IMSI Catcher Systems & Devices

IMSI catchers, or cell-site simulators, are devices that mimic legitimate cell towers to intercept mobile phone communications by capturing the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) of nearby devices. Equipped with specialized software, they can facilitate the monitoring and tracking of cellular activities and enhance the reach and mobility of surveillance, search and rescue, and law enforcement operations.
Overview IMSI Catcher Systems & Devices
By Mike Ball Last updated: July 19th, 2024

IMSI catchers can be used to intercept cellular and mobile phone communications by acting as a local cell tower and tricking devices into connecting to them.

IMSI Catcher for UAVs & drones by CENTUM research & technology

Lifeseeker Mini IMSI Catcher for UAVs & drones by CENTUM research & technology

They can identify the unique IMSI (international mobile subscriber identity) number of each device, and many systems can also detect IMEI (international mobile equipment identity) numbers. These capabilities also allow them to detect and track devices.

Typically based on SDR (software-defined radio) technology, they may work with 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G networks. Once mobile devices are connected, the catcher system may provide a range of additional functionality, including access to GPS location, denial of service, battery draining, network changing, and SMS sending.

Drone IMSI Catcher Applications

IMSI Catcher UAV Payload by Revector

IMSI Catcher UAV Payload by Revector

SDR IMSI catcher devices can be connected to UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and drones for the purposes of security and search and rescue. They can be embedded into relatively low-SWaP (size, weight and power) payloads and thus can be carried by a wide range of UAS (unmanned aerial system) platforms.

Ideal for search and rescue drones and disaster relief, they can be used to cover vast areas in a short time when searching for survivors and missing persons. They can typically be used to detect cell phones even in thick vegetation and under snow. They can also turn mobile phones into emergency beacons that can guide rescue teams, and be used to establish direct communications between rescuers and victims.

Drone-mounted locators can also be used for security and counter-terrorism purposes, tracking mobile phones of suspects and identifying patterns of activity. They are quick to deploy and provide a relatively quiet surveillance capability, plus on drones, they can reach areas that would be difficult for a strike team or vehicle to access.