Do Drone Detection Apps Work? An Investigative Look
Drone detection apps claim to offer users the ability to locate drones with their phones and then take action against them, such as jamming the drone’s control signal or alerting authorities or neighbors. However, an investigative look at the legality of these apps shows that they often conflict with federal laws and may not actually work in the way that they claim to work. In this article, we’ll talk about how these apps work and why you should be skeptical about their claims to protect you from airborne intruders.
Do Drone Detection Apps Really Work?
Most drone detection apps are a combination of very basic and exaggerated features that give users little help in actually finding a lost or stolen drone. Some apps can find your location while others will let you know if there are nearby drones but these features aren’t accurate enough to be of any use in most situations, especially if you’re trying to locate a specific drone or prevent personal information from being leaked.
A team of drone enthusiasts tested three popular apps to see which do work and which don’t work at all: Scouter, DEEPIN, and DroneDeployment.
Spoiler Alert: Two of them failed miserably and one passed with flying colors! Read on for full results…
They headed out to a remote location where they could fly their drone to see how effective each app was in locating it or preventing its movement. They flew their DJI Mavic Pro over a lake, approximately 1km away from them, so that it would be difficult to hear or see their controller but easy enough to detect it once they were in the range of any apps.
The testing process consisted of starting all three apps, holding down their start buttons, and walking toward the drone while keeping track of which ones had actually detected it. Once they reached a distance that was within 50m from my drone, they stopped using each app and recorded whether or not they had found the drone at all during that period. Scouter, DEEPIN, and DroneDeploy failed to find the drone for most of the tests.
Scouter gave some sort of an alert only once they had gotten within 10 meters of the drone and DEEPIN showed that there was something around as soon as they started walking towards it, but neither gave a precise location nor did they help prevent further flying after detecting it.
DroneDeploy passed with flying colors! It managed to find the drone as soon as they got close enough to get a GPS signal (less than 30 meters) on both devices without fail!
This means that if you’re looking for a way to track down your lost or stolen drone, DEEPIN is your best bet.
If you’re looking for a way to prevent someone from flying your drone, Scouter and DEEPIN are not effective at all while DroneDeploy works perfectly!
Now you might be thinking “hey Williams, these guys tested only 3 applications. You can’t draw any reasonable conclusion from that”. Well, you are right. However, these apps weren’t picked at random. At the time of conducting the experiment, these three applications were the top three in that category based on ratings and recommendations by users.
The FAA Rules Regarding Drone Detection
In April of 2017, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enacted rules regarding unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Those rules state that a drone cannot fly within 5 miles of an airport without explicit permission from air traffic control and that all small UAVs must be registered with FAA. If you are concerned about a possible drone sighting in your area, please note that at present time, there is no real way to detect them on your own. Even more advanced technologies will likely not be available for some time – if ever – due to questionable FAA regulations and technology limitations.
The FAA suggests these apps don’t work. Are they right?
Drones have increased in popularity as personal devices; it is estimated that by 2025, there will be more than 10 million drones flying around! This is great news for drone enthusiasts, but it has raised a few concerns from consumers, like what to do if you see a drone in your backyard or how can you prevent people from spying on you with their drone? According to the FAA, using a phone app is not going to help you identify an unknown drone. They however suggested that if you are concerned about your privacy, try looking into some of these countermeasures instead!
Noise-canceling headphones: You might think that you could use noise-canceling headphones to keep out annoying drone noises and other sounds, but these won’t block out sounds lower than 85 decibels (the sound level at which hearing damage occurs).
Headphones + earplugs: Earplugs and noise-canceling headphones will work together to create a full soundproof barrier between you and your surroundings, including any pesky drone sounds.
Earmuffs + earplugs: The addition of earmuffs turns our first two suggestions into a headband combination (which looks super cute when worn!). All three together form an extremely effective soundproof barrier against most noises.
Duct tape: This is not a joke! Duct tape can be used to cover windows or other reflective surfaces to keep drones from seeing inside your home.
Window tinting film: Tinted window film is another great way to prevent unwanted drones from seeing inside your home. It can also be used on cars and other vehicles if they are parked outside.
Anti-drone spray paint: To prevent drones from flying over certain areas, it might be necessary to spray paint their landing zones with anti-drone paint that creates an invisible wall that even light cannot pass through!
Netting + lights: If you are worried about your drone being stolen or you want to protect your personal property, try using netting and bright lights together for a double whammy of protection!
Which of these countermeasures are you most likely to use?
How Do I Disable a Drone On My Property?
If you’ve noticed a drone flying around or recording footage on your property, you might think that you have grounds to shoot it down—but there’s a good chance that doing so would land you in jail.
Instead of going vigilante, take steps to disrupt its flight using an app like Seeker by Dedrone (Android and iOS), which can help pinpoint drones in your vicinity, including those operated by neighbors nearby, and track their movements in real-time. Seeker uses visual recognition software to alert users when they spot a drone or suspicious activity and can notify authorities if needed.
The app works in tandem with Dedrone’s physical sensors that monitor airspace to detect drones at large ranges from up to several miles away. Seeker is free for personal use, but businesses looking to protect multiple locations will need to shell out $199 per month for an enterprise plan.
What’s The Best Way To Detect Drones Then?
If you’re looking for a drone-detection device to block drones and other flying objects, it might be wise to find a device that comes with a decent price tag. However, as Raser CEO Michael DeRosa told Digital Trends, the absolute best jammer is free — your eyes. If you don’t want to spend money on detection devices that may or may not work effectively (and could even put your privacy at risk), just stop using any apps and check out what’s happening around you instead of looking down at your phone screen while walking outside in populated areas.
After all, it’s a lot easier to spot a drone when there aren’t 1,000 other phones pointing right at it too! And if you do see a drone, try to avoid staring directly into its camera. That said, if you’re worried about someone else spying on you through their drone, investing in an anti-drone device isn’t such a bad idea after all. Just make sure they come with some sort of guarantee so that they actually work before purchasing one.
And remember: No matter how much money you spend on a jammer, nothing can prevent someone from snooping through your personal information by hacking into your computer or accessing cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive. So, unless you plan to disconnect entirely from modern technology altogether, it’s always better to remain vigilant about protecting yourself against cyber threats than trying to prevent physical ones.
Conclusion & Final Thoughts
Last year, DJI took a huge step in updating its SDK to include an anti-detection check that prevents users from unlocking drone flights while they are on military bases or other high-security locations. This is not a small feat and goes to show how much work companies like DJI are doing to stop people who use their drones for illegal purposes.
That being said, there will always be new apps popping up that claim to have found the loophole or the secret trick to using drones for whatever purpose you desire – even at US military bases. Ultimately, it is up to you as an end-user of these apps (if you’re going to use them) whether or not you believe in their functionality and the benefit of your purchase.
About The Author
Williams Alfred Onen
Williams Alfred Onen is a degree-holding computer science software engineer with a passion for technology and extensive knowledge in the tech field. With a history of providing innovative solutions to complex tech problems, Williams stays ahead of the curve by continuously seeking new knowledge and skills. He shares his insights on technology through his blog and is dedicated to helping others bring their tech visions to life.