Growing market for counter UAV technology


In recent years, the rise of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) industry among the consumer market has been increasingly preoccupying governments and militaries around the world, due the risks such “drones” may cause through criminal intent or by accident.

Recent incidents have required governments to implement and develop counter-UAV (C-UAV) technology and systems. These incidents include the overflight of nuclear power stations in France, the landing of a quad-copter on the White House lawn and the near-misses of UAVs and aircraft at a number of international airports. In the UK, the government has decided to work with NASA to design and build a system that would tag and track drones in flight: “The government is in early discussions with NASA about a drone traffic management system, and it is hoped that those discussions will lead to a UK involvement in the development of that system and the participation of UK industry in future trials to test the robustness of the technology”, said Lord Ahmad, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Home Office.

At the same time, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reminds loudly that there are rules to be followed for drone using. In addition, British engineers from defence group Selex ES are building a defence shield called Falcon Shield which takes control of rogue drones that could be used in terrorist attacks or illicit activities. This device is worth $311,000 and uses cameras, radar and advanced electronics to track drones.

Major buyers for Falcon Shield are likely to be vital infrastructure installations but also celebrities and wealthy people who desire privacy.

Furthermore, a British team composed of Blighter Surveillance Systems, Chess Dynamics and Enterprise Control Systems unveiled at DSEI 2015 the world’s first fully integrated detect-track-disrupt Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS). The AUDS “features a quad band radio frequency (RF) inhibitor/jammer, an optical disruptor and rapid deployment features in the final production version of the market leading counter-drone system”. The AUDS system is designed for countering drones or remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) in remote border sites or urban areas and it costs about $1.24 million.

But DSEI 2015 was also opportunity for rivals Airbus Defence and Space (DS) and Saab to display their own models. The Airbus DS system “uses sensor data from the company’s SPEXER 500 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, Z:NightOwl IR camera, and MRD7 direction finder to detect and track the illicit UAV at ranges of between 5 and 10 km, before the VPJ-R6 multirole jammer neutralizes it”. Moreover, the VPJ-R6 uses the ultra-fast Scalable Multi-purpose Aerospace Radar Technology (SMART) responsive in order to provide more efficient protection levels. This C-UAV system was displayed for Germany and French customers and should be available in mid-2016.

For its part, Saab had demonstrated the short- to medium-range Giraffe Agile Multi-Beam (AMB) radar system to UK government’s representatives in April 2015. The Giraffe AMD is equipped with the Enhanced Low, Slow, and Small (ELSS) function which can detect more than 100 aerial targets, distinguishing between the UAVs and the surrounding ground clutter. Although the Giraffe AMB does not neutralize the threat, it can be linked with any number of weapons systems that could, such as the Future Local Area Air Defence System (FLAADS) Land system in the case of the UK.

The Franco-German Saint-Louis Research Institute developed and tested successfully during the G8 a new C-UAV system, used on the KSK, a Special Forces’ mini-drone.

Still at the DSEI 2015, Rheinmetall Defence Electronics showcased a new sea-based anti-drone laser system. The system features 4 high energy lasers (HELs) mounted on turret. The Gatling laser can reportedly shoot down a drone at 500m.

Let’s also mention MBDA’s research in the field which was presented at the Paris Air Show this summer. The French government is also looking at the issue of rogue UAVs, with its ONERA aerospace laboratory dedicated to a Global Analysis and Evaluation of Technologies and Methods for Combatting Unmanned Aircraft Systems programme. This programme, led by Thales, has similar purposes to the Falcon Shield for the French armed forces and police. Thales is using a combination of its radar, acoustic detection, direction finders, radio and video locators, and laser scanner technologies to neutralize or intercept illicit UAVs. The French system was shown earlier this year at the Paris Le Bourget Air Show.

On the U.S. side, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has just entrusted Shared Spectrum Company (SSC) to develop a jammer to neutralize enemies’ drones. They are working on the development of anti-jamming pods drones which can be embedded… on a drone, such as the pod Ceasar deployed on a Grey Eagle drone. The U.S Army has also developed High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) that will become part of the Integrated Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) Increment 2 in the 2020s, using a 10-kw off-the-shelf laser, at a low cost per shot. Meanwhile, the firm SRC is developed TCUT, an anti-drone defence system linking its LSTAR radar to an electromagnetic jammer.

Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.