Super Bowl drone drama to be prevented with 3D radar system

After the drone incidents at Gatwick, Heathrow, and Newark, all eyes are now on the Super Bowl game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots in Atlanta, Georgia this upcoming weekend. To prevent a possible Super Bowl drone drama, a new experimental 3D radar system is planned to be tested. The 3D radar system, better known as a compact solid-state beam-steering MESA radar, is from a start-up, funded by Bill Gates, that goes by the name Echodyne.

3D radar to prevent Super Bowl drone drama

The Seattle-bases company, Echodyne filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last Sunday, the Guardian reports, to use to 3D radars in the immediate vicinity of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to:

“alert security personnel, including federal officers, of any unidentified drone activity during Super Bowl LIII”.

The tests are planned to be performed under the direction and guidance of the FBI. There will be a zero-tolerance policy for drones near the stadium and there will many local, state and federal law enforcement officials looking for any illegal drone activity.

As we have seen during the recent drone incidents at the Gatwick, Heathrow and Newark airports, it is very difficult to spot drones and to confirm any reported drone sightings. In this article here, I wrote about newer 3D radar systems being developed. Echodyne will be testing their 3D radar system during the Super Bowl event.

According to Echodyne, their radars can differentiate between various flying objects such as birds, balloons, and drones. In case of an observed rogue drone, the flight path will be directly communicated to devices used by law enforcement officials to take control of the drone. This might be done by radio signal jammers or drones with nets to capture the illegally flying drone. Reportedly, the U.S. military has even developed lasers to shoot rogue drones from the sky.

To prevent any drone drama during the Super Bowl, Echodyne will be testing two radars this weekend. The devices are the size of paperback books and can detect and track rogue drones in three dimensions up to 0.6 miles away. You can see an example of how that looks in the video below. According to the filing:

“This operation is intended to evaluate the performance of the radar alongside other sensors in a real-world environment.”

Echodyne’s system is not cheap, but at $150,000 it is about twenty times less expensive than the Israeli system used at Gatwick last month. The radars developed by Echodyne use so-called metamaterials – composite materials with complex, repeating structures that can manipulate electromagnetic waves and steer radio beams very precisely. The Seattle-based start-up has been awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Navy and NASA to develop and test their 3D radar system.

FCC has yet to confirm 3D radar tests are allowed

Apparently, the use of the 3D radars is not yet officially confirmed by the FCC as a result of the delays caused by the government shutdown. Echodyne has made an emergency request with the agency on January 18th, to get approval for their planned tests, given the importance of this demonstration to protect the safety of life and property”.

A Non-disclosure agreement prevented, Echodyne’s CEO, Eben Frankenberg to comment on any specifics with regard to the planned tests during the Super Bowl weekend. Frankenberg did tell the British newspaper, however, that:

“Our system is definitely something you’re going to see on stadiums, no question. If you’re trying to secure a facility the size of a stadium or a prison or oil refinery or an embassy, then something this size, with this range is absolutely ideal.”

Echodyne hopes to sell their 3D radar system that detects and tracks drones to prisons and public venues. The FBI would not comment on the system or its deployment in Atlanta this weekend. They said:

“While we cannot discuss the particulars or capabilities, law enforcement has assets in place so we can protect the public from such threats.”

What do you think about 3D radar systems to prevent a possible Super Bowl drone drama? Let us know in the comments below.


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Avatar for Haye Kesteloo Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Main Writer at DroneDJ, where he covers all drone related news and writes product reviews. He also contributes to the other sites in the 9to5Mac group such as; 9to5Mac, 9to5Google, 9to5Toys and Electrek. Haye can be reached at or @hayekesteloo