Someone likes, someones not, but drones are becoming part of our daily life. In Dubai, drones are starting to patrol streets. Police can use it to react faster. So they bring some positives to our lives, but at the same time, they create a lot of danger. Today I have a great pleasure to share with You my interview with Richard Hodder, CEO of Pelion Consulting. He is an expert in cybersecurity and drone technology. The market of drones in the maritime industry, especially anti-drone systems is growing rapidly at the moment. This will be the subject of our interview with Richard!
Interview with Richard Hodder
Mateusz: Hello Richard! This is already the second time when we can talk. The first time I was asking You about the Main risks in Maritime Cybersecurity. (Article available here) Could you introduce yourself and your area of expertise? And where people interested in your service can find you?
Richard: My name is Richard Hodder and I’m CEO and co-founder of Pelion Consulting. We specialize in maritime cybersecurity and yacht privacy services. You can follow us on social media, check out our website, or contact me directly.
Risks comings from drones in maritime industry
Mateusz: Today we will discuss the drones. They have become very popular over the past 10 years, how are they impacting superyachts?
Richard: Drone technology has greatly advanced, allowing for smaller, longer-lasting, and higher resolution videos at a fraction of the earlier costs. They are providing innovative solutions for a number of modern-day problems as well as footage of exotic locations and yachts underway for marketing purposes.
On the flip side, drones are also being used to invade privacy. Guests onboard yachts are often high profile or celebrities and drones can be used to intercept the airspace around a yacht and take pictures or record video. Drones can even carry payloads, whatever that might be, and then there’s the risk of a drone crashing on or near the yacht and causing damage.
Increasingly drones are also being used by hackers. They can spoof, jam, or mimic operations onboard a yacht. They can disrupt the WI-FI service onboard or even spoof one of the onboard networks. Keeping unwanted drones away is becoming more of a priority not only for superyachts but also for a variety of critical industries around the globe.
Detection of drones
Mateusz: Numbers of risks, coming from drones is quite wide. The first step to prevention is detection. How do You detect and defend against an unwanted drone?
Richard: Drones operate on particular frequencies so this is one way they can be detected. But typically it requires a multi-layered approached, a combination of radiofrequency detection, radar, acoustic and optic sensors. We’ve probably all encountered a drone flying above us or nearby and noticed their distinctive sound and there are devices that can listen out for it.
Anti-drone technology disrupts the drone and prevents communication with the drone pilot. When this happens the default program is to return to the location where it took off, so back to the pilot. The aim is not to cause damage, but to get the drone away from the yacht as soon as possible.
Accuraccy of drone detection systems in maritime industry
Mateusz: This should be quite clear to our readers. Another important factor is time. The faster we react, the higher chances for the disruption we have. What is the range of these drone detection systems and how accurate are they?
Richard: Typically the sensors can detect a drone at between 2-5km away although some manufacturers claim they can detect from further away. A detect range of 5km gives you more than enough time to check the trajectory and determine if that drone is going to be a nuisance for your yacht. The disrupt system works within a 300m radius using a 360-degree sensor.
The systems we work with claim detection and disruption of around 90% of all commercially available drones based on the frequency range the drones themselves use. Efficiency depends on the type of system being deployed; some come in the form of a gun and detection is more manual, while the more sophisticated systems have integrated alerts and warnings and allow for pinpoint accuracy to disrupt the drone.
Other radio systems onboard
Mateusz: Onboard we have a lot of radio operation systems. Do the anti-drone systems pose any threat to other radio operating systems?
Richard: The system works within the WI-FI signal range where commercial drones operate so frequencies outside of this shouldn’t be affected. However, the operator of the technology does need to be trained to understand the implications of using the system to avoid interference with any other systems nearby.
Mateusz: Training is always the basic. The crew has to know what kind of equipment they have and be familiar with it. Everything in the Maritime industry is based on Class Societies and Rules and Regulations. What are saying the rules and regulations around drone detections systems?
Richard: Understanding the regulations can be quite complex as they vary widely between different countries and different jurisdictions. In some areas, drone detection systems are banned, and in others, their deployment is strictly controlled. Furthermore, different regulations apply out at sea, so it’s important to know the rules wherever your yacht is cruising.
Anti drones in maritime industry – Practical examples?
Mateusz: I had also read about the different regulations of anti-drone systems in different countries. This is quite difficult. Operators of these systems need to have a lot of training and knowledge. Are superyachts already using these systems onboard?
Richard: Most certainly. Many superyachts, especially the bigger ones, are likely to have anti-drone systems onboard and I’m sure there are drone pilots who can attest to that.
Question to the expert – advice for students and young engineers
Mateusz: Thanks for all the details about the anti-drone systems. I have the last question. Because I have in my audience a lot of students, and freshly graduated engineers, they very often look for the path. From Your point of view, what advice would you offer to students and young engineers who starting out their careers?
Richard: My advice would be to follow your passion and learn from other people in your field of expertise – find good mentors and continue doing what you enjoy. There will be doubters and you may have doubts yourself, but perseverance and determination will see you through.
In what seems like a world of diminishing returns, there are more possibilities than ever before. The need for cybersecurity is only going to increase, and the industry is desperate for new talent, specifically in the areas of Secure DevOps and Software Development, Secure Architecture Design, Privacy, Incident Response, and Forensic Analysis.
Mateusz: Many thanks for Your time, and for sharing your expertise! That was a pleasure to talk with You!
Richard: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about this subject. I look forward to joining you again. Keep up the great work!
Anti-drone systems, still need some improvements, especially on the level of law and regulations. Different rules and regulations in different places, make the operation of these systems complicated. Drones in the maritime industry are a serious danger, not only to privacy but also to the safety of people and cargo. About risks coming from drones, should be aware all maritime industry, not only superyachts and cruise industry.