In my world, I have a geomagnetic storm generator that conceals an island from major governing bodies in an Earth-like setting. I learned that exploratory drones would be unable to transmit findings until they left the geomagnetic storm area. What would be the most plausible and efficient way of detecting and removing the intruders before they can report their findings back to any governments?

This is building off a topic I made a while ago Would it be plausible to have a Machine that generates storms? (No Magic)

  • $\begingroup$ You want a localized geomagnetic storm, right? How big is the area that you want to control? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Sep 27, 2018 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ The island itself is 120 miles long and 60 miles wide and the surrounding ocean within 50-100 miles. $\endgroup$
    – Synergetic
    Sep 27, 2018 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ With present tech, your best option is an air defense system similar to S-400. I'm not sure though how well it will operate during a geomagnetic storm. Radioelectronic warfare systems like Borisoglebsk 2 can complement the air defense. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Sep 27, 2018 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ That would be a very strange geomagnetic storm which affected VHF and UHF radio signals. Not to mention that geomagnetic storms do exactly nothing to optical signals; what's keeping the "major governing bodies" from photographing the island from satellites and download the pictures at leisure? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 27, 2018 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ What exactly do you mean by "geomagnetic storm generator"? Without knowing that, we can't answer your question. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Sep 27, 2018 at 21:46

2 Answers 2


This Method of Evasion isn't Effective

Drones are increasingly automated nowadays, a control signal is not required for a drone to complete it's pre-programmed flight pattern and return with footage of the site in question. Once on the Pakistani border in Afghanistan we were flying small hand launched aircraft known as PUMAs. We were looking for weapons and opium smugglers as they crossed the border into our operation's area. Every time we got above the patrol area the Pakistani military was jamming our control signal, but unbeknownst to them we would just program the bird to fly its pattern and scan it's search area then return and land itself at our location. We would download the flight data and get our footage that way. In addition, there would be no reason why satellites equipped with high powered optics couldn't get high quality imagery of the site either. If anything is hardened against electromagnetic activity it is going to be satellites since they are regular exposed to the sun's random outbursts of electromagnetic activity on a regular basis for years at a time. Also, I'm not really sure what you envision a "geomagnetic storm" as but if the image in your mind is an actual storm, then that won't matter either. This is because mapping satellites with penetrating radar, or spy satellites equipped with infrared optics would see right through it anyways.

Understanding Electromagnetic Effects

Contrary to popular belief, most electronics today are hardened against magnetic interference simply because the same methods you use to protect against power surges also happen to work for electromagnetic phenomenon. Electromagnetism is not some magical anti technology ray like movies make it seem. The way electromagnetic activity effects electronics is by inducing a charge on metallic surfaces. This can potentially cause a power surge in delicate electronics and overload the circuit. There are two ways that one shields against this. The first is surge protection where delicate electronics are grounded and power supply is run through breakers or fuses. The second main method is a Faraday cage, which is fancy talk for a metal enclosure that absorbs the electromagnetic waves instead of the electronics. Most regular consumer electronics use the first method, and by nature of most devices construction the second method exists by default (for example, a computer inside a metal box inside the body of an aircraft is effectively contained within a pair of Faraday cages.) In industry tests it is assumed that short of a catastrophic electromagnetic pulse (like something from the sun, or being directly nearby a nuclear detonation) that 90% of electronics will suffer only minimal damage and have a high likelihood of still being useful. The electromagnetic thing is really a Hollywood trope, the sort of power output needed to actually damage modern grounded and shielded electronics is pretty outrageous. This goes doubly for the military, who tend to shield and ground the crap outta pretty much anything critical.

In addition, the amount of power anything electromagnetic you would need to even begin to mess with drones, planes, and satellites would be phenomenal. Like, "We could power the entire eastern coast of the United States with this thing." Anything pumping out that much power is guaranteed to draw attention. You are basically broadcasting your position, and the fact that you are both high tech, highly organized, and extremely well funded. Kind of the opposite of what you are looking to achieve.

