03Apr 2019

Stadium Security: Evaluating drone detection technologies for stadium environments

Stadium Security (3)

Quick recap: In the first article, you examined Issue #1: Drone threats. You weighed Issue #2: Economic impacts on stadiums in the second article in this series. In the third article, you explored Issue #3: Drone policies and safety procedures to help your team better prepare for drone threats, and now you are looking for solutions to mitigate the risks associated with drones.

In this post, we will compare drone detection technologies to give you the knowledge to make informed decisions about security at your venue.

What technologies are available to monitor drones?

As you are putting a drone security procedure in place together, it is important to research and understand the following:

  • Available drone detection technologies
  • Possible limitations of drone detection
  • Laws & Regulation: FAA rules/regulations, Federal/State Drone Laws

The FAA defines a UAS “as an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft (Public Law 112-95, Section 331(8)).” Since the FAA classifies UAS as an aircraft, it is illegal to intercept the device using a jammer or any type of brute force.

Until the FAA authorizes stadiums to use drone jammers, the countermeasures for stadiums to use against unauthorized drones include:

  • Technology that can detect the drone and drone pilot
  • Analyze the data and Identify the risk
  • Respond based on your policy and procedure

There are two main electronic technologies available to detect drones:

  • Radio Frequency (RF) Technology: RF detection centers on radio frequency (RF) that listens and monitors 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz frequencies for transmission of the communication link between the drone and the pilot(receiver) and determines the location of the drone and possibly the pilot’s location.
    • Limitations: Always check manufactures specs, some fail to disclose important data such as:
      • Short range detection limitation
      • Line of sight limitation
      • Not all drones can be detected


  • Radar Technology: Radar detection uses technology very similar to that already in use for aircraft detection of objects. Radar advantages over RF is that it can detect all drones, regardless of RF frequency transmissions.
    • Limitations: Just like with RF, Radar has issues that some manufactures failing to disclose limitations such as:
      • Short range limitation
      • High percentage of false alerts
      • Large number of units needed

The above might sound disappointing if you were hoping for one “magic bullet” drone detection solution. Drone detection should be a layered approach combining various technologies giving you a solution that works best for your venue’s environment based on risk assessment per location.

The truth is drones threats are new, drones are hard to detect, and many drone detection technologies have emerged within the last 1-4 years. However, companies are working hard to improve systems to provide the best solution possible.

Drone detection provides stadiums with situational awareness to better deal with drone risks, assess the level of risk, and make real-time decisions regarding venue and event safety. A multi-layered approach to drone detection paired with effective drone policies and procedures will allow your team to successfully and safely mitigate non-compliant drones when they enter your airspace.

Recommendations for evaluating and choosing drone detection providers:

When evaluating different types of drone detection technologies such as RF and Radar, ask questions about the limitations of each system.

Limitations and questions to consider:

  • Line of sight limitations: Will the system detect the drone’s location if the drone is obscured by tree or building?
  • Types of drones detected: Will it detect drones made from any manufacturer?
  • Range: How far away or close does the drone have to be for detection?
  • Alerts: What is the percentage of false alerts?
  • Coverage: How many units (sensors) will I need?
  • Price: How expensive is RF vs. Radar?
  • Open API: Will it integrate seamlessly with existing security systems?

For example, RF works well to catch drones and its pilot hiding behind buildings and in corridors. They can also identify the drone take-off location and flight path which is beneficial information. The RF layer in my opinion serves as a good geofence layer that allows stadiums to monitor the airspace for drones flying within your set perimeter.

With the limitations of RF not being able to detect all drones and radar systems having a  limited range of detection and are very expensive, we recommend stadiums look into adding a radar layer over critical areas. The goal here is to improve the detection level over important, high-traffic areas. This approach works well for large stadium complexes where it is almost impossible cost-wise to blanket the whole area with a full radar layer.

We call this the layered approach which combines technology to work together rather than picking one over another. With that said, it is essential to understand that every environment is different, and what works for stadium A but might not work at stadium B because of the environment and layout differences.

Also, we recommend that you only work with detection systems that offer open API and can integrate with multiple security vendors. This allows you to easily integrate the drone detection system and data outputs into your existing security management systems. For example, your detection system should work hand in hand with your surveillance system, access control, and even cybersecurity system when a threat is detected.

Detection is critical; each second counts when it comes to safety. Drone detection technology continuously monitors the airspace and can detect drones flying 3-miles away from the stadium. Drone detection gives you an early warning and time for your security team to respond and mitigate the threat.

Up Next: In the next article, we we will look at Issue #5: the benefits of drone detection and survey how the technology can help secure the airspace around your stadium.