UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Defending Against Small Drone Threat
Small drones, often commercially available, are a growing concern to military forces and security operations, according to a recent story in Aviation Week & Space Technology (subscription required).
The November 6 piece by David Eschel, writing from Tel Aviv (with some assistance from your 4GWAR Editor), notes that defense contractors and research institutes are rushing to offer technologies to counter the threat from little, inexpensive unmanned aircraft that are easy to make, simple to fly and hard to detect. Israel has become a leader in developing counter drone methods and systems — as small unmanned aircraft from Syria, Lebanon, Iran and elsewhere have tried to penetrate Israeli airspace.
U.S. companies like Lockheed Martin have developed non-kinetic ways to combat unmanned aerial system threats. ICARUS, Lockheed Martin’s counter drone system combines multi-spectral sensor technology with advanced cyber electromagnetic technology to detect, intercept and defeat small drones that can evade most standard radar systems.
Another, man-portable drone-jamming device developed has been developed by Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle. DroneDefender is designed to thwart intrusions into restricted areas by small off-the-shelf unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) often too small to spot on radar, like the quadcopter that crashed into a tree on the South Lawn of the White House last January.
The Battelle counter drone system weighs less than 10 pounds and can be mounted on any firearm equipped with a Picatinny rail for attaching accessories like a rifle scope. The device Battelle used in a demonstration video looks like an assault rifle with a radio antenna for a barrel and a Dustbuster (handheld vacuum cleaner) attached below.
Both ICARUS and DroneDefender debuted at this year’s Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) expo in Washington. DroneDefender uses and radio control frequency disruption technologies to stop unmanned UAVs in midair from a distance of 400 meters. Once an intruding drone is spotted, a guard equipped with the shoulder mounted device just has to aim, lock on and pull the trigger, launching the drone-capturing beam. The DroneDefender relies on visual identification rather than radar or video sensors Battelle said, to “make the man our detector and decision maker.”
Because of its portability, Battelle officials say DroneDefender provides instant threat mitigation by quickly disrupting the drone so no remote action, including detonation of an explosive device, can occur over sensitive areas.
Once it is neutralized in flight, the UAV will do one of three things depending on how it was programmed: drop to the ground; return to its operator or descend in a controlled manner. Since the disruption is not kinetic like a rifle or shotgun blast, it minimizes both drone damage and the risk to public safety – two capabilities long sought by police and security guards.