RF Drone Detection

Manufacturers of RF-based drone detection systems, including radio frequency detectors, and RF sensors for military and commercial counter-UAS applications
Overview RF Drone Detection
By Mike Ball Last updated: November 7th, 2023

RF-based drone detection technology is a critical component of counter-UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) technology and solutions.

RF Drone detection systems use sensors to pick up the radio-frequency signals that are used by UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to transmit command and control (C2) data, telemetry, and sensor and payload data between the aircraft and the ground control station (GCS).

CADENCE RF Drone Detection Device by IXI Electronic Warfare

CADENCE RF Drone Detection Device by IXI Electronic Warfare

Multiple RF drone detection sensors can be used over a wide geographic area. This allows the position of drone threats to be triangulated, and the latitude, longitude and altitude can be tracked in real time. This geolocation data may also be plotted on a computerized map as part of the drone detection system.

RF drone detection sensors may scan large portions of the radio-frequency electromagnetic spectrum and may be able to pick up not only commonly-used signals on the 2.4 GHz and the 5.8 GHz bands, but also other frequencies, allowing them to detect UAVs with custom transceivers. Once they have detected a signal, they may then be able to use this to classify the drone and identify its make and model.

RF-based drone detection systems may work in one of two ways. The most common systems compare the received signal with a known library of RF signatures in order to find a match. Some solutions may decode the communications protocol in order to read the data, although this is illegal in many countries.

Advantages of RF-based Drone Detection Technology

RF detection can provide an early warning capability, as its effective range is greater than that of acoustic drone detection, and can pick up multiple threats at once. RF sensors are also passive devices, meaning they do not emit radiation or signals, and are thus less prone to being detected.

The Disadvantages of RF Drone Detection Systems

RF-based drone detectors may not be able to pick up autonomous drones that do not use any control signals between the aircraft and the base station. They can also be less effective in crowded RF environments.

CADENCE XL Drone Detection Device by IXI Electronic Warfare

CADENCE XL Drone Detection Device by IXI Electronic Warfare


Drone RF detectors can be used alone, or may form part of a multi-tier counter-UAS system that includes other forms of detection technology such as acoustic and camera-based detection, as well as kinetic and non-kinetic threat neutralization systems.

Applications span both military and commercial use cases, enhancing security and safety in various scenarios including the protection of:

  • Military installations and command posts
  • Airports and surrounding airspace
  • Public gatherings, protests and events
  • Commercial and government facilities
  • Critical infrastructure such as power stations

In all of these applications, RF detection technology provides an additional layer of protection against drones and UAVs.