A Novel Solution to the Illegal UAV Crisis


Illegal UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) are a clear and present danger. Such illegal activity threatens the freedoms of both private and commercial UAV operators, as the government seeks a legislative solution. The goal of my research is to determine the most practical method to stop UAV ("drones") from participating in illegal activity, such as contraband delivery into prisons and across borders, and photographing or videorecording potentially vulnerable government facilities. I designed a jamming device consisting of three components: (1) a 5.8GHz band scanner, (2) a 2000mW 5.8GHz video transmitter, and (3) an omindirectional antenna.  The band scanner identified target frequencies, while the video transmitter then projected a matched-frequency jamming signal through the antenna, effectively disrupting the target UAV's video communication with its ground station. This design is the most viable solution because it has a longer range than a projectile-based system, has a very short response time, and is able to defend against approaching UAV in all directions. The jammer was placed in the center of an open space while a UAV was flown towards it at heights between 10 and 50 feet. The data was then compiled to create a model depicting the performance range of the jammer. The maximum effective radius of the device was greater than 250 feet, enabling the system to protect an airspace of over 33 million cubic feet. A possible next step for this project would be to completely autonomize the system, virtually eliminating any response time. 

Question / Proposal

How can UAV (drones) be prevented from performing illegal operations at certain government facilities (borders, prisons, etc.)?


I expect that a device employing a 5.8GHz band scanner to identify illegal UAV and a high-powered 5.8GHz transmitter with an omnidirectional antenna to jam the live first-person video feed between the UAV and the operator will prevent usage of UAV for criminal activities. 


As unmanned aerial systems become increasingly prolific, more and more criminals use them for their crimes. In the year 2016, drone criminal reports in the UK increased by 352% from the previous year (The Independent). In the United States, drones have been reported transporting contraband into prisons in more than a dozen US states (NPR). On August 19, 2017, a man used a drone to smuggle 13 pounds of methamphetamine across the US-Mexico border into the United States (NBC). Multiple, similar incidents have also been reported, with drones smuggling Mexican marijuana and heroin into California and Arizona. The systems available to combat these drones are few and far between. Most rely on a projectile to take down the drone, severely limiting the system's range and uses. The few non-kinetic designs are often prohibitively expensive and unwieldy, also requiring the operator to physically turn on and aim the device, making long-term protection impossible. What if there was a passive, efficient system that was able to protect an area for a long period of time without human intervention? That is exactly the goal of my experiment: to design a cost-effective, safe device able to protect prisons, borders, and government facilities from the illegal operation of unmanned aerial systems.

Method / Testing and Redesign



Jammer Inside View: 

How it works: 

Flying the test UAV at the testing site:



1. The jamming device will be placed in a large area with at least 250 ft. of empty space on the side the test UAV will approach from.

2. The jamming device will be turned on, and a small UAV piloted with first-person view (FPV) goggles for viewing live video will also be turned on.

3. The UAV will fly towards the jammer at varying altitudes (increments of 10 ft) from 10 to 50 ft. (almost to ceiling level).

4. When all live video feed from the UAV to the FPV goggles is lost, distance from jammer will be marked.

5. Repeat for all altitude levels.

Independent Variable: Altitude

Dependent Variable: Distance


The experiment took place in an indoor sports complex at 5:30 AM with no bystanders nearby.

Testing Facility:

The equipment used included a small UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) and controller, the jamming device with power from a 4S 1400mAh battery, First-Person View goggles, and a notepad to take notes and results.


Safety Measures:

-UAV has propeller guards to prevent injury

-Test site used completely empty with no other people nearby

-Jammer used in an area where no other electronic devices were in use





Figure 1

As expected, the shape of the data seems to follow the predicted pattern of most omnidirectional antennas. Omnidirectional antennas are not as effective directly above the antenna, so the pattern is expected to continue in a donut shape similar to the one shown below:

Figure 2

Image Credits: mpantenna.com

As Figure 2 shows, the antenna and jammer will not be as effective directly above the device. This, however, is not a large issue as to get directly above the jammer, UAV must first pass through the outer, most effective region that the jammer covers. 

Figure 3

Figure 4

The maximum range seems to be almost 250 ft away from the jammer in all directions (Figure 3). This means that the jammer could cover an area 500 ft in diameter safely from drone incursions. A cross-section of this area is shown in Figure 4. 





