The Current State of CUAS in the US: Stadiums – Open Air for Pandemonium

Everyone enjoys a good ball game and there is no better way to experience this than to watch the action at a stadium live with 80k other like-minded fans rooting for the same team. When at a stadium have you ever asked yourself, what would happen if everyone wanted to leave at the same time? Not like the game has ended same time, but more like there is a bomb on the field and it is going to go off at any moment kind of leaving? This should stir an emotion of panic with you the reader thinking about 40-80k fans trying to evacuate at the same time, what would happen? Some points I have thought about were fans trying to leave much like people escaping Manhattan on 9/11. It would be everyone for themselves, mass exodus using the closest exit and fleeing the area dropping items, friends and families being separated with general confusion and pandemonium.

Once the building or stadium is evacuated the next thing to worry about is all that traffic trying to leave, those same drunken rogue drone pilots are now in the parking lot in 4×4’s eye balling the tree line looking for an escape. Disorderly evacuation techniques from those in a panic and not thinking clearly would make for disastrous results precisely what a terrorist would want to gain from a shameful attack. Any large crowd gathering event in our country could also be compared to a recent terrorist attack we had like that of Las Vegas. Some people have stated that we must not give terrorists ideas, I believe this sometimes is an over inflated subject and that our notion that terrorists are uneducated lunatics running around in black pajamas is something the media wants us to believe. The fact is that conscripts (someone enlisting compulsorily, typically into the armed services) are no different than an average American other than they have now been radicalized. The American recruited terrorists were born and grew up in America, they can use the internet and are recruited as propaganda pieces for their accessory skills such as computers, leadership and communication. The notion that they aren’t smart enough to figure out basic stuff is illusionary.

We need to prepare for another round of attacks, the headlines last week were dominated by the attack in Venezuela by drone. Even if the plans by terrorist never materialize it is better to be safe than sorry. When it comes to using CUAS equipment to prevent a terrorist attack asset owners have proven just how unequipped they are to deal with the problems. Not only are the laws preventing the protection of civilians, but the equipment is not technologically advanced enough to be where it should to safely protect our assets and civilians. There needs to be a serious discussion of the lack of knowledge in the industry and the different types of drone security equipment when it comes to CUAS. These discussions should be noted as “sensitive,” however the types of threats that we can observe in an unclassified setting on the internet, should not be labeled as “sensitive” or that discussing this is giving the opposition ideas, we are pass that point the attack on Venezuela changed everything in that regard. The only variables that change now is the location, the vehicle type and payload. This is the only way we will be aware and educated enough to catch those who intend to bring harm before these terrible acts can be carried out. If you see something say something is hard to execute if you don’t know what you are looking for. Drone attacks will become as common place as shootings in the years to come, because of their effectiveness and the distance the operator can be from the scene of the attack. The names, dates and targets will become less important and how to stop them will become more upfront.

The current problems for stadium owners now are not from terrorist activity, although some classified reports might state otherwise, what we hear and see as problems now are the (maybe intoxicated) rogue drone pilots looking for thrills or becoming a YouTube cowboy trying to gain followers. This group is a huge liability problem for asset owners, they could run into an expensive billboard which would cost a lot to repair, they could drop into the crowd and hurt someone on the ground invoking a lawsuit or they could easily distract the players changing the outcome of a game. Any of these scenarios will cost millions of dollars and it should be noted that the price of lobbying to change the legislation is far less expensive than a lawsuit incurred from a wrongful death or fancy equipment replacement costs. Since the pilot probably last minute planned the flight they could easily be prevented with some basic electronic mitigation equipment preventing in some cases the pilot from even taking off.

Jamming equipment does not, however, have a place to be used in a civilian setting. They might be ok to use in other countries or on the battlefield, but here in the US the FCC has stated their mission is to run clean channels of communication with no impedance or disruption. Jamming equipment is just that a disruption to the clean channel of communication between devices such as existing computer routers, garage door openers and other equipment riding on the most popular bands 2.4 and 5.8 MHz. Companies who are selling these types of devices do not want to hear statements like the previous one, they want to sell their equipment and tell the client that they will take out drones, yes and they will also take out a host of other equipment for this reason jamming equipment will never be accepted as a civilian solution and asset owners should take note and not get duped into purchasing this equipment.

Electronic mitigation equipment such as protocol mixing or RC targeted frequency manipulation counter drone equipment is the best solution so far, it can target a specific drone, take control and safely send it home or land it nearby to confiscate. Some manufacturers have built-in options to target the location of the operator which would lead asset owner’s facility security directly to the violator our “drunken rogue drone pilot” who might also a fan but creating a problem. It is not illegal to use detection equipment to target a drone and find the operator, contrary to what I have even heard people say. Drone detection (a signal) is no different technically speaking from looking for a wifi hotspot. Every drone has a specific RC signature or signal ID that distinguishes it from other drones. Using an RC signal “sniffer” is not illegal so why would someone think that looking for an RC signal that happens to becoming from a drone (small computer or phone like device) is any different? Just like a computer has a mac address and a router a wifi name which both are not illegal to look up. Asset owners could use the equipment currently to find the pilot then send their security team to confront the operator. Once the security has engaged the pilot they have a few options, they could harass them for trespassing if they do not have a ticket or for being a nuisance (no drone zone) and ban them from the property with a no trespass. Usually a warning goes a long way with someone who is a fan and wants to continue to attend games, this is a technique available now and will greatly protect asset owners from rogue pilots. If someone can prove to me how this is a different interpretation then please contact the CUAS Coalition and present your research, data and knowledge. I am no attorney and this is not legal advice, but comparable facts, so anyone who can prove otherwise builds our case on just how messed up the current situation is with CUAS equipment usage. There are many who claim expertise in counter terrorism, drone use and intelligence agencies, but when the problems begin you will need to ask yourselves if you choose the respective leader when protecting your million and billion dollar assets? Just because someone has experience in the military, do they know off the shelf drones? Just because someone knows drones, do they understand counter terrorism? And someone can even understand drones and counter terrorism, but do they understand civil defense, the laws and how to work with multiple agencies providing contacts to bring in government expertise to protect yourself from a lawsuit? These are all questions a security company and asset owner in charge of protecting their property should ask themselves before the floodgates to Open Air Pandemonium begins.

Rob Thompson 

Co-Founder | CUAS Coalition

SME for U.S. Department of Homeland Security – CIPAC UAS Security Working Group


Email: [email protected]


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Rob Thompson
Rob Thompson is the co-founder of Falcon Foundation, a 3rd generation commercial multi engine pilot, Part 107 holder who also holds a Master of Science from James Madison University for his work in aviation system designs and technical & scientific writing. Falcon Foundation provides leading advocacy efforts in the unmanned aircraft systems industry, managing government relations, committees of association, executing legislative and regulatory strategies and creating law through the corresponding legislative committees. By working independently on advocacy issues, educating the clients on public policy issues quickly, and by engaging team members to facilitate successful results. Client policy issues will include aviation regulation, unmanned aircraft systems, Part 107 waivers, the regulatory process, and industry safety concerns. Client groups include aviation professionals, unmanned aircraft systems, and operators, both commercial and hobbyists, and non-aviation business sectors, including small business service and manufacturing sectors.