A Better Solution

Virtual Camouflage (Not the kind from the Predator series either.) Your people trying to hide their island don't try to hide the island itself. They Just hide what they are doing on that island. They have a crazy good Cyber-warfare team and an excellent detection and intelligence network. They utilize self terminating computer viruses and signal jacking to override what the surveillance asset's camera is recording and instead broadcast back to the recipient footage of a boring, uninhabited, not in any way noteworthy or interesting desert island in the middle of the ocean. Just a collection of some sand, rocks, and scraggly pioneer species plants, no reason to go there and no reason to keep looking at it. They are spoofing footage to satellites and drones. For dealing with aircraft, they have either worked their structures into the landscape and made big efforts to ensure that short of walking around on the island (or at-least getting very very close) it outwardly appears as a boring regular desert island. Ideally this means building underground and minimizing surface activity. The site would need extreme security discipline as well. Nobody walking around with flashlights at night, nobody smoking cigarettes and sunbathing. (After-all, what if a manned aircraft flies overhead?). Tech discipline would be critical too. Spy Drones can detect and intercept comm chatter, and not only that but provide a 10 digit accurate grid coordinate for it's origin point too. Hell, in Afghan we had little backpack box type things that could do that. They could tell you where the call came from, where the person answering it was, and you could listen in to the phone call as it happened as well as record all that data for later. This was off the shelf tech 8 years ago, not even the really sneaky secret stuff. So your island is going to be incredibly paranoid about how it sends and receives its transmissions too. Don't want any spy planes in the area suddenly reporting that a huge volume of calls and data are being transmitted from a supposedly uninhabited island. This means timing communication for windows of opportunity when the skies are clear and there are no sea vessels within the area.

Now here is the really sneaky final step. A group of "environmentalists" petition and campaign to have the site declared a bird sanctuary. You see, some very highly endangered (but very boring) species of sea bird with very sensitive and vulnerable mating habits dwell there. Human's are forbidden from sailing within 20 kilometers of the island in order to preserve the delicate and endangered species living there. This prevents any curious lookie-loos or wanna be explorers from showing up and wandering around unannounced. This very well funded (from an anonymous philanthropist of course) "ecological" society manages the site, and any applications or requests to visit the island are denied. (It's The Sandy colored gull's egg incubation period, sorry, can't let you do that. Please try again some time else, or feel free to make a donation to the Island Ecology Institute's wildlife preservation fund at HTTPS//not_a_secret_base/So_please/go/away.org!)

This also gives you an alibi in case somebody gets lucky and does see somebody out on the island or picks up some sort of encrypted chatter. "Oh that? That's just the Island Ecology Institute out making sure that the sandy colored gull population is recovering properly."

  • $\begingroup$ Except that a lightning bolt created by a geomagnetic storm hitting any metal device would simply melt it to a blob, irrespective of how shielded it was. $\endgroup$ Sep 28, 2018 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ Thats.... Not what a geomagnetic storm is. $\endgroup$
    – TCAT117
    Sep 28, 2018 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ First you claim not to know what a geomagnetic storm is, then claim that whatever it is it is not what I said it was. Google it. Particularly note the huge currents induced in the atmosphere. $\endgroup$ Sep 28, 2018 at 0:39
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    $\begingroup$ I claimed not to know what he MEANT by geomagnetic storm. What you describe is essentially the aurora borealis. Giant lightning bolts are not involved. Even if they were, don't you think the military losing every aircraft they send to giant lightning bolts would be a bit of a red flag? $\endgroup$
    – TCAT117
    Sep 28, 2018 at 0:50
  • $\begingroup$ They pretty much 'board up' ISS when they detect a geomagnetic storm coming. Shut almost everything down. But MAYBE a paltry little drone might make it. BLAZAP!!! No, I guess maybe not. In a geomagnetic storm, navigation doesn't work, GPS doesn't work, magnetic guidance system doesn't work, radar doesn't work, homing signals don't work,. So how does the drone navigate? How does it know where it is? Only by dead reckoning. $\endgroup$ Sep 28, 2018 at 0:56

'A geomagnetic storm (commonly referred to as a solar storm) is a temporary disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere caused by a solar wind shock wave and/or cloud of magnetic field that interacts with the Earth's magnetic field. The increase in the solar wind pressure initially compresses the magnetosphere. The solar wind's magnetic field interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field and transfers an increased energy into the magnetosphere. Both interactions cause an increase in plasma movement through the magnetosphere (driven by increased electric fields inside the magnetosphere) and an increase in electric current in the magnetosphere and ionosphere.

