In recent years, the proliferation of drones has presented a significant challenge for military forces worldwide. The emergence of drones as potential carriers of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), biological agents, or chemical substances has raised concerns regarding the safety and security of both military installations and civilian populations. As a result, militaries around the globe are actively evaluating and deploying cutting-edge counter-UAV solutions to mitigate these evolving threats. In this article, we delve into the advancements and strategies being employed by militaries in their pursuit of securing the skies against drone-borne threats.
Drones are seeing rapid growth in both commercial and military domains. They are being employed in inspection of high tension electrical towers , fire management missions, delivery of critical supplies like medicine or communications tools, search and rescue and many others. BI Intelligence has predicted that the growth of the market for commercial/civilian drones at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19% between 2015 and 2020, compared with 5% growth on the military side.That number is expected to grow as technology improves while costs continue to come down.
However, the increased commercialization is also increasing the risks that these drones can be used by terrorists and criminals. The threat from drones was driven home on international TV in early August 2018 when low-flying devices exploded over a military ceremony in Caracas, Venezuela, just as President Nicolas Maduro was speaking.
Understanding the Risks:
The potential use of drones as delivery platforms for IEDs, biological agents, or chemical substances poses a grave threat to national security. The ability of drones to navigate difficult terrain, evade traditional defense systems, and carry payloads over long distances makes them an attractive option for those seeking to cause harm. Recognizing these risks, militaries are devoting significant resources to evaluating and implementing counter-UAV technologies that can effectively neutralize this emerging threat.
Recent Drone Attacks
Here are some recent drone attacks that have made headlines:
- September 2019 Saudi oil facilities attack: On September 14, 2019, two Saudi oil facilities, the Abqaiq oil processing facility and the Khurais oil field, were attacked by drones and cruise missiles. The attacks caused significant damage to the facilities and reduced Saudi Arabia’s oil production by more than 50%. The Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the United States and Saudi Arabia accused Iran of being behind them.
- June 2021 Indian air force base attack: On June 27, 2021, two drones attacked the Pathankot air force base in India, wounding two soldiers. The Indian government blamed Pakistan for the attack, but Pakistan denied any involvement.
- December 2018 Gatwick Airport drone sightings: On December 20, 2018, drone sightings at Gatwick Airport in the UK caused the airport to halt operations for 36 hours and cancel almost 1,000 flights. The sightings caused chaos at the airport, as flights were delayed or cancelled and passengers were stranded. The police eventually arrested a 48-year-old man on suspicion of causing a public nuisance, but no charges were ever filed.
These attacks highlight the growing threat posed by drones. Drones are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are now capable of carrying out a variety of attacks, including strikes on critical infrastructure, military targets, and civilian populations.
The use of drones enables autonomous and anonymous standoff strikes, posing challenges in terms of accountability and identifying the operators. Defending against such threats is difficult due to the vast territory and the speed and low radar signature of drones and missiles.
The use of drones in warfare is also becoming more common. In the recent conflict in Yemen, Houthi rebels have used drones to attack Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region.
Drone Security Threat: Enhancing Awareness and Mitigation
Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, present a significant security risk that demands our attention. Adversaries of the United States could exploit these systems for intelligence gathering or even launch attacks against U.S. forces. This threat is already evident in various instances around the world.
The militant organizations have started employing drones to further their terrorism. Jihadi groups fighting the Syrian government – most notably ISIS and Jabhet al-Nusra – are extensively using advanced drones to pinpoint the Syrian Army’s locations, find out about troop’s deployment, and film suicide attacks and propaganda footage.
Reports indicate that terrorist organizations like ISIS and Hizballah have utilized commercial drones, such as the DJI Phantom, which can be easily acquired from online retailers like Amazon. These groups have used these drones to enhance their surveillance capabilities, create propaganda, and even attach small explosive devices to them. Similarly, criminal organizations and gangs could exploit drones to monitor law enforcement activities and facilitate their illicit activities. This versatility and accessibility of drones make them a favored tool for nefarious purposes.
The groups even managed to arm the drones with small bombs usually dropped over gatherings of soldiers or military vehicles. According to reports, Syrian forces deployed Drone Jammers type Battelle DroneDefender used to take down hostile drones by totally disrupting its control system and preventing remote actions – including detonation – to be carried out.
The potential danger posed by drones is not limited to terrorist activities. Law enforcement agencies in the United States have been alerted to the growing threat posed by drones. Federal officials have cautioned that these unmanned aerial vehicles can be deployed by individuals or groups to target crowded venues, such as stadiums, concert halls, and transportation hubs, as well as public figures. The availability of information online regarding the modification and weaponization of drones further raises concerns about the potential for attacks.
