2022 has seen an acceleration in drone events, from purposeful attacks to unintentional interference.

Recent examples include a February 10 incident involving a drone attack on an airport in Saudi Arabia in which civilians were injured. This was the first recorded incident where civilians were injured from shrapnel following defense methods used to intercept the drone. That is, shrapnel following an interception led to collateral damage, and rather than eliminating the danger, created a new peril, causing injury to 12 innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.

Just a few days before this incident, Abu Dhabi's airport was also attacked by drones. These incidents may foreshadow the next stage of technology-assisted warfare.

The escalating pace of drone attacks — which have expanded to civilian targets including airports and stadiums — has amounted to a global threat.

Drones can serve as friends or foes, and their potential for good — from frontline security monitoring in sensitive spaces to express shipping and delivery in remote areas — has grown over the past decades as technology has become cheaper and more widely available. But as the prevalence of these friendly and authorized drones has increased, the threat from drones piloted for nefarious means has increased in tandem.

In a recent study of organizations ranging from local governments to law enforcement to the caretakers of arenas, stadiums and prisons, 63% of respondents reported an increase in drone incidents, with 31% of respondents cataloging at least 10 rogue drone incidents or intrusions just over the past year. 63% of those incidents caused operational disruption, and a number of those included human injury.

The study, carried out by D-Fend in partnership with the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement, found that 78% of respondents — cited unauthorized or rogue drones as a threat to their employees, facilities and constituents.

Drone incidents are on the rise at geopolitical borders, in sensitive areas of maritime security and at stadiums and arenas. One sector has seen a spike in rogue drone incidents in recent years: airports. The study shows a preponderance of rogue drone incidents in 2021 in North America.

For more information on drone threats and strategies to mitigate them, click here.