Is It Possible To Jam A Drone Signal?

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image RF drone signals

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Welcome to our blog. Lightwave Aerial provides professional drone services in aerial photo/video, mapping, and inspection. We’ve learned a lot building this business and we’re still learning.

My goal is to present drone technology in a way that’s easy to understand. Also, to give you the real-world practical business perspective we’re learning as we build our company.

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I was doing some work for one of our government customers a while back, and he heard that I worked with drones. So he asked me about jamming drone signals as a way to protect against drone surveillance. I had to admit that I didn’t know much about it, so of course, I did some research and what I found is interesting.

There are several ways to jam a drone signal. A drone jammer device emits RF noise that interferes with the drone’s remote control. A GPS spoofing device sends false GPS signals so the drone can not determine its location. Both of these methods are illegal.

Image RF signal block

What Is Drone Signal Jamming?

Drone jamming is the deliberate interference with a drone’s signal in order to render it useless. There are a variety of ways to jam a drone signal, but jamming generally works in one of several ways

1. Drone jammers work by disrupting the radio frequencies that drones use to communicate with their remote controller.

2. GPS spoofing devices can also be used to jam a drone’s signal by sending false GPS coordinates to the drone, causing it to lose its bearings and crash.

3. Some people have had success blinding a drone’s cameras with laser pointers or high-powered flashlights, but this is generally considered to be a short-term solution at best.

How Does Drone Remote Control Work?

The drone remote control consists of two main parts: the transmitter and the receiver. The transmitter is held by the user and sends signals to the drone. The receiver is located on the drone itself and receives these signals, telling the drone what to do. In order for this system to work, both the transmitter and receiver must be tuned to the same frequency.

How Does The Drone Determine Its Location?

Most drones use GPS to determine their positions. Without GPS signals, the drone would not be able to know where it is in the world and would quickly become lost. The drone gets its GPS coordinates from a network of satellites in orbit around the Earth. Each satellite broadcasts a signal that contains information about its location.

The drone uses this information to triangulate its position and navigate accordingly. Some higher-end drones also come equipped with other navigation systems, such as GLONASS or Galileo, which can provide more accurate positioning data. However, GPS is generally the most reliable and widely used option.

finding drone location with GPS

How Do You Jam The Drone Signal?

You can think of the drone remote control communication system as two people having a conversation. If you introduced a third person that’s yelling, then the two will have difficulty hearing each other. If the interfering signals are loud enough then communication will be completely lost. This is how jamming works. It is simple but effective.

Drone Jamming Versus Drone Hacking

Jamming is the use of radio frequencies to block or obstruct the drone’s signal, preventing it from receiving commands or transmitting data. Hacking, on the other hand, involves taking complete or partial control of the drone by gaining access to its internal computer system.

Drone jamming is more straightforward and can be less expensive, but only works within a short range. Drone hacking is more complex and more expensive, but it can be used to take over a drone at any distance. For more details see our article “Is It Possible To Hack a Drone?

image legal vs illegal drone hacking

Is Jamming Legal?

Jamming drone signals is illegal in the US. The use of jammers, GPS blockers, or any signal-jamming device designed to intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications is a violation of federal law.

Even local law enforcement is not allowed to use jamming equipment. Only certain federal law enforcement agencies have limited authorization to use jamming equipment.

In fact, it is illegal to market or sell any type of drone jamming equipment. And yet, there are many companies that openly sell this equipment.

The Dangers of Jamming Drone Signals

The drone remote controller communicates at 2.5 GHz or 5 GHz radio frequency. These are public radio frequencies and anyone can use them. So jamming a drone signal means you also jam all other communication at these frequencies. There are several potentially hazardous outcomes of jamming a drone signal.

1. In many cases, if the drone no longer communicates with the remote control it’s programmed to automatically return to home, which is the takeoff location. However, if the GPS communication has been jammed then the drone cannot determine its location. Therefore cannot find its way back home. The drone is essentially flying at random.

image looking for drone

2. In some instances the drone will simply land where it is. This can be very dangerous because there’s no telling if the drone will land in a remote area where it will do little harm. Or if it will land in the middle of a four-lane highway. This is a very dangerous situation.

3. In other instances once the drone loses connection with the remote control it may simply fly randomly. In this case, it could crash into a building, or simply fly to the battery drains. At which point it transforms from a drone into a 1- 2 lb weight falling from the sky.

image low drone battery

In all cases, jamming the drone signal creates a public hazard and will likely result in damage to the drone, people, or property.

What To Do If Your Drone Is Jammed

If you find your drone signal has been jammed you can file a complaint with the FCC Consumer Complaint division.

RF signal jamming is a serious violation of federal law. It may be difficult to find the person doing it. But if you can identify the source of the jamming signal, then law enforcement will take it seriously.

report RF jamming violation

Drone Jamming Devices

So since it’s a federal crime to manufacture, market, or sell drone jamming devices I assumed that it would be very difficult to find commercial products. Silly me. While I was not able to find any products on Amazon, I have found two companies that openly advertise and sell both drone and GPS jamming devices.

These devices range from handheld to military-grade, they’re generally not cheap but they are readily available. Here’s a short list of what to look out for.

Hand Held Jammer

This is a handheld device that jams drone signals within 600 meters. The device is small and portable. It can be operated with one hand, making it easy to use, and conceal. The device has a LED indicator that shows when the jammer is active, and it also includes a safety switch to prevent accidental activation.

image of hand held FR jammer

Long Range Jammer

The DB260P portable, waterproof long-range jammer can disrupt communication between a drone and its operator from up to 2 kilometers away.

image long range RF jammer

Back Pack Jammer

The PDJ-4075 is effective against all drone models and can be used in both indoor and outdoor environments. The jammer has a range of up to 1000 meters, is backpack portable and the battery provides approx 2 hours of operation.

image of backpack RF jammer

The Future of Drone Jamming

Currently, you don’t need to be significantly concerned about someone jamming your drone signal. It requires effort, expense, and technical capability. This means unless there’s a real financial gain or the person just hates your drone. Then there’s not much return to all the work you have to put in.

However, the landscape of drone technology is changing. Drone jamming will become a much more serious concern because the financial incentives will increase. Drone systems are being developed that will fly beyond the visual line of insight (BVLOS). These drones will deliver things like commercial packages or medical supplies.

This creates several significant incentives to jam or hack signals. First, the drones themselves will be attractive targets because they’ll have more expensive technology.

image drone package delivery

Second, if they’re delivering packages or supplies then the supplies can have value, then stealing them also creates a financial incentive.

Lastly, the number of commercially operating drones will increase dramatically. These drones will not have a pilot on location directly controlling the operation. It will be possible to coordinate massive drone jamming attacks before anyone can respond.

As drones become more and more prevalent, it’s likely that drone jamming will become a serious problem. It will need to be addressed in future drone systems.

Lightwave Aerial is a professional drone service company based in Northern Virginia. Our pilots are all FAA Part-107 certified. We offer a full range of aerial photo/video production services, aerial mapping, and aerial inspection.

At Lightwave Aerial, we are dedicated to providing professional drone services that help our clients achieve their goals. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you with your next construction project!  

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Felton Flood, PhD

Felton Flood, PhD

Dr. Flood has 25+ years experience in telecommunications and is a veteran of several startups in Silicon Valley and Northern Virginia. In 2021 he co-founded Lightwave Aerial, applying machine learning and cloud technologies to innovate UAV services.

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