Moreover, drones have been identified as a potential risk to aviation. Simulated tests have demonstrated the severe damage that can occur when a small drone collides with an aircraft. Researchers at the University of Dayton Research Institute are showing what can happen when a small drone strikes the wing of an aircraft. The team mimicked a collision between a 2.1-pound DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter and a Mooney M20 aircraft. Video shows the drone ripping through the plane’s wing in conditions that simulate a crash taking place at 238 miles per hour.
As the popularity and proliferation of drones continue to rise, the need for understanding the risks and developing effective countermeasures becomes increasingly urgent.
“The Security Impact of Drones: Challenges and Opportunities for the UK” suggests, that commercial drones could be used by gangs to monitor the movement of police, security guards, or anti-smuggling patrols so as to better plot their criminal mischief. Burglars, train robbers, and poachers could use them as lookouts. In their hands, drones could, fly IEDs through the air to a target, or disperse a biological or chemical agent while its pilot remains safely distanced from contamination.
It is crucial to recognize that current commercial drones have limitations in terms of payload capacity, flight duration, and range. However, advancements in technology and the potential for retrofitting drones could allow unfriendly forces to equip them with weaponized explosives or hazardous materials. Therefore, the threat must not be underestimated, as even smaller drones can carry significant payloads and cause substantial damage.
Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach. Government agencies and law enforcement organizations must enhance their surveillance and detection capabilities to identify and intercept rogue drones.
The growing threat posed by drones has led to increased investment in counter-drone technologies. These technologies include radar systems, jammers, and nets that can be used to disable or destroy drones.
Drones are difficult to detect, classify and neutralize
Detecting and tracking drones is a challenging task due to several factors. One of the primary difficulties lies in the size and construction of drones. Many smaller unmanned aerial systems (UASs) are designed to be compact and lightweight, making them harder to detect using traditional air defense systems. Their small size and construction materials, such as lightweight plastics or composites, minimize their radar cross-section, making them less visible to radar-based detection systems.
In addition, drones often operate at low altitudes, typically below 400 feet. This low operational altitude allows them to fly closer to the ground and take advantage of complex terrain or buildings to conceal their presence. Radar systems, which are designed to detect larger aerial targets like airplanes and missiles, may struggle to detect these smaller drones against the background clutter.
The slow speed at which drones typically operate further complicates their detection. Drones flying at slower speeds are harder to differentiate from other slow-moving objects in the airspace. This can make it challenging for detection systems to accurately identify and track drones amidst the normal background traffic.
Furthermore, advancements in drone technology have made them increasingly sophisticated. Commercial drones now come equipped with advanced flight capabilities and autonomous features, reducing the reliance on manual control. These drones can follow pre-programmed flight paths or employ intelligent navigation systems, making it harder to predict their movements and detect them using traditional methods.
Visual detection of drones is also a challenging task. At certain distances, drones can become nearly invisible to the naked eye, especially when they are small or blend into the environment. Visual detection alone may not be sufficient to reliably identify and track drones, particularly in scenarios where remote or obscured locations are involved.
To address these difficulties, researchers and technology developers are continuously working on improving drone detection and tracking systems. This includes the development of specialized sensors, such as radar systems, radio frequency detection, and acoustic sensors, that are more effective at detecting drones even in challenging conditions. Multi-sensor fusion and advanced algorithms are also being employed to enhance detection accuracy and reduce false positives.
Overall, the complex combination of small size, low altitude operations, slow speeds, and increasing sophistication of drones makes their detection and tracking a difficult task. Ongoing advancements in counter drone technologies aim to overcome these challenges and improve the effectiveness of drone detection systems for enhanced security and safety.
Counter-drone technology continues to evolve and improve as the threat of unauthorized unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) grows. Various counter-drone technologies are being developed and deployed to detect and intercept drones, offering a range of capabilities to address the challenge.
To effectively counter the threat of UAS, the process typically involves three steps. The first step is detection, where sensors like radar, acoustic sensors, thermal imagers, LIDARs, and RF receivers collect phenomenological information to identify the presence of a drone. The second step is classification, where the collected data is analyzed to distinguish real targets from background clutter or non-threatening objects like birds. This classification process can be challenging, particularly in complex environments or when dealing with low, slow, and small (LSS) UAS. The final step is neutralization, which involves taking action to deny the drone’s mission success. This can be achieved through kinetic force, laser dazzling, jamming, GPS spoofing, electromagnetic pulses, or interception using another UAV equipped with jamming capabilities.
