How to Hide from a Drone – the Subtle Art of ‘Ghosting’ in the Age of Surveillance

Artem Kiktenko/Shutterstock.com

An umbrella could protect from more than just rain.

Drones of all sizes are being used by environmental advocates to monitor deforestation, by conservationists to track poachers, and by journalists and activists to document large protests. As a political sociologist who studies social movements and drones, I document a wide range of nonviolent and pro-social drone uses in my new book, “The Good Drone.” I show that these efforts have the potential to democratize surveillance.

But when the Department of Homeland Security redirects large, fixed-wing drones from the U.S.-Mexico border to monitor protests, and when towns experiment with using drones to test people for fevers, it’s time to think about how many eyes are in the sky and how to avoid unwanted aerial surveillance. One way that’s within reach of nearly everyone is learning how to simply disappear from view.

Crowded Skies

Over the past decade there’s been an explosion in the public’s use of drones – everyday people with everyday tech doing interesting things. As drones enter already-crowded airspace, the Federal Aviation Administration is struggling to respond. The near future is likely to see even more of these devices in the sky, flown by an ever-growing cast of social, political and economic actors.

Public opinion about the use and spread of drones is still up in the air, but burgeoning drone use has sparked numerous efforts to curtail drones. These responses range from public policies exerting community control over local airspace, to the development of sophisticated jamming equipment and tactics for knocking drones out of the sky.

From startups to major defense contractors, there is a scramble to deny airspace to drones, to hijack drones digitally, to control drones physically and to shoot drones down. Anti-drone measures range from simple blunt force, 10-gauge shotguns, to the poetic: well-trained hawks.

Many of these anti-drone measures are expensive and complicated. Some are illegal. The most affordable – and legal – way to avoid drone technology is hiding.

How to Disappear

The first thing you can do to hide from a drone is to take advantage of the natural and built environment. It’s possible to wait for bad weather, since smaller devices like those used by local police have a hard time flying in high winds, dense fogs and heavy rains.

Trees, walls, alcoves and tunnels are more reliable than the weather, and they offer shelter from the high-flying drones used by the Department of Homeland Security.

The second thing you can do is minimize your digital footprints. It’s smart to avoid using wireless devices like mobile phones or GPS systems, since they have digital signatures that can reveal your location. This is useful for evading drones, but is also important for avoiding other privacy-invading technologies.

The third thing you can do is confuse a drone. Placing mirrors on the ground, standing over broken glass, and wearing elaborate headgear, machine-readable blankets or sensor-jamming jackets can break up and distort the image a drone sees.

Mannequins and other forms of mimicry can confuse both on-board sensors and the analysts charged with monitoring the drone’s video and sensor feeds.

Drones equipped with infrared sensors will see right through the mannequin trick, but are confused by tactics that mask the body’s temperature. For example, a space blanket will mask significant amounts of the body’s heat, as will simply hiding in an area that matches the body’s temperature, like a building or sidewalk exhaust vent.

The fourth, and most practical, thing you can do to protect yourself from drone surveillance is to get a disguise. The growth of mass surveillance has led to an explosion in creative experiments meant to mask one’s identity. But some of the smartest ideas are decidedly old-school and low-tech. Clothing is the first choice, because hats, glasses, masks and scarves go a long way toward scrambling drone-based facial-recognition software.

Your gait is as unique as your fingerprint. As gait-recognition software evolves, it will be important to also mask the key pivot points used in identifying the walker. It may be that the best response is affecting a limp, using a minor leg brace or wearing extremely loose clothing.

Artists and scientists have taken these approaches a step further, developing a hoodie wrap that’s intended to shield the owner’s heat signature and to scramble facial recognition software, and glasses intended to foil facial recognition systems.

Keep an Umbrella Handy

These innovations are alluring, but umbrellas may prove to be the most ubiquitous and robust tactic in this list. They’re affordable, easy to carry, hard to see around and can be disposed of in a hurry. Plus you can build a high-tech one, if you want.

It would be nice to live in a world with fewer impositions on privacy, one in which law enforcement did not use small quadcopters and the Department of Homeland Security did not redeploy large Predator drones to surveil protesters. And, for people in some parts of the world, it would be nice not to associate the sound of a drone with impending missile fire. But given that those eyes are in the sky, it’s good to know how to hide.

Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick is an associate professor of political sociology at University of San Diego.

The ConversationThis article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.