A Down-to-Earth Solution to an Aerial Threat

(DGIwire) – With the threat of enemy drones on the rise, increasing attention is turning to the ideal countermeasures. As recently reported by Business Insider, one Maryland-based company has found a way to take control of an unwanted drone while in flight—without the use of jamming the radio signal that keeps it airborne.

Started in 2010, Department 13 was a result of U.S. government-funded research into radio frequencies and Bluetooth technology. That was when CEO Jonathan Hunter realized his work could have real effects in mitigating radio-controlled drone aircraft—a frequent and growing nuisance to militaries and the private sector.

“We’ve learned how to speak drone talk,” Hunter told Business Insider. Though Department 13’s technology has been described as “hacking” a drone, Hunter does not use that term; instead, he notes his technology, MESMER™, is able to take over a drone by manipulating the protocols being used by its original operator.

MESMER is a revolutionary commercial counter-drone platform, using sophisticated automated detection and mitigation strategies to stop, redirect, land or take total control of a target drone or radio-controlled device. This is done with protocol manipulation, which takes advantage of weaknesses found in all digital radio protocols. MESMER is also flexible, operating as a stand-alone system, or working in tandem with existing hardware solutions. MESMER is ideal for both commercial and defense/security organizations to deal with the emerging threat of ubiquitous autonomous systems. The company’s counter-drone solution offers the best of Department 13’s innovative technologies and deep experience.

Unlike other systems that use radio jamming and standard electronic mitigation techniques, MESMER uses signal features and metadata to select and apply strategies in order to curtail drone threats, regardless of how drone vendors may try and prevent this from happening. This protocol manipulation is low-power so it offers an advantage by not affecting non-targeted communication signals. This also allows MESMER to operate below one watt and within U.S. regulatory (FCC) constraints.

Hunter and his Department 13 colleagues suggest that threats, constraints and user needs will continuously change and evolve as drones and devices are implemented in the real world. So instead of a purpose-built hardware solution approach, they designed MESMER to use protocol manipulation to handle even the most complex of scenarios, providing end users with a powerful and flexible counter-drone system.

The MESMER platform addresses diverse threat scenarios and drone types. It allows the possibility of “non-kinetic mitigations” (i.e. drones are not shot down) that pose no public hazards. Its open software architecture integrates with other security applications. Furthermore, the platform is operational in multi-terrain (urban, remote and rugged) environments, and it is easily deployed to support mobile counter-unmanned aircraft system (C-UAS) operation.

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