During the main phase of a geomagnetic storm, electric current in the magnetosphere creates a magnetic force that pushes out the boundary between the magnetosphere and the solar wind. The disturbance in the interplanetary medium that drives the storm may be due to a solar coronal mass ejection (CME) or a high speed stream (co-rotating interaction region or CIR)[1] of the solar wind originating from a region of weak magnetic field on the Sun's surface. The frequency of geomagnetic storms increases and decreases with the sunspot cycle. CME driven storms are more common during the maximum of the solar cycle, while CIR driven storms are more common during the minimum of the solar cycle.

Several space weather phenomena tend to be associated with or are caused by a geomagnetic storm. These include solar energetic particle (SEP) events, geomagnetically induced currents (GIC), ionospheric disturbances that cause radio and radar scintillation, disruption of navigation by magnetic compass and auroral displays at much lower latitudes than normal. In 1989, a geomagnetic storm energized ground induced currents that disrupted electric power distribution throughout most of the province of Quebec[2] and caused aurorae as far south as Texas.[3]

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geomagnetic_storm

If this is what you have in mind, then I can see how an artificially created geomagnetic storm could be a good defense strategy, as long as everything on your island was very well shielded against its effects. Throw up great quantities of chaff continuously into the air, disguised as dust particles, and high resolution optical detection would also all but be impossible, given the disturbances of the air currents and the lightning.

And the drones themselves would have to be very well shielded. I suspect the 'other guys' are flying the drones at night, so optics is not reliable.

I am not going to comment about the feasibility of such an event, as it is not within the scope of your question. I do not know the degree of hand waving you use to dismiss inconvenient details. I will assume that you have worked it out and it can be done.

I would suspect that the drones could be detected the same way people can be detected through solid walls, by monitoring the emissions from home routers and such - not by what is detected, but by what is NOT detected. That is, a disturbance in the force. When a person walks through their house, full of wi-fi and smart phone signals, Bluetooth connectivity, and the such, the person interacts with the background field, distorting it in ways that can be picked up and monitored. That is, the field is not what is expected, but is measurably altered. The observer knows SOMETHING is disturbing the field, but not necessarily what shape. However, the sensitivity of such devices is getting more and more refined all the time, as more experience is gained from monitoring the effects of various objects. They can now pinpoint the location of a person in a room with solid bock walls, no windows or openings, by monitoring outside with a hand-held unit. This, incidentally, is a Canadian invention.

Note that it is not any emission from the person or object they are picking up, it is the background field they are measuring. They do not see what they expect to see.

It is posited that even stealth fighters can be detected in similar fashion, because no matter how well shielded, they do influence the background radiation. They would stick out like a sore thumb, not by active detection, but by passive monitors. Turns out, the billions spent on developing their stealthiness is already wasted money.

Whatever you are using to generate the storm would have to have very sensitive adjustments. It would produce known events with known effects. The field would be precisely generated to known parameters. Sensors placed around the island backed up by computers could map out the background natural field, and then would detect variations in this field, and thus would trigger that SOMETHING was where it should not be. Perhaps they could not identify exactly what, but they would pick up a disturbance.

Recall that Magnetic Resonance Imaging can map out a body by detecting the very fine changes in magnetism from blood cells rotating in different directions, in different tissues, by the disturbance in the machine induced background magnetic field.

Also think of the cloaking devices from Star Trek - the Federation could not see the enemy ship, but they could see the disturbance in the space around it. Sensor readings just weren't the way they should be.


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