Drones or quad-copters are now affordable, and it is possible to record unique perspectives using their high quality video transmissions. The FAA calls them the unmanned aircraft systems, and these have started posing new challenges to security, safety, and privacy. Experts have started cautioning pilots to consider the implications of the increase in drone usage. Apart from constant surveillance concerns, it is possible for hackers using roving drones to collect location information from mobile devices.
The above has given rise to a cottage industry for anti-drone technology. You can find these devices in a variety of sizes, from handheld tools to plane-mounted types. It is possible to build one using the popular single board computer, the Raspberry Pi (RBPi). However, this rig will work against only Wi-Fi controlled network-based quad-copters. Please be careful to use this technique only on networks and devices that you own, or have permission to experiment, as otherwise, it may be considered illegal.
Many quad-copters use Wi-Fi as the key interface for communication between its controller and the tablet displaying mapping and telemetry data. Others use Wi-Fi as the sole means of control, and existing network-based attacks can be used against these devices. Since modern drones can be treated as flying computers, the attacks developed for use against traditional computer systems are also effective against drones. To illustrate the project, the AR.Drone 2.0 is selected, as it is a low-cost drone with impressive features and sensors.
Using a smartphone, a user can connect to the AR.Drone 2.0 via an access point named ardrone2. It is easy to connect, as the access point is open by default, does not require authentication, and there is no encryption involved. As soon as the user connects to the device through the access point, launching an app allows control of the drone. Although convenient for the user, the process also makes it easy for others to take control of the drone.
Therefore, using a laptop computer or on an RBPi along with a USB Wi-Fi card and a new antenna, it is possible to attack and take over the controls of the drone. For instance, if a friend is flying the AR.Drone 2.0 using the app, the access point will show up in your available wireless network.
The RBPi uses two executable scripts, one to connect to the access point, and the other to disable the drone. Use the first to connect to the network and start up your favorite terminal application. Usually, the default gateway address for this network is 192.168.1.1. As the access point is wide open on the drone system, it is possible to telnet to this address easily. Once you have access, you can proceed to explore the system, or to shut if off entirely.
This project needs a good antenna for effective connectivity. Connecting a good antenna to the wireless device can also extend its range. If you want a directional antenna, it is advisable to go for a cantenna, and you can easily make one from an available empty beer can. The cantenna will allow you control the selected drone without affecting any other device nearby.