One approach to countering drones involves physically capturing them using shoulder-mounted launcher systems or anti-drone cannons. These systems aim to physically disable or disable the drone by capturing it mid-air. Another method involves using silent cyber weapons that can instantly disable a drone’s functionality, rendering it ineffective.
Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) are also employed as part of counter-drone technology. These measures include jamming the command and control links of the drone or using GPS spoofing to take control of the UAV and redirect its flight path. Directed Energy Weapons, such as laser-based or electromagnetic weapons, are also being explored as potential counter-drone solutions.
Counter-drone technology has already been extensively used for base protection on the battlefield, complementing existing defense systems. Portable and mobile counter-drone systems are also being developed to protect ground units and convoys, providing enhanced force protection.
In civilian environments, counter-drone technology has primarily been utilized for airspace protection at airports, security during large events, VIP protection, and counter-smuggling operations in prisons. However, future applications could extend to areas like sensitive facility airspace defense, port security, maritime security, and personal use over private property.
The field of counter-drone technology is vast and consists of numerous solutions. Various manufacturers produce a wide range of counter-drone technologies, including guns, spoofers, jammers, and more. However, there is currently no single solution that provides a foolproof method of stopping drones, highlighting the ongoing challenge and need for further advancements.
For in-depth understanding on Counter Drone technology please visit: Mastering Counter UAV Technologies: Defending Against Unmanned Aerial Threats
UAV detection technologies
C-UAS can employ a number of methods to detect the presence of hostile or unauthorized UAS. The first is using electro-optical, infrared, or acoustic sensors to detect a target by its visual, heat, or sound signatures, respectively. Noise from spinning propellers and electric motors can be detected by acoustic sensors though they have limited range of 100-150 m. This acoustic signature of drone is derived and compared to the database to distinguish the drones from ambient noise and also aid in classification.
A second method is to use radar systems. Radar detects the presence of small unmanned aircraft by their radar signature, which is generated when the aircraft encounters RF pulses emitted by the detection element. These systems often employ algorithms to distinguish between drones and other small, low-flying objects, such as birds. A novel method of UAV detection relies on passive radar technology which uses existing TV signal towers as transmitters. TV-signals are quite powerful and can be detected at long range and also widely available in urban and rural landsscape. Multistatic passive radar can use such signals from many adjacent towers and by applying sophisticated signal processing algorithms can locate and classify drones. They can provide a low cost 24/7 solution.
However, these methods are not always capable of detecting small UAS due to the limited signatures and size of such UAS. A third method is identifying the wireless signals used to control the UAS, commonly using radio frequency sensors. ECM or RF systems Identifies the presence of drones by scanning for the frequencies on which most drones are known to operate. Algorithms pick out and geo-locate RF-emitting devices in the area that are likely to be drones. These methods can be—and often are—combined to provide a more effective, layered detection capability.
Many systems integrate a variety of different sensor types in order to provide a more robust detection capability. For example, a system might include an acoustic sensor that cues an optical camera when it detects a potential drone in the vicinity. The use of multiple detection elements may also be intended to increase the probability of a successful detection, given that no individual detection method is entirely failproof. Combination of Radars, video and thermal imaging systems can provide a useful combination to detect and track drones. The Neural networks could highlight anomalous aerial traffic and help distinguish UAV targets from birds etc.
Drone Interdiction technologies
Once detected, the UAS may be engaged or disabled. Electronic warfare “jamming” can interfere with a UAS’s communications link to its operator. RF Jamming disrupts the radio frequency link between the drone and its operator by generating large volumes of RF output. Once the RF link, which can include WiFi links, is severed, a drone will either descend to the ground or initiate a “return to home” maneuver. WIFI jamming is 2.4Ghz and 5.8Ghz [WIFI frequencies]. GNSS Jamming Disrupts the drone’s satellite link, such as GPS or GLONASS, which is used for navigation. Drones that lose their satellite link will hover in place, land, or return to home. Jamming devices can be as light as 5 to 10 pounds and therefore man-portable, or as heavy as several hundred pounds and in fixed locations or mounted on vehicles. However, Jamming is illegal in the United States. It can disable other devices and communications methods used by first responders and civil authorities.
