I recently picked up a used Promark P70-VR (it may not be the best thing around, but it's better than nothing - and I don't have the money for the latest and greatest). I got a registration number for it and am practicing in my back yard (staying well within the property lines and not over 100 feet). Problem is, it appears that there is someone hacking into the drone and trying to take control of it.

It started about a week ago, after I'd had it for a couple of weeks. I had flown up above my tower (60 feet) to record (video) a connection in an antenna, and suddenly the thing started climbing above the trees (to maybe 150 feet) - and then spun around a couple of times and then took off south towards the main road. I finally was able to command it to go down, but it was bobbing up and down as it descended and and spun around a couple of times around before went below the tree line (took me an hour to find it). I checked the batteries in the control - they were good.

Today I was practicing, flying no more than thirty feet up (most of the time only about 5 feet up) - learning to control it smoothly and evenly and doing things like figure 8s and circling my tower at an even distance. Suddenly the drone started climbing and heading south. I ran towards it with my control held high and finally the control (fresh batteries) seemed to regain control - minor crash #1. I tried flying it again... and after a minute it suddenly started straight up again. I ran up near the drone with full down, and finally it came down. I commanded it to land... and it did and the motors spun down... then suddenly the motors spun back up, and it took off straight up into the limbs of a tree - climbing, turned south, and started heading that direction when it hit the limbs. Now I have a busted prop and one of the motors is squealing a bit every now and then.

We have someone in the neighborhood who is quite technically capable and who hacked into our cable internet modem THROUGH THE CABLE (turned on the wireless and basically took over our internet - the cable company ended up getting us a special high security modem/router). I wouldn't put it past them to be hacking something like a drone.

Has anyone else had this problem? Is there a solution? Any suggestions (remember - VERY limited budget here!!!)???

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3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on September 2, 2017 at 9:07pm

Probably interference or technical problems with the drone. Although hacking is possible, what you describe sounds more like simple RF noise and perhaps a poor radio.

Comment by Anthonie Michael Muller on September 3, 2017 at 1:48am
It doesn't seem to have any security on the WiFi, if you were my neighbour, I would probably have some fun with you too! (https://hackaday.io/project/19356-reverse-engineering-a-promark-vr-...) would recommend setting up a wireless AP with the same name and security (none) as the drone, and monitor if anyone connects to it, and possibly capture packets with wireshark. Alternatively fly at a location far away and see if it still happens.
Comment by Ben on September 3, 2017 at 2:25am

There's a detailed article on hackaday about hacking your specific drone. The guy explains it's possible to connect to the drone via wifi and has reverse engineered the protocol to pilot it and to get the camera feed.

It doesn't seem to have any encryption or authentication mechanism, so if there's a guy interested in hacking in your neighborhood it's technically possible for him to take control of your drone. And even simpler to send garbarge data just to interfere without caring about the protocol.

But it would mean he really wants to annoy you because the method described is specific for your drone model. It's difficult to imagine someone spending time on this.

As you're asking for a solution, well this $100 drone seems to be built without any data protection so consider buying a more expensive drone and check on the internet if it has sufficient security.

This said even Dji drones were hacked a few years back, not sure if they improved their security in the new models..


Comment by Guy Compton on September 3, 2017 at 6:42am

I agree with Chris.  Takes a little more effort to take control, just depends on how bad someone wants to mess with you.  A few years ago a person at a paintball tournament was asked to stop flying over the matches (many people in the stands, cars parked near and other obstacles).  The guy kept flying his Yuneec even after they repeatedly asked him to stop.  Pulled out good ole BTL and HWUG1. It took the 4th flight to get enough info to take over, he went up 30ft in an empty field, I took it and sat it down 200 yards away in another empty field.  He ended up leaving saying "something is wrong with my drone, I need to send it back" 

So again it depends on how much time someone wants to waste with your drone.

Comment by Bob on September 3, 2017 at 7:20am
Thanks for the comments. The movements aren't like a 'bad radio' or interference - they're deliberate and every time, the drone climbs and starts flying off towards the south - towards the nearest major road (independent of which way the drone is facing). The first time it was with the wind and I suspected something like radio, but yesterday it was against a wind that was out of the southeast and then south. As far as a more expensive one, please re-read what I wrote - this is the most expensive (hugely for me - can't afford many 'toys') one I could afford, although the repairs are making it more expensive. I bought it because I got it at a yard sale and could afford the price they asked.

I guess I'll have to take the thing out somewhere else and try it there - although if I could figure out the pinout of the camera connector, that's not a bad idea. I wish we could catch the _____, but the cops in this county don't do anything unless you've got money or power (they refused to do anything when he hacked our modem and took over our internet - downloading huge amounts of data).
Comment by Subatomic on September 3, 2017 at 10:35am

Guy, what's a BTL and HWUG1?

Comment by Anthonie Michael Muller on September 3, 2017 at 10:41am
Set up a wireless station with same details as drone, if you see the same mac connecting to it every time its possibly an attempt, wich can be investigated further.
Comment by Anthonie Michael Muller on September 3, 2017 at 10:48am
Does the video stop working when it decides to go on its own way?
Comment by Anthonie Michael Muller on September 3, 2017 at 11:24am
Reading your post again, electronics (drones) don't always like RF radiation, bad thing could happen! What tower and arials are you flying around? Are they transmitting?
Comment by Bob on September 3, 2017 at 2:04pm
Anthonie, no, they're not. I've not been active in some time - partially due to weather. Now that the weather is getting out of the daily thunderstorm season, maybe I'll get active. (Even then, I never run that much power, maximum maybe 50-100 watts peak, and usually down in the 10 or less watt range - and wouldn't be transmitting when I'm flying my drone.)

I know that drones (any remotely controlled device, actually) are rather susceptible, but usually rf interference results in erratic and random behavior... not purposeful and directional. Going up, turning to the south, and then heading south... three different times, including twice in a row (no problems otherwise, except due to inexperienced pilot). That doesn't suggest interference to me.

I looked up the blog where someone hacked his P70-VR, and it was instructive. Since they were sold by Wal Mart (and some spare parts are available there), I imagine that there are a lot of them 'out there' so it would (and doesn't) surprise me that someone would have hacked them. The hacking I read about was all through WiFi, so maybe eliminating the wireless connection will eliminate the hacking.

Once I replace the broken prop (and lube, if I can, the motor bearings), I will try flying for a while without the camera attached. Unless he's found the frequency the transmitter uses (which I need to look up), he won't be able to interfere. That should be instructive - and as I don't fly via the camera anyway (at least, until I'm ready to try), it really won't make that much difference.

In the meantime, I've also tried emailing the company, with only one reply (and that was boilerplate). I'll try again, maybe they'll have suggestions or come up with an update to the firmware that provides better security.


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