With their expertise and powerful technology that automates and simplifies the process of deriving actionable insights from RF spectrum information, a company called Digital Global Systems (DGS) is ideally positioned to provide cutting-edge critical asset protection and drone threat management solutions. DGS initially helped companies catalog and organize wireless spectrums. With an overabundance of consumers competing for limited bandwidth on the spectrum, the legacy approach of spectrum analyzers, spreadsheets, and manual RF engineering wasn’t scalable enough. To that end, DGS came up with an innovative, automated, and autonomous system that analyzes and categorizes emitters within the RF environment in great detail; the system is capable of alerting users of anomalies and impacting trends occurring in near real time and can operate in a standalone mode or as a part of an integrated large-scale nodal network.
DGS intelligently leveraged its RF expertise to align with the booming drone market. “What the DGS CLEARSKY system does is not just detect the drone; it can identify the chip manufacturer by their protocol and radio footprint. In addition to tracing its direction of flight and location of the controller, the system can even notify users of the functional capabilities of the drone,” says Fernando Murias, chairman and CEO of DGS. Today, the company delivers multipronged solutions at the technical, operational, and strategic levels for drone threat prevention.
Drone Threat Management: A Class Apart
What sets DGS apart from the competitors in the space is the sheer depth of RF knowledge they have. Most vendors in the drone threat management space start as counter-UAS companies with a very narrow focus on detecting drones that operate in the 2.4 or 5.8 GHz frequencies and rely only on a library of limited drone signatures. “Today, it is possible to modify a drone’s chipset to operate at a frequency other than 2.4 or 5.8 GHz; most providers will thus fail to detect a drone that’s using a new or modified protocol which is not pre-loaded into their signature library,” says Dave Kleinbeck, SVP of Engineering at DGS. These vendors adopt the approach of demodulating a drone’s signal in software, which takes valuable time. Given the speed of drones and other vendors’ limited range of detection, this is time that customers can’t afford to lose, especially in military and mission-critical scenarios.
In addition to tracing its direction of flight and location of the controller, the system can even notify users of the functional capabilities of the drone
“DGS, on the other hand, scans from 50 MHz to 6 GHz and detects all anomalous signals, whether those are drones, jammers, unauthorized radios, or whatever shouldn’t be there. Our background in RF engineering allows us to detect signals at distances much farther than our competitors, much faster, and in noisier RF environments,” says Pat Rudolph, VP of Critical Asset Protection at DGS.
The company has laid extra emphasis on ease of use and intuitiveness from an operational standpoint. Kleinbeck explains that any non-engineer with a basic knowledge of RF can easily operate the CLEARSKY suite. Irrespective of the operating environment, the system displays the types and origins of frequencies in use clearly and notifies stakeholders the moment there is an anomaly. “DGS also has an analytics platform that provides historical data for post processing, and an open architecture that can integrate with third-party tools such as cameras and radars,” adds Kleinbeck.
The Scalability Prong
DGS’ RF security and situational awareness transcend beyond drone detection and defense. DGS addresses their clients’ need to control their RF environment under varying workloads and deviations created by external resources. For instance, the RF environment at a football stadium differs entirely on a typical weekday evening than on game day. The RF environment in that stadium will also differ based on the type of event, say, a music concert as opposed to a football game. DGS’ patented machine learning technology can evaluate the environment automatically, based on the type and time-frame of the occasion, and adjust the noise floor to detect unknown signals while dramatically reducing false positives. “We’ve spoken to a number of security teams at football stadiums who have deployed our competitors’ solutions, only to have them fail to operate on game day because they were overwhelmed by the concentration of wireless signals when the crowds showed up. Our system was built to operate in these dynamic environments,” adds Rudolph. In effect, DGS’ systems are self-calibrating. With an antenna placed barely two meters high, DGS CLEARSKY can detect drones in the periphery of over 1.2 miles. The company has systems which, when installed atop buildings, can detect up to 3 miles.
The Regulatory Front
In these early stages of what appears to be a massive drone ecosystem influx, many companies are still studying ways to use drones in manageable ways to increase the productivity of their businesses. Inside the U.S., regulations that limit drone usage in corporate sectors exist and also limit the ways to engage drone threats for corporate espionage, invasion of privacy, and physical harm.
Exemplary Client Success Stories
DGS’ CLEARSKY is offered as dedicated variants for stadiums, ports, and first responders. The product’s capabilities extend smoothly into other application areas as well. For instance, DGS enabled a prison to create a barrier against drones bringing contraband into the yard, and also to send alerts upon finding mobile phone signals inside the prison cell blocks. A law enforcement agency was able to create a “drone shield” around their incident response vehicle so that news agencies can’t use drones and inadvertently give away tactical information during a crisis event. The DoD was able to create a solution for convoys that allows them to spot signals in certain locations (e.g., potential forward observers at known choke points) and to provide protection from incoming drones. In yet another winning instance, an airport leveraged DGS’ “detect at distance” and “locate controller” capabilities to set up a robust drone detection framework.
"With 32 patents issued in the past 3 years, we continue to innovate and find new ways to improve the automation and user interaction with our system"
For a seaport with several secure facilities, such as Liquid Natural Gas storage tank areas—where authorities have to be notified if any mobile device is entering a designated perimeter—the DGS nodal network creates specific triggers designed to notify security personnel and engage the existing security cameras.
DGS’ novel approach that combines drone threat management with broader anomalous signal detection has gained the interest of several large system integrators as well as drone detection companies who are keen on licensing their solution. Looking ahead, the company also plans to expand their foothold into the big data marketplace as data analysis demands for extremely large systems spanning across continents are requested by its clients. “With 32 patents issued in the past three years, we continue to innovate and find newer ways to improve the automation and user interaction with our system. Increased analytic power in smaller form factors is a considerable advantage as emerging technologies like IoT, which can generate voluminous data sets, are in testing phases around the world,” concludes Murias.