Drone Defence: How To Protect A Superyacht

Drone Defence: How To Protect A Superyacht

How drone defence can be used to protect superyachts from threats such as invasion of privacy and structural damage. A guide to how drone defence can help and the different solutions available.

6 minute read

  • Drone defence has become a critical asset for superyachts;
  • Threats from drones include invasion of privacy and structural damage;
  • Numerous technology exists to counter a drone attack, such as radio frequency detectors, radar, and cameras, as well as a range of counter-measures;
  • A layered solution - bringing together multiple drone detection technologies - can be the most effective strategy;
  • Drone defence specialist heliguy™ has experience of installing cost-effective and industry-leading solutions aboard superyachts, including installation plans, secure on-board servers and localised alarm integration.  

Invasion of privacy and major structural damage: Drones present a significant threat to superyachts and their occupants.

Thankfully, there is a way of countering this type of attack: Drone defence.

Not only does this solution help battle back against a nuisance unmanned aircraft system (UAS), it also ensures data integrity to prevent costly and counter-productive false alarms.



But what is the most effective method of building a virtual security shield around a vessel?

Drone defence specialist heliguy™, who has installed solutions aboard superyachts, takes a look.

Superyachts: Why They Need Drone Defence

Drone defence has become imperative for superyachts for a number of reasons.   

Invasion Of Privacy

Lavish and luxurious, superyachts are a major pull for the wealthy and famous. In turn, these floating palaces offer rich-pickings for the paparazzi, looking for that stellar aerial shot of a celebrity.



Such invasion of privacy is perhaps the most significant reason for deploying drone defence aboard a yacht - protecting the integrity of VIP passengers and alerting them to a drone which could be taking pictures or video.   

The paparazzi aren't the only issue, either. Drones can also be used for reconnaissance missions by pirates planning the abduction of a high-profile individual or preparing a high-value robbery.   


Structural Damage: Malicious Attack And Unintended Accidents

A drone can be used as a flying missile to cause significant damage to a prized asset, such as a yacht.

Malicious UAS can also be equipped with hostile payloads and explosives to cause further destruction.

There is also a more innocent, but no-less serious scenario, where a drone unintentionally collides with a yacht.  


Multiple Attack Scenarios

A yacht is heavily exposed to a drone attack across a variety of situations - whether that is while the vessel is in transit, at anchor at sea, or docked at port.

As such, a drone threat is ever-present. 



Better Drone Technology

Drone technology has accelerated at a rapid rate in recent years and this shows no signs of slowing.

Coinciding with this, high-quality UAS has become more cost-effective and subsequently, more accessible.

It's a perfect storm, which can lead to a whole host of problems for superyachts, their owners and passengers.



Drones can now be flown further and easier than before, while better-quality cameras capture crystal-clear visuals. Drones equipped with powerful zoom cameras exasperate the issue; collecting footage from further away - therefore demonstrating the need for a long-range drone-detection system. 

Drones have also got smaller, meaning detecting them with the naked-eye can be an extremely difficult task, or are spotted when it is too late. A detection system enables early alerts to nearby drones in the airspace. 


Countering A Drone Attack On A Superyacht

Installing drone defence aboard a yacht - either retrospectively or at the boat-building stage - is the best way to stop an attack or prevent the invasion of privacy from a UAS.

A drone defence system provides real-time data acquisition to enable early identification of an approaching drone, giving time to gauge threat levels and take appropriate action.

For yachts, heliguy™ is able to install on-board servers which can be accessed by any onboard smart/computer device via the yacht's WiFi network, with no external network required. Real-time notifications can also be set up to provide instant alarming to multiple Android app smartphones.



Drone defence comprises two key elements: Notification/detection, followed by counter-measures, if needed. Please note that it is important to be clear of legalities surrounding counter-measures in your specific region of deployment.  

A range of technology is available in these two areas:


Method How It Helps
Radio Frequency (RF) Detectors These passive systems scan the airspace for drone frequency bands, detecting a communication link between the drone and controller/pilot. Some provide key Remote ID details, drone model and telemetry data.
Radar Identifies a drone in the airspace by picking up emitted radar signatures from the aircraft. Measures the drone's direction and distance.
Cameras Capture drone movement, either using appearance-based, motion-based or hybrid methods. Solutions include daylight cameras or optical sensors, such as infrared/thermal and electro-optical.
Acoustic Uses a microphone or microphone array to detect sounds from the drone and calculate its direction.




Method How It Helps
Drone Signal Jammer RF and GNSS drone jamming disrupts the radio frequency or satellite communication links between the drone and its pilot. Basic jammers tend to be deployed manually.
Smart Jammers The same as basic jammers, but these solutions can be deployed autonomously. They can also be used to takeover a malicious drone, by hijacking satellite communication links and disrupting a UAS' navigational capabilities. Smart jammers give the jammer operator the option to track the drone back to the pilot.
Drone Catcher: Anti-drone Bazooka And Nets An anti-drone net entangles the malicious UAS and its motors, leaving it paralysed. The net can be deployed via an anti-drone bazooka or by an attack drone which fires a net to capture the targeted aircraft.


Drone Defence: A Layered Solution

A layered solution ensures the most comprehensive and robust type of drone defence.

This method of protection combines numerous technologies to detect a broader range of drones, ensures data integrity to reduce the likelihood of false positives, and brings together detection techniques with mitigation strategies. 

These solutions are brought into play at different phases of a drone defence strategy. These phases are:

1: Detect: Alert issued when drone breaches a geofenced area or enters the airspace.
2: Classify: Identify the drone's make and model (including its camera capabilities and can it carry a hostile payload), size, height and travel distance.
3: Track: Monitor the drone's path and obtain the GPS locations of the aircraft and pilot.
4: Respond: Locate pilot, seize property, or take alternative action, such as takedown.
5: Learn: Via analytics - was it the same drone/pilot? Is a particular route or high-profile passenger being constantly targeted?




A layered solution can be brought together by a middle-layer software, with full automation and either remote or localised monitoring/alerts.

This multi-tier strategy means a solution can be built in a phased approach, depending on need and/or budget.

Starting with detection, and building out from there is an advised approach.

A suggested phased strategy for a superyacht looks like this:

  • Layer 1: RF drone detection with on-board server (accessed via on-board WiFi) and localised alert system.
  • Layer 2: Additional RF sensors to detect a wider array of drones and cross-reference alerts.
  • Layer 3: Radar to accompany RF sensors.
  • Layer 4: Counter-UAS Solutions.

Layers 2 to 4 are integrated via a middle-layer software. heliguy™ can offer an in-situ trial of layers 1 to 3 - available upon request.


heliguy™: Your Drone Defence Partner

heliguy™ is a drone defence expert, specialising in, but not confined to, industry-leading RF detection.

The company has provided solutions for a range of use-cases, including major airports, such as Gatwick (install pictured below); during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone; and supplying the MET Police and MOD for security and defence.



heliguy™ offers installation assessments and plans; site visits; trials and rentals; and lifetime end-to-end on-demand support from in-house engineers, including health checks, telephone/email consultancy and replacement parts and repairs.

heliguy™ has also established a partnership network with drone defence industry-leaders to build a cost-effective layered and tailored solution.   

Drone Defence For Superyachts: Summary

Whether it is invasion of privacy or structural damage, the threat of drones to superyachts is very real.

Implementing drone defence is a critical strategy to mitigate this, providing early warnings about a nearby drone to give enough time to weigh up the situation and take the necessary action.   

RF detectors provide a solid and reliable foundation from which to build a drone defence solution. 

To discuss your strategy, contact the heliguy™ drone defence team.   

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