DroneClash: Drone Battles and Countermeasures in the Netherlands

The first-ever DroneClash was recently held in the Netherlands. (Credit: DroneClash)

March 06, 2018      

With concerns rising over criminals and terrorists using drones, Dutch law enforcement authorities recently held the first DroneClash, in which teams aimed to take down drones and evade countermeasures.

The event was held last month in the hanger of a former air base in Katwijk aan Zee, the Netherlands. The Dutch ministries of defense and justice, as well as the Delft University of Technology (TUD), organized DroneClash.

“Drones can fly into our lives, but we need to be able to take them out again, if necessary,” said Bart Remes, a TUD spokesman.

Eight teams from the Netherlands and Germany competed. Academic, corporate, and governmental teams all participated, including the Royal Dutch Navy. Team “Laced Horns” won the event, with team “Dipol” and “FBC2T” coming in second and third, respectively.

Team “Laced Horns” also won the “Best Pilot” award, and Team “FBC2T” (the name was derived from the initials of team members) received the “Innovation award” for its approach to hacking other drones during the clash.

Teams had to bring at least two drones per battle, but they were allowed more.

Artist rendition of the DroneClash arena and hazards for the drones. (Credit: DroneClash)

They also needed to avoid several anti-drone obstacles, including hacking and flamethrowers. Some placed an emphasis on speed, while others went for heavy defenses.

In each round, two to four teams battled simultaneously in a round.

Each team had one or more “fighter drones,” which were used to take down other drones, as well as “queen drone” that they needed to defend. Teams started in the “Battle First Arena,” in which they attempted to take each other down.

Surviving drones then few through the “Hallway of Doom, Death, and Destruction,” where they were attacked by anti-drone instruments. Any remaining drones then entered the “Queen Palace”, where they attacked the other team’s queen drones.

Drone defenses proven ineffective

In the resulting battles, countermeasures that were thought to be strong before the event were deemed harmless.

“It turns out that the drones used in DroneClash, some of them not that unrelated to ‘normal’ race drones, have little to fear from blinding stroboscopes, thick smoke, or even a handheld net cannon. Too fast, too small, too strong. A lesson in itself.”

Blog report on DroneClash

Hacking techniques proved to be more effective in some of the battles. Team FBC2T, which won the Innovation Award at the event, was able to attack the control signals of rival drones to then overtake them.

“FBC2T’s hacking is an amazing feat, more so because this is potentially a legal way to both detect and counter a drone,” a report on the event said.

European drone market booming

Research indicates that the markets for drones in Europe will boom over the next two years.

DroneClash pilot drone check

A team member prepares a drone for competing in the DroneClash event in the Netherlands. (Credit: DroneClash)

According to Verdantix, spending on the combined European commercial, industrial and civil government drones market will grow from €197 million ($240 million U.S.) in 2017 to €3.86 billion ($4.86 billion) in 2037, an average annual growth of 16%.

With a 30% share of the global drone sales, Europe is second behind the U.S. (35% share). China is responsible for 15% of global sales, and the rest of the world has a market share of 20%.

The SESAR European Drones Outlook Study forecasts annual European sales of €10 billion (US $12 billion) by 2035.

Estimates for the number of drones operating in Europe, 2050:

  • Consumer/leisure: 7 million
  • Government: 400,000
  • Agriculture: 100,000
  • Delivery: 100,000
  • Public safety/security: 50,000
  • Energy: 10,000

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