UAS can also be neutralized or destroyed using guns, nets, directed energy, traditional air defense systems, or even trained animals such as eagles. Nets Designed to entangle the targeted drone and/or its rotors. Projectile Employs regular or custom-designed ammunition to destroy incoming unmanned aircraft.
Spoofing Allows one to take control of the targeted drone by hijacking the drone’s communications link. (Also known as protocol manipulation.) Laser Destroys vital segments of the drone’s airframe using directed energy, causing it to crash to the ground. However, “spoofing” a drone’s GPS signal can also be a crime under the current language of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. A number of C-UAS systems also employ a combination of interdiction elements—most commonly, RF and GNSS jamming systems that work in tandem.
Shoulder-mounted SkyWall catches illegal drones in a Net
OpenWorks, a British engineering firm, has developed a shoulder-mounted launcher system called SkyWall. This innovative technology allows the physical capture of small aircraft, specifically drones, from a distance of up to 100 meters (330 feet). Using a compressed gas-powered launcher, SkyWall fires a programmable projectile that deploys a large net at the right moment to capture the targeted drone. To ensure safety, the projectile also deploys a parachute that brings it back to the ground, minimizing the risk of damage to both the captured drone and its surroundings.
To assist the user in aiming, SkyWall incorporates a SmartScope, which includes a laser range finder and an inertial measurement unit. This enables the calculation of the target’s distance, flight path, and the necessary trajectory for a direct hit. The user receives feedback through a continuous beep indicating a target lock. In case the projectile misses the target, the parachute still deploys, allowing for the reuse of the projectile. Weighing only 10 kg (22 lb), the entire system is lightweight and can be reloaded in just eight seconds.
The shoulder-mounted SkyWall launcher offers a practical and efficient solution for capturing illegal drones, providing a safe and controlled means to neutralize potential threats in various scenarios.
Guns and Ammunition
The three types of guns are:
- Machine guns (5.56-12.7 mm): Machine guns are deemed unsuitable due to poor accuracy and range performance.
- Cannon guns (20-57 mm: ): Cannons are already used in GBAD systems but are only effective against LSS targets using airburst ammunition. Micro UAVs may require significant amounts of ammunition.
- Low fire rate guns (76 mm): Low fire rate guns seem ineffective against LSS targets, particularly
NATO concludes that cannon guns can be effective against LSS targets, particularly with airburst ammunition.
Militaries repackaging existing tech to deal with today’s drone threat.
Raytheon is pitching its C-RAM air defense system as a UAV countermeasure, while Northrop Grumman is altering its G/ATOR air defense system to monitor UAVs, as is Lockheed Martin and its AN/TPQ-53 radar.
US Army unveils anti drone cannon
The US Army has repurposed its Enhanced Area Protection and Survivability system, originally designed to intercept missiles, to counter drones. In a recent test conducted at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, the system successfully shot down a class 2 unmanned aerial system using command guidance and detonation.
The system utilizes a precision tracking radar interferometer to detect and track UAVs, a fire control computer for computations, a radio frequency transmitter and receiver, and a standard 50mm cannon for launching the projectile. The Picatinny area-protection systems track both the incoming threat and the interceptor, calculating an optimal trajectory correction to maximize the probability of success.
The prototype employs a readily available 50-millimeter Orbital ATK Bushmaster III cannon to launch command-guided interceptors. Once the projectiles are launched, a computer sends guidance instructions, directing them during flight and enabling mid-flight course changes. The ground-based computations determine the guidance, which is transmitted via radio frequency to the projectiles.
The warhead features a tantalum-tungsten alloy liner for forward propelled penetrators to defeat C-RAM targets, along with steel body fragments to counter unmanned aerial systems. Manfredi Luciano, the project officer for the EAPS system, explains that as the protective area becomes smaller, gun systems become more efficient compared to missiles.
The adaptation of the Enhanced Area Protection and Survivability system demonstrates the US Army’s commitment to countering drone threats. By repurposing existing technology, they have developed an effective anti-drone cannon capable of intercepting and neutralizing unmanned aerial systems with precision and reliability.
Electronic Counter Measures (ECM)
Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) play a crucial role in countering drone threats by disrupting the communication and navigation systems of unmanned aerial vehicles. One of the commonly used ECM techniques is jamming, which involves transmitting powerful electromagnetic signals within a certain frequency range to interfere with the drone’s command links. However, it’s important to note that jamming is ineffective against drones operating in autonomous mode.
