Managing Editor, IFSEC Insider

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James Moore is the Managing Editor of IFSEC Insider, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Insider, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
December 10, 2020

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Eye in the sky: Airspace security trends to watch out for in 2021

According to a report from Coherent Market Insights, the global safety and security drones market is expected to witness significant growth between 2019 and 2027. We take a look at some key findings from the report, and speak to Amit Samani from Dedrone to get his thoughts on the key trends to watch out for in airspace security in 2027.

According to the report, published by Coherent Market Insights, the safety and security drones market is expected to grow with a CAGR of 34.7% up until 2021.

The growth is expected to come as a result of increasing adoption of drones in applications such as defence and government, as well as favourable regulations for security drones. Drone standards such as those brought in by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in December 2019 are set to propel the demand.

The rising demand for applications that support smart cities in managing safety and security, amongst other processes such as traffic and emergency services monitoring, will also play a role in driving growth. According to the Association of Air Medical Services, several countries have already implemented rules for the operation of UAV/UAS for the public and aviation safety to support healthcare operations. Meanwhile, the UK opened up airspace this year to allow for medical supplies to be delivered via drones during the coronavirus pandemic.

Security drones are also playing a role in crowd management – a tool that may be particularly useful once crowds return to events after the pandemic.

North America is expected to hold a dominant position in the market, with increasing use for commercial and military applications, as well as an increasing awareness of the ability to integrate drones into existing security systems to provide actionable intelligence.

Airspace security trends in 2021

But what about the protection against the threat drones can bring? Criminal organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the uses drones can provide in providing intelligence on company operations and security processes, so it is crucial to mitigate against the risks of the airbourne threat.

Here, Amit Samani, VP of Americas & UK, Sales, Dedrone, offers his thoughts on some key trends to watch out for in the airspace security market in 2021.

  1. Drone usage will continue to rise exponentially, pushed by the impacts of COVID. Drones are coming to work in increasing numbers. Facility security leaders are looking to use drones to prevent more workers from coming onsite – putting drones to work for inspection, delivery, surveillance. These numbers of drones coming to work will only increase exponentially and will become a permanent fixture for organisations moving forward.


  1. Increase of disrupted events at airports, stadiums, and other open-air facilities: Drone disruptions aren’t new, but more people are realising how easy it is to cause damage and harm to a facility, and how impactful these drone events are to a business’ reputation. Drones may appear as a part of a broader exploitation plan – check out the site before entering it to identify vulnerabilities. As more open-air facilities remain closed due to COVID shutdowns, and return to normal operations, onlookers will want to take the view into their own hands, such as the drone pilots who shut down Major League Baseball games in 2020.


  1. Drone blackmail will be added as a new security threat: Paparazzi chased down celebrities with drones in 2020, and angry neighbors around the world worked with local law enforcement to build frameworks to protect their privacy from drone onlookers. Airspace security protects organisations from drone threats, and an emerging threat in 2021 will be drone-based blackmail. Bad actors are beginning to understand the costs associated with downtime at a critical infrastructure site – airlines who cancelled flights during the Gatwick shutdown reported nearly $64.5m losses when a wayward drone halted airport operations for two days in 2018.


  1. Drone-Trends-20Local governments will pioneer drone integration and response infrastructure: Cities will begin to think about how to monetise their airspace and integrate drone detection at the local level. In the U.S. the FAA established seven regional UAS testing sites, dedicated to researching and testing UAS operations such as long-range drone delivery, detect and avoid technology, Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations, counter-drone tech and UAS Traffic Management (UTM), among other drone programs. Especially as cities begin to understand their airspace activity, they will be the pioneers to developing new programmes to respond to local drone threats and explore more opportunities to integrate drones as a part of their local infrastructure.


  1. More government cUAS technology requirements and testing standards will be formalized and executed: Central governments have created departments dedicated to the study and integration of drones in their national infrastructure, and in 2021, more governments will take their years of counter-drone market research and formalise their needs and standards for purchasing and integrating counter-drone technology, and how it will be used for national security and anti-terrorism. Leading the charge is the U.K.’s Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), who was the first central government programme that vigorously tested different cUAS platforms to identify leading technologies and accelerate mass procurement and adoption.


  1. Counter-drone technology market consolidation: The airspace security market is narrowing down and consolidating between vendors. Counter-drone platforms that have open systems, and integrate multiple technologies, will be open for more opportunities than single-service or single-technology providers.


  1. Drones getting stronger, faster and flying together: As drone technology continues to advance, airspace security programmes will need to increase not only the scope of types of consumer and commercial drones to detect, but also ensure that drone swarms can be detected as reliably as a single drone. Especially for defense organisations, the smaller threat could be a single drone, but terrorists, criminals and other bad actors will challenge drone detection systems by evading detection either through developing technology difficult to detect, or flying multiple drones in a single instance, such as what was observed at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, or the “mysterious drone swarm” in Colorado, which prompted months of speculation and investigation, but no answers.


  1. Government programmes for Remote Identification will advance, slowly, but surely: Remote Identification programs are being developed in multiple countries, designed to facilitate the collection and storage of certain drone data such as identity, location, and altitude. Aviation authorities understand the need to integrate an identification program for drone users, and have been slow to adopt standards. In 2021, the first Remote ID programs will be launched, and more counter-drone technology programmes will be sought to integrate into government systems to provide a complete view of both authorised and unauthorised drone activity.


  1. Defeating drone threats will not look the same: When it comes to defeating drones, there are certain kinetic solutions which will hard kill the drone, and non-kinetic technologies which will disable or override the drone flight. Defeat systems are still evolving as legislation changes and more organisations become authorised to interdict drones. In 2021, there will be a greater need for more precision electronic warfare attacks that reduce collateral damage. As the drone market changes in 2021, defeat technologies will need to integrate into larger detection systems that can detect a variety of small drones, whether they are commercially available or homebrew. The threat may look different, but when it comes to defeating the drone, security providers will first need to identify, classify, and then deploy a countermeasure.


  1. Advancing homeland security research and legislation: As the counter-drone market matures, more researchers and analysts are entering the conversation and providing analysis on the growth and predictions of mass adoption in the next 10-15 years. Laws on cUAS technology are evolving country by country, state by state, city by city. With more researchers, lobbyists and market watchers, 2021 will be the most active year in terms of research and legislation development.

Dedrone helps protect organisations from malicious drones by securing the airspace using advanced hardware and software technology. Find out more in our interview with Dedrone’s David Greenberg at IFSEC 2019.

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