Commercial drones operate on four frequency bands: 2.4GHz, 5.8GHz, 433MHz and 915MHz.
Most of the more expensive commercial drones operate on 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz and use GPS L1, enabling the pilot to fly the fixed wing or quadcopter up to approximately 5km away, with some as far as 12km. Some of them automatically frequency hop between these bands or allow the pilot to configure it, and some can use one of these bands for flying and the other to send imagery back to the pilot. Amateur-built drones tend to use 433MHz or 915MHz, which may considerably extend their range, but will limit the rate and quality of the video feed from the drone, and at times will reduce the quality of communication with the drone.
The issue with jamming these four frequencies is that they’re not dedicated for use by drones only. These frequencies are also used by hobbyists for controlling models like cars, boats, aircraft, etc., and each frequency also plays a vital role in maintaining normal operations:
- 433MHz is used by amateur radio operators and is also the wireless standard for home and workplace control and automation, which includes remote controls, vehicle keyless entry devices, door, gate and garage openers, window and door contact sensors, motion sensors, temperature sensors, water leak sensors, wall sockets, watering systems, home weather stations, headphones, baby monitors, etc. The list is endless.
- 915MHz is used by walkie-talkies and amateur radio operators, and as a radar frequency for aviation and maritime. While its wireless networking is being phased out, it’s essential for long-range wireless access networks where it transmits information from gas, water, and electricity meters.
- 2.4GHz is used in some radar systems, as well as in CCTV. It is the major operating band for the IEEE 802.11 standard for wireless data networks which serve Wi-Fi hotspots and communication, used by Bluetooth devices, IEEE 802.15.4-based wireless data networks, wireless peripherals like keyboards and mice, microphones, and speakers. It’s used for car alarms, video imagery senders, smart power meters, wireless power transmission, cordless telephones, microwave ovens. Like 433MHz, it’s also used for baby monitors, amateur radio operators, door, gate, and garage openers. Again, the list is endless.
- 5.8GHz is used for weather, military, and amateur-satellite radars. It’s also a major operating band for the IEEE 802.11. standard for wireless data networks used by Wi-Fi communication, point-to-multipoint equipment for wireless internet service provider (WISP) solutions, broadband internet access, and IP video surveillance, network access points, wireless LAN applications and networks, WiMAX networks, wireless audio, and video systems.
While the aforementioned frequencies are not an exhaustive list, they are sufficient to highlight the potential risks associated with jamming any of these four crucial frequencies at an airport. Such interference could significantly impact airport operations and potentially lead to collateral effects on nearby businesses and residences. In cases where the use of a jammer becomes necessary due to lack of alternative options, it is imperative to choose a jammer capable of disrupting drones across all four frequencies.