ECM systems typically transmit electromagnetic signals across a broad frequency range, ranging from 10 kHz to several GHz, with varying power levels. The goal is to disrupt the reception or transmission of data by interfering with RF receivers, such as those used for data and command links, GPS signals, mobile cellular communications, avionics systems like altimeters, and even AM/FM radio waves. The intent is to prevent the successful exchange of information, rendering the drone unable to function properly.
Another technique employed in ECM is GPS spoofing, which involves creating false coordinates or directions to deceive the UAV’s navigation system. This technique was demonstrated in 2012 by Professor Todd Humphreys and his team at the University of Texas-Austin. By spoofing the GPS signals received by the drone, it can be manipulated and controlled to follow false instructions or fly off course.
ECM technologies are crucial in countering drones by disrupting their communication and navigation capabilities. However, it’s important to consider the legal and ethical aspects of using ECM, as regulations may vary across jurisdictions. As the field of unmanned aerial systems continues to evolve, ECM techniques will also need to adapt and advance to effectively mitigate the evolving drone threats.
Eagle 108 Advanced Drone Detection and Jamming Technology
Phantom Technologies has introduced the Eagle 108 Tactical Jammer, an advanced solution for drone detection and jamming. This technology is specifically designed to counter unauthorized drones or quadcopters that breach secured areas such as fields, campuses, or sports events.
The system utilizes a set of directional antennas for scanning and passive detection, eliminating the need for radar. When a potential threat is identified, the jamming unit automatically activates and disrupts all radio communication channels. By blocking these channels, the jammer forces the drone to lose contact with its operator and drift away from the secured area.
With a detection radius of over 1km and a jamming radius of up to 2km, the Eagle 108 offers an extensive coverage area for countering drone threats effectively. Its combination of detection and jamming capabilities provides a comprehensive defense against unauthorized drone activities, enhancing security and ensuring the safety of sensitive locations.
Radio Wave Gun Disables Drones From A Mile Away
Sydney and Virginia-based DroneShield, recently introduced its DroneGun, which works by jamming the radio frequency signal in a drone to wrest control away from its remote pilot, and to land the drone safely on the ground away from its target area. The 13-lb (6-kg) radio wave gun operates over two common signal frequencies (2.4 and 5.8 GHz), and fires jamming signals via a lightweight battery backpack carried by a single person more than a mile away. It also blocks the drone’s video and global positioning satellite (GPS) transmission, so that the drone’s built-in safety feature of automatic landing is triggered after being disabled, preventing the original operator to regain control.
China’s SZMID highlights handheld C-UAV system
Shen Zhou Ming Da High Technology Co Ltd (SZMID), a Beijing-based company has launched the DZ-02 Pro, that is intended to counter commercial multirotor and small fixed-wing UAVs, and can disrupt satellite navigation signals – BeiDou Galileo, GLONASS, and GPS systems – as well as RF communications in the 1.56 Mhz–1.62 GHz, 2.4–2.483 GHz, and 5.725–5.85 GHz wavelengths up to a maximum range of 1 km.
The system weighs 4.8 kg including the battery and has an overall length of 750 mm with its adjustable stock retracted, a height of 300 mm including the optical sight, and a thickness of 60 mm. It comprises a single RF antenna featuring a vertical and horizontal V-plane of 60° and a total power output of 15 W with this distributed evenly among its three RF channels.
According to SZMID, the DZ-02 Pro is designed to cause a target to hover in place until its power is depleted or activate its return-home protocol. The DZ-02 Pro can operate in sustained jamming mode for up to 60 minutes via its 12V 10Ah lithium ion battery and requires up to 90 minutes.
The company has also developed an integrated C-UAV product called the Auto Anti-Drone System, which provides a persistent small UAV detection, locating, and disruption capability.
World’s First Fully Integrated Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS) Now Features Quad Band RF Inhibitor And Optical Disruptor
The world’s first fully integrated detect-track-disrupt Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS) – launched by a trio of British companies 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 quad band inhibitor enables the AUDS operator to disrupt the different licensed telemetry bands of commercial drones no matter where in the world they are designed and licensed for use. For example, both the 433 and 915 MHz frequencies commonly used by unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can be disrupted as can the 2.4 GHz control band and the global satellite (GNSS) bands.
The new optical disruptor is yet another tool available to the AUDS operator. This feature can be utilised for both pointing at a drone for identification purposes and disrupting the automatic gain control settings in the drone’s camera system such that the operator loses visibility. The optical disruptor can also provide a very precise identification of known UAV launch activity to any ground forces.
