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Student project at the forefront of global drone defence and security

Monday, 01 April 2019

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Rogue drones are causing havoc around the world but a new ECU research project is making it easier to track malicious drones, disable them and find their owners.

Drones have shut down major airports around the world and there’s even been a number of close calls around Western Australia.

But a group of ECU students are developing a system to automatically track and where necessary, disable drones flying where they shouldn’t be.

It’s called Spectrum Watch and it uses an array of WiFi sensors to monitor signals sent between a drone and its controller.

It then isolates the traffic to the drone, then monitors the drone and takes appropriate action as and when needed, appropriate to the threat presented.

But once you’ve got the drone in hand, the next challenge is to find out what it’s been up to.

The ECU students have extended the knowledge in addressing this problem too.

They’ve used digital forensics techniques to extract such data as the drones’ origin, find out flight paths, any images or video it recorded which can be used to track down their pilots by law enforcement.

The projects were part of the ECU Security Research Institute’s Summer of Cyber program, a seven week paid internship for students from the University’s cyber security program.

Director of the ECU Security Research Institute Professor Craig Valli said the project was an effective, low cost proof of concept solution to a problem which is only getting worse.

“The fact is that there’s an incredibly low barrier to entry and we’re hopelessly prepared for the variety of threats posed by a malicious actor using a drone,” he said.

Harneet Kaur is a second year Bachelor of Computer Science student said the project added to what she’d already learnt in class and the workplace experience helped to build her confidence as a woman working in a traditionally male-dominated field.

“Working hands on with the drones has allowed me to expand my knowledge in a professional environment which has built on the skills I already had,” she said.

Shyamal Varsani is a third year Bachelor of Cyber Security student and was part of the team behind Spectrum Watch.

He said it was a valuable opportunity to be able to apply the skills he’d learned during his studies toward developing a solution to a real-world problem.

“The project has given me skills in a heap of new tools which will have a direct correlation with what I’ve learned at ECU, and will hopefully translate beyond university into my career,” he said.

“It’s also given me a different perspective on what I want to do once I finish my studies – something I wouldn’t have thought of if I hadn’t been part of the project.”

For more information about studying Cyber Security at ECU, please visit our Cyber Security web page.

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