Jamming or spoofing drones – what works and what does not

What does the so-called “jamming” or “spoofing” of a drone mean? What is the difference?

Pilots use remote controls to connect and control their drones. However, these radio signals between remote control and drone can be interrupted. An umbrella term for intentional radio signal interruption is “gps jammer“. But there are other ways to disrupt the connection between the pilot and his drone, including the so-called “spoofing”.

Jamming purposely sends a jamming signal that interrupts the radio link between the pilot and the drone. Once a jamming signal has been sent, it may force the drone to do the following:

Land on the spot and stop any further movement

To return to the “Home” position, ie to the starting point. Many drones with GPS have this so-called home function, which is designed to ensure that a drone returns to its starting point when the radio signal stops.

Properly executed, spoofing allows a third party to do the following:

to take over and control the drone

download the data and photos from the camera

Which tools are needed for jamming?

A jammer consists of a transmitter that can have different shapes and sizes. If he is pointed at a drone, he interrupts the radio and GPS signals that control it. Depending on the technology used, the signals can be disturbed from a distance of several hundred meters.

Why would someone jamming a drone?

Organizations that are allowed to use jammers typically protect high-risk areas, such as military bases. In a war zone, the military security service may stop such an unauthorized drone before it can enter a protected area and cause damage.

What happens to a drone that was jammed?

Jamming is not a perfect defense. There is no way to predict the drone’s programmed flight path, or to know if it has been programmed to reach a preset destination, even if the radio link is lost. It may also be unclear whether the drone has a sensitive cargo on board that can become dangerous if the drone (crash) lands or is taken into custody by security personnel.

The purpose of jamming is solely to disrupt a drone flight, not to locate a pilot, learn about the flight path, or find out more about the drone’s characteristics or payload

Are companies allowed to jam?

The distribution and operation of jammers by individuals or companies is prohibited throughout Europe, as well as in the United States and Japan. Market participants who still bring jammers into the market, act contrary to regulations and can be punished in Germany, for example, with fines up to fifty thousand euros.