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Wireless personal drone detector runs Linux

Jun 20, 2014 — by Eric Brown 3,152 views

APlus Mobile is seeking Kickstarter funding for a Linux-based “Personal Drone Detection System” that detects nearby drones using mesh grid triangulation.

It sounds at first like an April Fool’s joke delayed in development, but it appears to be legit: APlus Mobile and its R&D spinoff Domestic Drone Countermeasures (DDC) have launched a Kickstarter project for a device that will detect when a drone aircraft approaches within 50 feet. The Personal Drone Detection System is available in $499 (alpha testing) and $699 (beta testing) funding packages, shipping in November 2014 and April 2015, respectively.

Drone detection system prototypes (left) and lab setup
(click images to enlarge)

MotherBone PiOne

The Personal Drone Detection System works its magic with the help of DDC’s patent-pending drone detection algorithms, which run on a board-level Linux subsytem from APlus Mobile that we reported on back in April called the MotherBone PiOne (pictured at right). The open spec PiOne motherboard can fit either a Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone Black (see farther below). APlus did not say which SBC is used in the drone detection system, although the PiOne is actually capable of running both at once.


The MotherBone PiOne is built into a Primary Command and Control Module unit that works in conjunction with two Detection Sensor Nodes to establish a mesh grid network that can triangulate the location of mobile transmitters. You can also extend the network to cover a wider area by deploying more control modules and nodes, according to the project’s Kickstarter page.

Wireless mesh network (left) and target triangulation (right)

The control module communicates with the user via WiFi, and while the mesh network appears to use the same, it is kept isolated from your personal WiFi network, says APlus. Nodes can be set up as far as 200 feet away.

The sensor nodes use a frequency range of 1MHz to 6.8GHz to detect mobile, wirelessly-enabled devices. The system detects “all known telemetry transmission frequencies” and “attempts to determine if the moving transmitter fits the profile of a drone.” Even if the drone isn’t transmitting, but only storing recorded media, most drones transmit some telemetry data for navigation, says APlus.

As The Verge notes in the story that notified us of the project, it remains to be seen whether the device can “distinguish between a drone and, say, a jogger passing by with a cell phone.” APlus claims, however, that “the software is designed to reduce false triggering as much as possible.” Since the device only triggers an alarm if a drone is loitering nearby, a jogger would have to stop in front of the house to possibly trigger an alarm falsely, says APlus.

Remote user interface mobile app screenshots
(click images to enlarge)

Once it detects an intruder, the device sounds an alarm and sends you a message on your mobile device. At which point, we suppose, you would then draw your infrared-resistant blinds and call the police, unless of course the drone belongs to the police, in which case you might just make a run for it. Or perhaps in this gun-friendly era, you would perhaps be forgiven for stepping out on the balcony for some target practice. If all else fails, you could always send out your Linux-based SkyJack drone to hijack the drone in mid-flight, return it to its base, and drop a stink bomb.

In all fairness, Domestic Drone Countermeasures presents a fairly convincing argument for investing in the project, especially if you’re Kim Kardashian or perhaps a dissident journalist facing a high-tech police force. Or even if you own a high-tech startup and prefer working on your disruptive techno-miracle in natural light.

Hundreds of thousands of drones are expected to be sold this year, and personal drones are flying with payloads like still cameras, video cameras, infrared detectors, and thermal detectors, says DDC. They are also increasingly crashing and causing havoc with air travel. Drones may be prohibited for commercial use in the U.S., but there are no regulations against private use, and in any case enforcement is minimal. In most countries in the world, it’s a wide open market.


The system won’t detect military drones, which typically fly at higher altitudes, and are often cloaked from such detection. But they might keep the tabloid paparazzi away from your pool party, or stop the geeky stalker down the block who is using his AR.Drone (pictured at right) for nefarious or other unsanctioned purposes.

Back in March 2013, the Huffington Post ran a story on Oregon-based DDC, noting the APlus connection, and saying the company was working on a system that would not only detect drones, but jam them to a certain extent to hamper their ability to transmit video or audio. A jamming capability, however, is not even mentioned in the future plans listed on the Kickstarter page. As APlus mentions in answering a FAQ question about whether a drone could jam the system’s ability to detect it, “‘Zapping’ and jammers are illegal.”

APlus goes on to note: “Damaging our equipment is just as illegal as our equipment damaging a drone. Our technology does not interfere with drones at all.”

MotherBone PiOne

Oregon-based APlus Mobile failed to win Kickstarter funding for its MotherBone PiOne baseboard extension system for the Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone Black. Now, the PiOne has another chance to fly in the Personal Drone Detection System, although it’s unclear whether APlus plans to market the baseboard on its own.

MotherBone PiOne with BeagleBone Black installed (left),
and cabled to Raspberry Pi (right)

(click images to enlarge)

The 3.5-inch SBC form-factor MotherBone PiOne protects all pins on either hacker SBC with opto-isolators and voltage level translators, expanding and isolating all default configuration pins that are not already being used by the BeagleBone Black’s internal resources. The board also implements two different on-board communication links between the two hacker-SBCs, enabling them to be operated individually or simultaneously. These include a jumper-selectable “BonePi Bridge” that uses null modem and I2C communications.

Other major components include multiple on-board switching power supplies for powering the array from a wide, 7.5-36VDC input range. There’s also a four-port USB hub with coastline connectors, plus support for expansion capes and shields.

The APlus/DDC drone detection system Kickstarter video appears below.

Personal Drone Detection System Kickstarter video

Further information

The Personal Drone Detection System is available for Kickstarter funding through July 15. Packages include $499 (alpha testing) and $699 (beta testing) funding packages, shipping in November 2014 and April 2015, respectively. Funders outside the U.S. must pay $849 for a beta system, due in May 2014. Each package provides a control module and two sensor nodes. A four-node system costs $1,200. As usual with Kickstarter projects, if the project does not fund, backers are not charged anything.

More information may be found at the APlus Mobile Personal Drone Detection System Kickstarter page, as well as at Domestic Drone Countermeasures website and the APlus page for the MotherBone PiOne.

(advertise here)

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One response to “Wireless personal drone detector runs Linux”

  1. Emmanuel Goldstein says:

    When the Ministry of Love (aka the Home Office, aka the Department of Homeland Security) rolls out its program of “a drone over every home”, for “your protection and safety”, because if you have something to hide you must be a terrorist, these devices will be redundant, because one will only have to go outside to see the drone hovering over one’s house.

    And remember citizens, don’t suspect a friend, report him!

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