Hacking Drones with GPS

Updated: Jan 18

Before diving into the topic of GPS usage in drones, one thing has to be established first. What exactly is GPS? The Global Positioning System (or GPS for short) is a navigation system based on L band frequencies, that is used to synchronize between location, velocity and time. A formidable definition, but now you might be asking yourself, “well what is GNSS then?” GNSS, or the Global Navigation Satellite System, is a series of satellites that transmit signals from space containing time and positioning data. GPS is just one of several GNSS systems, which included the European “Galileo”, the Russian “GLONASS” and the Chinese “BeiDou”.

GPS is ever so present in our day to day lives. You can find GPS systems in most cars, in our phones, even some watches contain GPS systems! The reason GPS is so common in our lives is because of its ability to offer many services, such as navigation, positioning, tracking and accurate time measuring. The ability to use GPS for navigation is especially felt in our day to day lives. Between relying on Waze to using Google Maps, which one of us hasn’t used GPS?

Our phones and cars however are not the only ones that use GPS for navigation however. In recent years, more and more drones were produced with GPS systems integrated within them.

Integrating GPS systems within drones makes operating them far simpler.

These systems allow navigation options for the drone, as well as maintaining a steady altitude. For better or worse, GPS systems allow new functions in drones, such as holding a position, maintaining an altitude, autonomous flight and return to home. Autonomous drones use AI as well as GPS coordinates to conduct a flight to a designated location without the control of a pilot. Manual drones use GPS as well - GPS helps stabilize the drones and stop them from drifting mid flight.

By now, GPS might sound spectacular. Well, it very well might be, but it doesn’t come without its flaws. Any device that uses GPS systems is vulnerable to being spoofed. GPS spoofing is the act of fabricating satellite signals, and sending these false GNSS signals to the GNSS receiver. This is a way of misleading GPS systems (and any other GNSS based system), by effectively “lying” to them and posing as real satellite signals. Spoofing is dangerous and is capable of causing many issues. There have been incidents in maritime, trucking and aviation involving GPS spoofing.

While GPS spoofing might sound devious, it also proves as a potent soft kill solution for counter drone technology. Because GNSS systems are so commonplace, targeting them means that most drones will be affected. GPS spoofing can also allow perimeter defense. Let’s take a prison for example. Drones can be used to smuggle contraband into prisons. A sure-fire way to avoid this issue would be GPS spoofing. This will prevent drones from entering a secure area.

Ring C-UAS is one example of such GPS spoofing. Ring is a GPS spoofing device developed by Regulus Cyber. It is a mobile device that resembles a small briefcase. It is quick to set up with an intuitive UI. Ring C-UAS is battle tested, and has been proven effective to stop numerous drones. To learn more about Ring C-UAS book a demo, watch the video below or fill out the contact form.