated by the booming demand for wireless connectivity. High-speed infrared optical components in the 1500 nm window have reached high levels of sophistication and are extensively used already in fibre-optic networks. Moreover, infrared light beyond 1400 nm is eye-safe and is not noticeable by the users. Deploying steerable narrow infrared beams, wireless links with huge capacity can be established to users individually, at minimum power consumption levels and at very high levels of privacy. Fully passive diffractive optical modules can handle many beams individually and accurately steer narrow beams two-dimensionally by just remotely tuning the wavelength of each beam. The system design aspects are discussed, encompassing the beam-steering transmitter, wide field-of-view optical receiver and the localization of the user’s wireless devices. Prototype system demonstrators are reported, capable of supporting up to 128 beams carrying up to 112 Gbit s−1 per beam. Hybrid bidirectional systems which use a high-speed downstream optical link and an upstream radio link at a lower speed can provide powerful asymmetric wireless connections. All-optical bidirectional beam-steered wireless communication will be able to offer the ultimate in wireless capacity to the user while minimizing power consumption.

[2] Drone Swarms as Networked Control Systems by Integration of Networking and Computing

The study of multi-agent systems such as drone swarms has been intensified due to their cooperative behavior. Nonetheless, automating the control of a swarm is challenging as each drone operates under fluctuating wireless, networking and environment constraints. To tackle these challenges, we consider drone swarms as Networked Control Systems (NCS), where the control of the overall system is done enclosed within a wireless communication network. This is based on a tight interconnection between the networking and computational systems, aiming to efficiently support the basic control functionality, namely data collection and exchanging, decision-making, and the distribution of actuation commands. Based on a literature analysis, we do not find revision papers about design of drone swarms as NCS. In this review, we introduce an overview of how to develop self-organized drone swarms as NCS via the integration of a networking system and a computational system. In this sense, we describe the properties of the proposed components of a drone swarm as an NCS in terms of networking and computational systems. We also analyze their integration to increase the performance of a drone swarm. Finally, we identify a potential design choice, and a set of open research challenges for the integration of network and computing in a drone swarm as an NCS.

Clive Robinson August 8, 2022 6:59 AM

@ Winter, ALL,

… the same people who want to deploy such drones will also find ways around this.

To mis quote a ScFi character,

“Yer canny defie the laws of science Capt’n”

To communicate in our physical universe “information” has to be imprinted / modulated on matter or energy.

If it’s energy in the form of photons then we know two things about them,

1, They move at the speed of light.
2, They only change direction when acted upon by a force.

We also know that try as hard as we might, photons do not remain phase coherent and they do diverge.

We also know when it comes to physical objects a photon suffers in one of three ways,

1, It passes through : Transmission.
2, It bounces off : Reflection
3, It is captured : Absorption.

Whilst the first two are relatively simple effects and their bulk effects can be worked out with Euclidean Geometry, the third can be hellishly more complicated and involves processes like “Radiation transport” where the photon energy gets down stepped to basic mechanical vibration at the atomic scale we call heat or re-emitted at a lower frequency in an apparently random direction.

So making communications covert is at best difficult.

Also there is the information “Bandwidth Energy” issue. Basically the more information you wish to send, the greater the bandwidth required which in turn means the more energy required. Also as wanted signal bandwidth and time are inversly proportional the faster you want to send information the more energy you need…

Thus the more energy there is to inadvertantly escape and be detected by an opposing force…

Winter August 8, 2022 7:50 AM


Also there is the information “Bandwidth Energy” issue.

The link I quoted above wrote:

Prototype system demonstrators are reported, capable of supporting up to 128 beams carrying up to 112 Gbit s−1 per beam.

Sounds reasonable to me for using Infra Red beams.

lurker August 8, 2022 12:53 PM


It is remarkable how much the militaries in Ukraine keep using cell phones

Follow the money: are the telcos providing this as patriotic contribution to the war effort?

Or IOW the miltaries are availing themselves of a service provided and maintained by somebody else, and paying only a fraction of what it would cost for a full milspec system.

Winter August 8, 2022 1:42 PM


Follow the money: are the telcos providing this as patriotic contribution to the war effort?

More or less, Yes.


Once-rival telecom companies are coming together to help keep lines open. Last week, Kyivstar, Vodafone Ukraine and Lifecell launched “national roaming,” meaning subscribers could quickly switch to the network of other operators if their main provider went down.


There was also a national initiative to keep people connected that were unable to keep up payments. Cannot find the link anymore.

Security Sam August 9, 2022 12:37 PM


Spread spectrum now comes to mind
Where the trusted and dexterous staff
Knows there’s something there to find
By separating the wheat from the chaff.

Jon August 10, 2022 6:23 AM

@ Security Sam

And so these sons of hardy soil
Through farming out every seed
Have the results of their toil
The evidence that they need.

“The case is hard and clad and shut”
They cry, in delighted glee,
Until the word comes in as “But…”
From that which are the powers that be.

“The one you’ve got is a decent old gent”
States the governor’s aide-de-camp.
“This is a man who’s long paid my rent,
Throw the blame onto some other tramp.”

Said the dexterous and sinister then
Lest that their budget gets pinched.
“This tramp’s the most honest of men,
And we’ll see to it that he be lynched!”


Security Sam August 10, 2022 10:41 AM


That is not very far for the truth
I would at present boldly exclaim
As justice can be rather uncouth
And quite often the innocent blame.

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