Drones aren’t going anywhere, and neither is the need to reliably detect and track them.

You may be asking yourself, what is drone detection? How do drone detection systems work? What kind of threats do drones pose and to whom? How do I know if me or my property is at risk?

We have compiled many resources to share the ins and outs of drone detection we’ve seen over the past eight years. The five key topics include:

      1. How do drones pose threats?
      2. What is drone detection and how does it work?
      3. Are there laws regulating drones and drone detection?
      4. How to select a drone detection system that matches your risk level?

Education is key to understanding this industry, so we hope this guide helps you stay informed.

#1. How do Drones Pose Threats?

Although drone technology has greatly enhanced and advanced society, drones carry a great deal of power. This power, when put in the hands of clueless, careless, or criminal individuals, can carry lots of risk.

Lets outline a couple different scenarios of the threat drones pose when operated incorrectly.


Drone threats at stadiums have become a concerning issue, posing risks to both public safety and event integrity due to disruptions. Instances of unauthorized drone flights over stadiums raise alarms regarding the vulnerability of crowded gatherings to potential attacks or accidents. Despite FAA regulations, which prohibit drone flights within three nautical miles of stadiums before and after events, compliance is often lacking.

Mass Gatherings

At mass gatherings like fairs and protests, people often fly drones to capture aerial footage of the crowd. However, these events also present additional concerns beyond those seen at stadiums. In instances like the protests of 2020, which escalated to riots and looting, drones were used as surveillance tools, directing crowds away from police presence to avoid confrontation or towards them for harassment or attack. They also guided looters to areas without police presence.

Prisons/Correctional Facilities

The threats posed by drones at prisons include the delivery of contraband such as drugs, weapons, cell phones, and tools for facilitating inmate escape. Drones may also be used for surveillance to observe staff routines and identify opportunities for contraband delivery.

Even with restricted airspace and specific laws in place, highly fortified correctional facilities are unable to prevent drone infiltration. The FAA has imposed airspace restrictions over 109 Federal Bureau of Prison facilities, and several states have enacted laws targeting drone flight over private facilities. However, these measures do not deter contraband pilots.

Correctional facilities often serve as hubs for drug distribution, which is linked to local gang activity. Failure to quickly identify and respond to drone activity can lead to facility lockdowns, necessitating extensive response efforts.

Airports & Sea Ports

The FAA has implemented stringent regulations regarding drone flights near airports due to safety concerns. Despite these measures, numerous close encounters between drones and aircraft have occurred. When drones are sighted near airports, operations are frequently halted, resulting in significant financial losses amounting to millions of dollars.

At airports, drone threats encompass the risk of accidental collisions with manned aircraft and the potential for intentional disruptions or malicious events or attacks.

Drones also present significant risks to sea ports due to their potential to disrupt operations, conduct unauthorized surveillance, and bypass authorities and checks to deliver illicit cargo such as drugs or weapons.

Corporate Campuses & Data Centers

Corporate campuses, which store vast amounts of valuable data, employ various cyber and physical security measures to deter nefarious actors. However, many have not yet addressed the threat posed by drones comprehensively.

At corporate campuses, drone threats involve potential intellectual property theft facilitated by rogue access points dropped onto rooftops. There is also the risk of malicious events or attacks targeting critical infrastructure and high-value personnel or customers. Additionally, unauthorized camera surveillance into sensitive areas like conference rooms poses another concern.

Critical Infrastructure

The Department of Homeland Security identifies 16 critical infrastructure sectors vital to the United States, all susceptible to drone threats. These threats encompass various risks such as accidental drone crashes by hobbyist pilots, intellectual property theft, surveillance for identifying vulnerabilities, and potential physical attacks using weaponized drones.

For more information about drone threats, check out our blog “Why Are Drones a Safety and Security Concern?

For more information about drone threats at correctional facilities, check out our blog Drone Threats at Correctional Facilities

#2. What is Drone Detection and How Does it Work?

Drone detection, as the term suggests, entails the use of technology to identify and pinpoint the presence of drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and sometimes the controllers, through electronic sensors or receivers and antennas.

Similarly to how an air traffic control tower uses radar to detect, track, and coordinate airspace at airports, drone detection does the same for drones. Drone detection is crucial in maintaining safe airspace.

Drone detection can be achieved through multiple different technologies and methods.

      1. Radio Frequency (RF)
        1. Remote ID
      2. Radar
      3. Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR)
      4. Acoustic

RF technology serves as the predominant method for drones to communicate with their operators. RF sensors monitor transmissions exchanged between the drone and the pilot (controller) and facilitate the identification of both the drone and pilot's location.

