May 11, 2021

Art & Lifestyle:

Drone Takeover Tested From St. George Island

In addition to the osprey returning to St. George Island last month, some new visitors appeared briefly in the air stream – small drones.

D-Fend Solutions, billing itself as the leading counter-drone, cyber-takeover, technology provider, sent three men to the Paul Hall Center in Piney Point, MD, to conduct some testing. D-Fend is hired by top-tier governmental organizations and international airports in their efforts to overcome the threat posed by unauthorized drones.

Robert Ortman, Josh Montoya, and Matt Semovoski conducted the D-Fend testing of the detection ranges and mitigation capabilities of one of its directional antennas by flying two small, unmanned aerial systems – drones – over St. George Island, just south of Piney Point.

EnforceAir, D-Fend Solutions’ counter-drone product, automatically or manually detects, locates and identifies rogue drones. EnforceAir then neutralizes the threat by empowering system operators to take full control over the drones and land them safely in a predefined zone. Since the system does not rely upon jammers or kinetic technology, EnforceAir avoids collateral damage, interference, disruption, and disturbance.

After COVID testing in the morning, D-Fend’s three-person team received a briefing about the airspace and flight procedures before setting up EnforceAir at Piney Point.

As is common in March, the wind was really gusting, so D-Fend’s personnel had to strap down the directional antenna. After verifying the antenna was set up correctly, one D-Fend team member stayed with EnforceAir at Piney Point, while the other two traveled to SeaFruit Oyster House – home of Fins + Claws – at nearly the very end of St. George Island.

D-Fend launched two drones from SeaFruit, and flew them south over the water, away from EnforceAir which remained stationed back at Piney Point. The test determined how far out the equipment would detect the drones. D-Fend does not disclose the types and models of drones it tests for security reasons.

The high winds, blowing strongly at about 20 knots southbound, meant that the drones started off fast, but returned at a much slower pace. D-Fend does not disclose exact distance ranges to protect their clients’ strategic advantage, but said the antenna successfully detected the first drone at an impressive distance, the team said.

The second flight wasn’t as smooth as the first. D-Fend’s personnel got a good lesson in why the name “Piney Point” was chosen for this area, said Sea-Fruit proprietor Jack Russell.

Again, the return trip was slower due to the strong winds, and the drone’s battery began to drain. D-Fend’s personnel made a valiant effort to return the drone to the landing spot, even running towards it as it got closer, but the drone crashed into some pine trees. It was spotted about 90 feet up. Luckily for D-Fend, Cap’n Russell knew someone who could help: Josh Decker, in the tree services business, had the equipment and skill needed to retrieve the drone.

Later, D-Fend tested EnforceAir’s mitigation capabilities. The launch point was moved toward the eastern side of the peninsula, so the drones could fly northbound, against the wind and toward the directional antenna. The mitigation process was initiated quite far from the launch point.

“It was amazing,” Cap’n Russell said, “to see the drone operator lose control after his drone got completely taken over by their counter-drone system!”

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