Guns and drugs from heaven

Article from “Schweiz am Sonntag” of May 31, 2015 with a mention of Koller Engineering:

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Guns and drugs from heaven

Drones are increasingly a threat to prisons. There is a lack of defense systems.

Arms smuggling was no longer an issue in Swiss prisons for a long time. But now there are security gaps – from the air. Since so-called mini-drones are allowed to fly in Switzerland without a permit and all prisons have open courtyards, this threat takes on a new dimension.

The mini drones may not weigh more than 30 kilograms, but they can easily transport loads such as weapons or explosives. “It is impossible to imagine the danger that radical prisoners get hold of these things,” says Monika Kummer, head of the Bern regional prison.

Geneva is now the first canton to respond to the threat from above. The government on Wednesday banned all drone flights within 300 meters of prisons, judicial buildings and police stations.

There have already been initial attempts to transport drugs or cell phones behind the prison walls with quadrocopters. “But it will not stop at attempts,” says Marcel Ruf, director of the correctional facility (JVA) Lenzburg AG. Technical progress makes drones more powerful, more precise and cheaper. “It can therefore be assumed that both the spread and the criminal intentions will increase.”

The western military alliance NATO recently examined the potential dangers posed by drones and has come to the conclusion: The threat is increasing, but there are still few solutions available. There are companies that are working on warning systems to track down approaching drones. But there is a lack of defense systems.

The armaments company Rheinmetall also wrote the NATO report. For Fabian Ochsner from the Swiss branch, one thing is certain: “We need ways to get the drones out of the sky.” Rheinmetall is currently working on an electronic intervention to paralyze the controls and an intervention using a laser to shoot down the drone.

Such an air defense system from Rheinmetall, with which the air force protects the airspace from the ground, is used during the World Economic Forum in Davos GR. “At the WEF, the danger of drones is present,” says Ochsner. “But in everyday life, many are not yet fully aware of the danger.” But that will change as soon as “something happens”.

The reason why there are only a few defense systems apart from net pistols is also due to the laws in Switzerland. It is not allowed to manipulate remote-controlled or GPS-controlled drones with jammers. The situation is different when it comes to tracking down the nimble flying objects with detection systems. In the past few years a new business field has emerged in this area. Rheinmetall has developed a radar system that detects all objects in flight at a distance of several hundred meters and forwards information on size, type and weight to a computer. “In this way, users can see what kind of flying object they are dealing with.”

The Company Koller Engineering from Nottwil LU, on the other hand, has developed a system that detects drones using the acoustics. “All drones fly with propellers and therefore never approach silently,” says the head of the company Andreas Koller . A directional microphone can detect a drone at a distance of up to 1000 meters and sound an alarm. “If the drone approaches at the usual speed of 30 to 50 kilometers per hour, a few seconds pass from the alarm being triggered until the drone is in the area.”

The cost of equipping a prison the size of a Lenzburg JVA: 30,000 francs for the acoustics and 150,000 francs for the radar system.

Prison directors from Switzerland, Germany and Austria looked for possible solutions in dealing with threats at a conference this week. “The detection of mini-threats seems to be a practical solution, but effective protection also requires means of intervention,” says Andreas Naegeli, JVA-Pöschwies director. In future, however, he will only consider systems that do not endanger third parties as possible means of intervention. For him, legal adjustments are only up for discussion when new defense techniques are fully developed. For now, he is therefore checking various recognition systems.

Source: “Schweiz am Sonntag” from May 31, 2015