Using RF technology, a method that has most recently emerged is Remote ID. This is a newly mandated rule for all drone flights involving drones between .55 lb and 55 lbs and is enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As of March 2024, these drones are required to transmit identification and location information, similar to a vehicle's unique license plate number. Other parties are then able to track these signals.

RADAR is an abbreviation for Radio Detection and Ranging. It emits focused radio waves, which upon encountering an object, bounce back to the sensors. These sensors analyze the reflections to ascertain the object's position and dimensions.

Camera Electro-Optical (EO), Camera Infra-Red (IR), along with other visual tracking methods, employ PTZ (Pan, Tilt, and Zoom) cameras for visual localization and tracking of drones. These cameras fixate on the GPS coordinates of the drone, subsequently trailing its movement, akin to the way a security camera monitors detected motion within an area.

Acoustic drone detection systems rely on unique sound signatures produced by the motors of a drone. The detection speed is mainly limited by the type of the drone, its environment and distance to the acoustic sensors.

Drone Detection Systems

Drone detection systems, also known as Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (cUAS), have been around in theory since World War II when the military first used radar technology. It wasn’t until the late 1900’s that purpose built drone detection systems were introduced.

Now, cUAS are being used across the globe for many different purposes. Some of these purposes include:

      • Enforce no-fly zones over military or government installations
      • Locate and track enemy drone deployments over battlefields
      • Monitor aerial activity at airports
      • Track drone use over stadiums and other public event centers
      • Disrupt and ultimately prevent drone borne contraband flights
      • Adopt Drone as First Responder Systems (DFR)

At their most basic, drone detection systems use one of or a combination of methods listed in the previous section. A system could be a singular Remote ID receiver or a multi-layered system including Remote ID, RF, radar, and cameras for example.

Drone detection systems can utilize various deployment types. You might hear the terms “mobile drone detection” or “citywide drone detection”. Mobile means the detection system can be quickly relocated, allowing for easy set-up and take-down. Some mobile systems even operate while in motion. This allows detection from vehicles such as cars or boats or from individuals on foot. Citywide is a term used to describe a full ecosystem of drone detection sensors working together to cover an entire urban zone.

The military and government also greatly rely on drone detection technology. As we will explore in the next section, there are multiple laws which regulate drone detection systems. A handful of government agencies and military branches have been granted waivers to these laws, allowing for mitigation and interference with drones. Detection is still the first step, however, and military drone detection is a quickly growing section of the industry. The risk unauthorized drones pose to resources and life is great for the military. For example, a simple multicopter recreational drone operating over an Air Force base could inadvertently cross flight paths with a plane, causing the $100M+ jet to crash and risk the pilot's life. Drone detection helps prevent this.

For more information on drone detection, check out our blog “What is Drone Detection

For information on type of drones and how to detect them, check out our blog “Common Types of Drones and How to Detect Them

For more common drone detection terms, check out our blog “Drone Detection/Counter-UAS Terms and Definitions

For information on FAA Remote ID, check out our blogs “A Quick Guide to Remote ID Drone Detection & Remote ID App vs Remote ID Receiver

For more information on RF drone detection, check out our blog “10 RF Drone Detection Misconceptions

For information concerning mobile drone detection, check out our blog “The World of Mobile Drone Detection

For information concerning citywide drone detection, check out our blog “Citywide Drone Detection: A National, Regional and Targeted Approach

For information on military drone detection systems, check out our blog “Military Drone Detection

#3. Are There Laws Regulating Drones and Drone Detection?

Government lawmakers and regulators have not been blind to the potential threats and risks of drone use, along with the use of drone detection systems. In the last 10 years there have been an abundance of new national bills proposed. Unfortunately, few actually become law. This is the same story for local governments. Many have been proposed, but due to lengthy and unclear processes most fall by the wayside.

That isn’t to say that drone and drone detection aren’t regulated by law. There are multiple laws that greatly regulate how and where drones are used and how drone detection systems are able to acquire information.

Below is a table of national laws that are currently in place which regulate drone and drone detection use.

USC 44809

Describes how, when, and where you can fly drones for recreational purposes.

USC 302a

Prohibits most non-federal entities from manufacturing, importing, shipping, selling, or using devices that fail to comply with FCC regulations regarding devices that can interfere with radio reception, including transmitters designed to block, jam, or interfere with wireless communications.

The Aircraft Sabotage Act

Criminalizes certain destructive actions with respect to “aircraft,” including damaging, destroying, or disabling those aircraft.

The Wiretap Act

Prohibits intentionally intercepting the content of any electronic communication, unless done so by court order.

The Pen/Trap Statute

Criminalizes anything that can record, decode, or capture non-content dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information.

American Security Drone Act (ASDA)

Prohibits federal agencies from procuring and operating drones manufactured or assembled by certain foreign entities, including those subject to the influence or control of China.

