The Evolution of C-UAS Technology to Defeat “Countermeasures”
The evolution of drone technology in recent years has increased exponentially and so also is that of counter-drone technologies. Drones are very efficient stealth and spy tools that could pose a great danger to the United States military. To this end, the military has begun to adapt a series of approaches to shut down these threats. However, the counter-drone technology isn’t totally foolproof as it’s not yet fully capable of detecting and countering every threat.
The assistant vice president of Dynamic Global Strategies, Inc.’s business development department, Berry Miller, revealed that tons of money is being invested on counter-drone technologies, rising to several hundreds of million dollars. The projects vary from small drones to military drone mitigation. He further explained that small drones are most focused on due to the fact that they are increasing in number at a rapid pace. Berry added that the company’s defense customers are comparing the current drone situation to that of what happened 20 years ago with Improvised Explosive Device (IED), when their competitors converted the thriving technology into a weapon, doing so with very little capital.
Now, technology cost has reduced drastically and with the diverse prospective capabilities of drones, it could be used for deadly purposes in the wrong hands. With the widespread of inexpensive drones, the threats posed by the technology have grown exponentially. The threats include the usage of drones to disrupt air travel, insurgents using small unmanned aircraft systems for surveillance purposes, or using them to drop-off deadly payloads. As there are no communication signals, the threats could become autonomous as RF will be unable to detect them. This means new layers of defenses will have to be implemented.
Dynamite Global Strategies, Inc. is currently working on several projects as a countermeasure. These projects include on-the-move sensor suites developed for electronic surveillance and attack, optical tracking, and advanced cameras. Berry stated that the company is focusing on machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) with the purpose of enhancing the company’s technology across all fields.
Efficient counter-drones should be capable of detecting, tracking, and positively identifying a target before engaging. This design provides 360 degrees coverage in azimuth, as well as full coverage from below the horizon to the peak in the sky. This needs to be fully done in order to avoid the major issue of having the target uncovered being vulnerable to intrusion and attack.
The U.S military is helping to detect these drones by their continual investment in advanced capabilities such as Artificial Intelligence. In order to detect drones approaching from afar, powerful radar is needed to detect objects of small sizes flying fast and low. Berry added that EO/IR is also effective as it is capable of detecting payload.
Once the radar detects a flying object approaching, you can then use a camera to view the drone’s payload and determine its intended purpose. This doesn’t even have to be manned by a person as AI could be used to automatically detect if the drone is about to be used for a deadly purpose.
Radio frequency (RF) is the main focus of most counter-drone approaches due to the fact that many drones are controlled using RF command. However, this is being combined now with infrared/electro-optical sensors, acoustics, or radar in order to increase the capability of multi-sensor detection.
Companies are beginning to partner up with their competitors who specialize in certain areas they don’t. For instance, sensor-making companies are now working with those that produce net guns or jamming guns, or the more defense-oriented companies making directed energy and lasers. Military customers would prefer to opt for more autonomous systems so that they can be tailored to suit their specific environment by integrating the systems with other sensors.
Taking the defense layer to another level, DGS has developed the advanced counter-drone jamming technology and techniques to neutralize the potential threats posed by these unmanned drone systems.
Pic.1 — UD20 Vehicle Mounted Counter-Drone System
Additionally, DGS is capable of jamming their GPS signals and also implementing cyber effects capable of shutting down the GPS navigation systems used by the drones. The counter-drone operator could then take full control of the drone system and steer it to safety.
Swarm technology is a system of several drones working together on a single mission. This on its own poses a great threat which could increase exponentially if geared towards a destructive purpose. Over a thousand drones could be controlled together, with the world record being held by China for demonstrating with 1,374 drones. This shows that a very large group of drones could be controlled by a single system.
Civilians and the military are bothered by the prospect of swarms of drone being used to attack targets. People in the United States are concerned that targets could be huge events that attract large crowds such as in stadiums, parades, or major base of operations with high-value assets and the location of defense systems.
The issue is more troubling as the price of drones is relatively cheap and one can purchase 50 commercial drones for $50,000. If used for destructive purposes, it could cause damages raking up to millions of dollars. Even if it isn’t a very large group of drones, if only about 20 of them are equipped with grenades, they could cause a considerable amount of damage.
With swarms, the attack would be more coordinated and deadlier. This means the military must be capable of countering several drones at once. Dreadfully, reports reveal that swarm capabilities are being tested by some countries already.
The counter-drone technologies being developed by DGS, such as the ‘Urban Dynamite Counter-Drone Defense System’, are designed to counter the threats of both single and swarms of drones.
As the technology to counter UASs is being perfected, the next major project is creating ways of fighting those countermeasures.
Presently, there are several systems of countering drones available. However, there’s a small industry emerging with the aim of creating drones that are harder to detect. Various approaches are being used by these companies to make this a reality.
With each side of the coin racing to improve their technologies, it was all come down to who perfects their craft first.