Low-cost Drone Tracker

Project number: 
Ball Aerospace
Academic year: 
The proliferation of drone technology presents unique security threats and public safety challenges. Drones can attain high speeds and have the potential to carry explosive payloads, conduct illicit surveillance and smuggle contraband. These small and nimble aircraft are difficult to detect with traditional radar systems. Miniaturized drones, with their small-scale radar cross section, also are hard to differentiate from other things, such as birds and high-altitude aircraft.

A network of optoelectronic drone tracker systems dispersed around a monitored airspace could address certain limitations of existing warning systems and enable greater situational awareness of drones.

Team members developed a prototype to detect, identify and track drones in real time, with concurrent reporting through a computer interface. The system automatically scans for and detects drones, recognizing them in comparison to other airborne objects. This prototype processes images from two separate camera subsystems to make positioning decisions for tilt and rotation motors and keep the object-of-interest within its field of view. The drone’s direction, speed and distance are measured and reported through a graphical user interface.

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