FAA Part 107 Certification

Required to be a commercial drone pilot for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) (less than 55 pounds).

Also lays out regulations for non-commercial drone pilots.

FAA Remote ID Drone Broadcast Mandate

This states that all drones must broadcast a unique ID via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to receivers

Penalties for non-compliance are $25,700 per violation for civil charges, up to $250,000 with three years in prison (in addition to any state and local drone violation charges)

FAA Temporary “No Fly Zone” Restrictions

The FAA may enforce temporary restrictions to flights, manned or unmanned, in areas due to events such as sporting matches, political events, certain government activities, or other events where threats of crime or terrorism may be high.

Use the FAA’s official app “B4UFLY” to be aware of flight rules and temporary restrictions.

FAA Reauthorization Act

Originally passed in 2018, this act gave broad guidelines to many different aspects of drone use. Mitigation waivers and “no-fly-zones” were also outlined.

In May 2024, a revised version was passed with slight additions and clarifications. This included the organization of a Unmanned and Autonomous Flight Advisory Committee (UAFAC), the designation of two additional UAS test ranges, and the broadening of "no-fly-zones" to include events such as concerts. Mitigation waivers were extended until October 1st, 2024. 


Although these are the most noteworthy national laws, local laws and regulations often go more in-depth or broaden the scope of national laws. It is always recommended to check with local governments to see what laws they have that regulate drone and drone detection use.

Mitigation and 124n

One topic of constant discussion is drone mitigation. Mitigation is taking any action that interferes with the signal of the drone or physically interferes with its flight. 

As of the writing of this article mitigation is illegal for all drone detection systems operating in the United States except four federal agencies. The only way to legally use mitigation tactics is to apply for and be granted a waiver according to 124n, a government bill passed into law that allows a few government agencies to mitigate and intercept, bypassing wiretapping laws.

Unfortunately, this means that Uncle Joe shooting down a drone over his property is illegal. It also means that systems are limited in how they collect data from drones, as they can’t decrypt any signals. This makes drone detection complicated, but still extremely valuable.

These waivers have been extended multiple times and are set to expire on October 1st, 2024. In the future, if these waivers aren’t renewed, this would mean that those few government agencies would have the same regulations as consumers.

The waiver application process is very long and convoluted and only four government agencies have been granted approval. This leaves the majority of those looking for a drone solution needing to explore systems with detection, not mitigation.

For more information about drone laws and regulations, check out our blog “Securing our Skies: How Government is Regulating Drone Use [and How You Can Help]

For more information about drone mitigation, check out our blog “To Mitigate, or Not to Mitigate Drones…Should That Be the Question?

For more information about mitigation waivers and 124n, check out our blog “Waiver to Operate Drone Detection and Mitigation Systems: 124n

#4. How to Select a Drone Detection System that Matches Your Risk Level?

Now that you’ve gotten this far, you may be asking yourself “I understand drone detection and the possible threats, but what can I do about it?”. This is where research meets action. Assessing the drone risk level is crucial in deciding whether to invest in a drone detection system and which technology or technologies to deploy. This step can be the hardest to understand, as threats are difficult to properly assess especially when considering their monetary implications.

AeroDefense has released a free Drone Risk Assessment Template that can help you on your path and guide you through putting a dollar amount and risk level to your property and activities. This will help ensure there is not an over-investment or under-investment in solutions, both equally as dangerous and costly.

Once you understand your risk level, you can begin formulating a budget. When looking at possible drone detection systems, it’s important to remember that there is no shortcut to defense. Cheaper systems sometimes equal less protection. Whether that means cheaper materials, less reliability, limited adaptability, expensive future upgrades, or restrictive detection abilities, cUAS performance usually reflects their pricing.

To fill out a Drone Risk Assessment, check out our Free Template.


You’ve made it to the end of the overview of our Ultimate Guide to Drone Detection. You now have a great basic knowledge of the industry of drone detection. You should feel confident in the future and what you can do to protect yourself and your property.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  1. Drones can pose a variety of threats to all industries, from simple unaware trespassing causing sporting events to delay to acts of terrorism carried out by drones targeted at critical infrastructure.
  2. Drone detection is vast and intricate, with many different solutions with varying degrees of success and reliability.
  3. Drone detection systems are a great way to protect you and your property from the rapidly increasing misuse of drones, whether intentional or unintentional.
  4. Drone and drone detection use are both regulated by multiple national laws and regulations. Only a few government agencies are allowed to mitigate/interfere with drones, meaning detection is the best course of action.
  5. Actively assess your risk level of drone threats and put a dollar value to it. An easy way to do this is using our Free Drone Risk Assessment Template.

Keep up to date with all drone and drone detection news and information by subscribing to our blog or following us on social media.


Published by AeroDefense May 17, 2024