Update: Here’s what happened when two drones approached the Idaho Capitol

This is only a drill. Don’t fear the swarm of drones ‘attacking’ the Capitol

On Wednesday, February 21, Black Sage, a drone-tech company based in Boise, will stage a mock drone attack on the Capitol. They will be demonstrating new technological advancements that allow them to ground enemy drones and protect important infra
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On Wednesday, February 21, Black Sage, a drone-tech company based in Boise, will stage a mock drone attack on the Capitol. They will be demonstrating new technological advancements that allow them to ground enemy drones and protect important infra

Two drones headed north above Capitol Boulevard toward the Idaho statehouse. Lt. Gov. Brad Little stood to Gov. Butch Otter’s right at the top of the Capitol steps and watched. As the drones approached, Little took several steps to the right.

“I’m getting away from the governor,” he said.

Little feigned fear for his safety as the drones took part in a simulated attack on the Capitol. Neither Otter nor anyone else was in actual danger. The demonstration by Black Sage Technologies showed off the Boise company’s system to immobilize drones that might carry a bomb, drop contraband or weapons into prison recreation yards, or spy on sensitive operations.

Black Sage uses cameras, radar and other tools to detect drones. It can see them at least three and a half miles away. The company sometimes demonstrates its anti-drone system at military bases. Wednesday’s exhibition was one of the few times the public has gotten to see it.

One feature of the system is a virtual perimeter that can neutralize a drone before it reaches its target by disrupting radio signals between the drone and its controller or jamming its GPS locator.

Black Sage executives simulated using disruptors to bring down the drones. The drones landed on each side of the statue of former Gov. George Steunenberg in the park named for him across the street from the Capitol.

Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue said he was impressed. He thinks law enforcement should consider employing the technology.

“I think it’s fascinating,” Donahue said. “The threat is real, and it’s certainly something we should be looking at.”

Otter echoed those words.

“I would hope we’d never need to use it, but it’s something that should be looked at,” Otter said.

The story below was published Feb. 20, 2018, under the headline, “How to thwart a drone attack: This Boise company will demonstrate how.”

A Boise company plans to show how its technology could thwart a drone attack on the Idaho Capitol.

On Wednesday, Black Sage Technologies will send two drones to fly around the Capitol. The ground technology that will be employed Wednesday uses Doppler radar, radio frequency detection, thermal imaging cameras and other equipment to locate the drones.

The equipment can jam signals between a drone and its controller, sending the drone back to its base. It can jam a drone’s GPS signal, forcing it to land. But neither of these will be part of the demonstration. The company said it would need government permission, and for demonstration purposes, such jamming can typically take place only on a military base.

Instead, attendees will see and hear how the equipment detects the drones and uses cameras to monitor and assess possible danger. The company will put up a virtual fence around the Capitol, and its equipment should detect the drones when they violate the space. Attendees then will will see a simulation of the use of disrupters to bring the drones down.

“Commercially available drones are a lot of fun for a lot of people,” said Ross Lamm, Black Sage’s co-managing partner. “However, they are sometimes used for less-than-desirable purposes.”

Drones could be used to spy on military bases or other government installations, gather intelligence on new-car designs being tested by a manufacturer, or used to grab video from an outdoor movie set. They could also be used to drop bombs onto a target, Lamm said.

Drones have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Officials have complained about their presence at crime scenes, forest fires, national parks and stadium sporting events.

Last Wednesday, a helicopter crash-landed in Charleston, South Carolina, after a drone appeared directly in front of a helicopter piloted by a student pilot and instructor. The instructor took control of the aircraft, but the helicopter still crashed. Neither the instructor nor the student was injured.

On Feb. 9, a drone struck a tour helicopter flying over the scenic Na Pali coast on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. No one was injured.

Black Sage doesn’t manufacture the equipment used in its operations.

“We don’t make any one of those actual sensors,” he said. “We make the software and systems that integrate them.”

A Statesman story two years ago told how Black Sage had developed a system that could send a strong beam of light toward a drone that could prevent it from taking photographs or video.

Over the past year and a half, Lamm said his company has given demonstrations about once every other month. Gov. Butch Otter, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and members of the Legislature are expected at Wednesday’s demonstration.

The demonstration begins at 3:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @JohnWSowell

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