Using HackRFs to Locate a UAV Transmitter via Signal Strength Analysis

During the 2019 IEEE International Symposium on Broadband Multimedia Systems and Broadcasting conference, authors Xuemei Huang, Kun Yan, Hsiao-Chun Wu and Yiyan Wu presented a research paper titled “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Hub Detection Using Software-Defined Radio“. In their work they describe how they were able to use three HackRFs to determine the location of a UAV drone transmitter. The method they use is fairly simple as it makes use of path loss propagation models to determine an estimated distance from each HackRF, so prior knowledge of the transmitter properties is still required.

The applications of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have increased dramatically in the past decade. Meanwhile, close-range UAV detection has been intriguing by many researchers for its great importance in privacy, security, and safety control. Positioning of the UAV controller (hub) is quite challenging but still difficult. In order to combat this emerging problem for public interest, we propose to utilize a software-defined radio (SDR) platform, namely HackRF One, to enable the UAV hub detection and localization. The SDR receiver can acquire the UAV source signals. The theoretical path-loss propagation model is adopted to predict the signal strength attenuation. Thus, the UAV hub location can be estimated using the modified multilateration approach by only three or more SDR receivers.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Hub Detection Using Software-Defined Radio