The shape of the data seems to follow the pattern of most omnidirectional antennas, as expected. The maximum range seems to be almost 250 ft away from the jammer in all directions. This means that the jammer could protect an area roughly 500 feet in diameter safely from drone incursions, an area large enough to validate the employment of such a device.  There are some limitations on these results, as not all UAV's live video runs on the 5.8GHz spectrum. Most do, however, which is why I targeted that frequency. A solution to this would be to have jamming modules of all major video frequencies as part of the jamming device. 

Upon loss of visual contact with the drone, the operator would most likely either crash or have to return home. Due to the low cost and small profile of the jammers, they could be employed in a chain to create a “fence” of sorts around government facilities. When this design is used, threats can easily be identified and dealt with in a matter of seconds. Unlike other designs developed previously, my prototype does not require a human to aim, taking the potential risk of human error out of the equation. In addition, the jammer does not simply destroy the drone, but instead renders it useless for criminals in certain areas only, making the device safe to employ in all manners of locations, rural or urban. Through the usage of this new design, facilities critical to the function of communities, countries, and the world can be protected from unmanned aerial threats.

About me

My name is Wade Wahlig, a sophomore at Falmouth High School in Falmouth, Maine. STEM has always been an integral part of my life. When I was little, before I even went to school, I was fascinated by how things worked, especially machines. I read book after book on planes, trains, cars, and ships, engrossed in every detail. As I grew older, my interest in STEM gradually focused on the field of aeronautical engineering. I was and still am fascinated by aviation, inspired by inventors such as the Wright Brothers, the first men to achieve powered, controlled human flight, Glenn Curtiss, a visionary aeronautical engineer who is known today as "the father of naval aviation", and Reginald J. Mitchell, the designer of the Supermarine Spitfire fighter plane. The Spitfire played an integral part in the Battle of Britain, a critical battle in World War II, and has been my favorite aircraft since I was six years old. After high school, I plan to attend college and to major in aeronautical engineering. After my higher education, I aspire to work at a prestigious aerospace corporation such as Virgin Galactic, a company that I have long admired for their drive towards commercial space flight, a visionary company breaking boundaries unperturbed by skeptics or setbacks. The prizes would make my dream to become an aviation visionary such as the scientists listed above much closer to reality by furthering my educational career and equipping me with the knowledge this field requires. 

Health & Safety


I did not work in any of the stated laboratories.


Contact details for adult mentor:

John Kraljic



I am not using anything that might require specific safety or health guidelines.

I worked at home on this project, with fire extinguishers near to my workspace and safety glasses and worker's gloves worn at all times. 

Bibliography, references, and acknowledgements


My faculty mentor, John Kraljic, helped edit my writings on my project. Everything else was done by myself either at my home or at my high school shop.


Ellison, Michelle. “Jammer Enforcement.” Jammer Enforcement,     Federal Communications Commission, 26 July 2017, www.fcc.gov/general/jammer-enforcement.


Gizmodo. “Why Everything Wireless Is 2.4 GHz.” Wired, Conde Nast, 4 June 2017, www.wired.com/2010/09/wireless-explainer/.


MPAntenna. "Omnidirectional Antenna Radiation Pattern" MPAntenna, http://www.mpantenna.com/omnidirectional-antenna-radiation-patterns/


Press, Associated. “Man Smuggled 13 Pounds of Meth From Mexico Using a Drone.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 19 Aug. 2017, www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/man-smuggled-13-pounds-meth-mexico-using-drone-n794146.


Samilton, Tracy. “Prisons Work To Keep Out Drug-Smuggling Drones.” NPR, NPR, 15 Nov. 2017, www.npr.org/2017/11/15/564272346/prisons-work-to-keep-out-drug-smuggling-drones.


Schechter, Erik. “What's Really the Best the Way to Take Down a Drone?” Popular Mechanics, Popular Mechanics, 14 Nov. 2017, www.popularmechanics.com/flight/drones/a20194/best-the-way-to-take-out-a-drone/.


Yeung, Peter. “Drone Reports to UK Police Soar 352% in a Year amid Urgent Calls for Regulation.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 7 Aug. 2016,