Is Anti-Drone Tech The Next Billion-Dollar Business?

Danielle Beurteaux

The market for drone business services is worth more than $126 billion, according to a recent PwC report. Another report, which separates drones by type and use, predicts the market will reach $5.59 billion by 2020, a 32.22 percent increase in five years.

But will it be lapped by anti-drone market?

Dedrone, an anti-drone technology company based in San Francisco, raised $10 million in investment funding in mid-May, led by VC Menlo Ventures. Dedrone’s product, DroneTracker, is a sensor system that notifies users of the presence of drones and can integrate anti-drone tactics like jammers.

Dedrone isn’t the only tech company active in the anti-drone segment. According to a recent report, the anti-drone market will grow by 23.9 percent by 2022, reaching a global value of $1.14 billion. North America will account for the majority of the market, but the fastest-growing will be Asia.

The problem creates a perfect storm of new technology vs. uncertainty about legality and regulation. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration just released drone guidelines—with emphasis on the word “guidelines,” which they’re calling “voluntary best practices” to safeguard privacy.

But there are no legal teeth behind this document. The suggestions cover collection and use of data, and there’s an appendix called “Guidelines for Neighborly Drone Use” which includes such admonitions as “[d]on’t harass people with your drone.”

With laws and guidelines still being worked out and the continuing debate over what is acceptable drone use, there are more anti-drone businesses popping up that cater to military, commercial, and personal applications.

Then there are the incidents of drone collisions, which not surprisingly are increasing as there are more drones flying. According to the FAA, 764 drones were flown illegally close to aircraft last year, prompting the agency to launch a “drone detection system” pilot at New York’s JFK airport. In the UK, there have been 15 close calls between drones and aircraft in the first 4 months of this year, according to research done by The Telegraph.

In Europe, NATO countries are partnering to research anti-drone technology. During this summer’s European Championship in France, there will no-drone fly zones over the fields and stadiums where matches will be played, enforced by French police and the country’s Air Force. The Euro 2016 head of security has called this a preemptive measure and not a response to any specific threat of terrorism or attack.

Other militaries and aviation authorities are also investigating anti-drone programs.

Washington, D.C.-based DroneShield also just raised more investment from VCs, but the company’s start came from crowdfunding site IndieGoGo, where it raised more than twice the campaign’s ask. It also uses a sensor-based detection system, coupled with online monitoring.

It’s not just startups that are launching new products into the market. Established aviation companies including Boeing, Airbus, and Lockheed Martin are also developing tools, although not for general consumer use. Boeing uses lasers to shoot down drones; Airbus uses a jammer. Britain’s OpenWorks has developed a shoulder-supported system (like a bazooka) that shoots a net to capture drones; it is similar to the DroneDefender from Battelle, except that “shoots” a drone-jamming signal. Reportedly, the Pentagon just put in an order for 100 of these.

Not surprisingly, there are also more forceful military solutions, like the U.S. EAPS project, which shoots drones down with a cannon and a course-correcting projectile.

And finally, there’s the old-tech way: Using raptors trained to disable drones, as tested by police in The Netherlands.

Is drone technology over-hyped? Read What’s All The Buzz About Drones?

Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.