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Defining the Tradespace for Passively Defending Against Rogue Drones


While increasingly popular, small unmanned aerial vehicles, aka drones, are often flown illegally over outdoor public gatherings or public facilities like prisons, threatening the safety of those nearby. There is a clear need to address interloping drones in public spaces from a sociotechnical perspective, including understanding the tradespace of variables. Through surveys, interviews, technology and infrastructure design, and experimentation, we developed a tradespace model of those variables that managers and designers of high-risk settings like public spaces and prisons need to consider in their development or renovation. These include cost considerations, both capital and infrastructure, as well as technology design elements of range and false alarm rates potentially exacerbated by convolutional neural networks (aka, deep learning). Results also highlight that environmental design elements can provide a possible low-tech solution in the design of obstructions that either eliminate or complicate a drone pilot’s line of sight. This effort demonstrates that managers and designers of high-risk settings like public spaces and prisons will have to balance sometimes competing objectives to obtain the best possible outcomes for public safety.

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This research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation under the National Robotics Initiative. Our collaborator Robert Hewitt was a key member of the team, who sadly died during this project. We also thank Oishi Ghosh, Misheel Sodgerel, Sayan Mandal, Rocky Li, Bill Snead, Alex Stimpson, Chunge Wang, and Chip Bobbert and the Duke CoLab for their support. In addition, the assistance from Anthony Campbell and the Town of Cary, prison staff members from North Carolina (especially Loris Sutton), Oklahoma, and Colorado, and the staff of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens were critical in accomplishing this effort.


The National Science Foundation.

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Cummings obtained the funding, directed and supervised the technical research, and write the paper. Nassar collected human data and generated landscape architectural design solutions and Alaparthy conducted the technical development and experiments.

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Correspondence to Mary L. Cummings.

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Cummings, M.L., Nassar, H. & Alaparthy, V. Defining the Tradespace for Passively Defending Against Rogue Drones. J Intell Robot Syst 103, 69 (2021).

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  • Unmanned aerial vehicle
  • Unmanned aerial systems
  • Drone
  • Acoustic
  • Alert
  • Warning
  • Defense

MSC Code

  • 68T40