Commenting on the new features, Colin Bullock, CEO, Enterprise Control Systems, said: “Carefully controlled disruption of these command links – and the use of the optical disruptor – significantly impairs the operator’s ability to control the drone and forms a key part of the spectrum of techniques used by the AUDS system to mitigate the malicious use of drones.”
The AUDS system, developed by Blighter Surveillance Systems, Chess Dynamics and Enterprise Control Systems, is designed to combat the growing threat of malicious micro, mini and larger unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones. The system can detect a drone five miles (8 km) away using electronic scanning radar, track it using infrared and daylight cameras and specialist software before disrupting the flight using an inhibitor to block the radio signals that control it.
The Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS) integrates the Blighter A400 Series Ku band electronic scanning air security radar, Chess Dynamics’ stabilised electro-optic director, infrared and daylight cameras and target tracking software, and a directional radio frequency (RF) inhibitor from Enterprise Control Systems to detect, track, classify, disrupt and neutralise UAVs at ranges of up to 8km. The AUDS system is even effective against so-called Group 1 micro UAVs at ranges of up to 2km and Group 1 mini UAVs at ranges of several kms.
Other improvements in the production version of the AUDS system include a new positioner for the camera. And, following a whole series of trials in a variety of different terrains, the team has modularised the system to reduce the single lift weight down to 25 kg. All the different elements – radar, cameras, and RF inhibitor – now clip together to form a complete system.
The AUDS system is designed for countering drones or remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) in remote border sites or urban areas. It can be operated from fixed locations and from mobile platforms. It has been developed and manufactured in the UK using British technology and a production version is available now at COTS prices starting at less than £800k.
UK defense firm unveils electromagnetic anti-drone defense shield
UK defense company Selex ES unveiled its sophisticated anti-drone defense system, the Falcon Shield that provides protection from both mini- and micro-sized unmanned aircraft systems. It was designed for a military customer looking to protect soldiers, convoys, and bases from the evolving threat of weaponized drones.
During its presentation, Selex ES did not divulge the details of its proprietary technology but did confirm that it takes advantage of the electromagnetic spectrum to create a shield around a protected area. The system uses a network of camera and radar surveillance sensors that can discretely detect and track a drone in a variety of environments, including “high-clutter urban canyons.”
Besides detecting, the system has an attack capability that allows the user to disrupt the drone using jamming technology, or even hijack the controls to reroute it away from a target. The system also has provisions for a conventional attack possibly using projectiles, such as bullets.
Cyber Attacking a Drone
When it comes to cyber-attacking a drone, experts recommend targeting its wireless protocol, operating system, telemetry app, communications link with the manufacturer’s server, and any video or image servers onboard. Exploiting vulnerabilities in these areas can disrupt the drone’s functionality and control.
The US Army’s Army Cyber Institute at West Point has developed a cyber-rifle capable of instantly disabling a drone in flight by sending a radio signal through a Wi-Fi radio, antenna, and Raspberry Pi computer. This technology was demonstrated in front of US Secretary for Defense, Ash Carter, using affordable components costing only $150.
Another noteworthy innovation is the DroneDefender by US company Battelle Innovations. This device uses radio pulses to halt a radio-controlled drone mid-air from a distance of up to 1,312ft (400 meters).
In the realm of hacker-controlled drones, SkyJack, created by Samy Kamkar, stands out. SkyJack uses WiFi to detect and hijack other Parrot drones by injecting WiFi packets that make the victim drone de-authenticate from its remote controller and authenticate with the hacker’s system. This technology has the potential to neutralize drones used by criminals or terrorists.
These developments demonstrate the growing focus on countering drone threats through cyber means, showcasing the ability to disable, hijack, or control drones wirelessly. As drone misuse becomes a concern, both in criminal and terrorist contexts, such technologies play a crucial role in ensuring security and mitigating potential risks.
Army, Air Force Fielding Drone-Hunting System That Can Fit on a Pickup Truck
SRC’s Silent Archer technology offers a comprehensive counter-unmanned aircraft system (CUAS) solution designed for defense and security applications. It employs a system-of-systems approach, encompassing air surveillance radar, electronic warfare (EW) systems, direction finding units, and electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) cameras to detect, decide, and defeat hostile drones.
These man-portable elements work together to accurately detect, track, classify, and identify airborne threats. The operator can then decide on the appropriate action, which may include jamming the drone’s communication links, causing it to return or land, or engaging it with a weapon system.
SRC is also working on integrating the EW equipment, camera, and radar onto vehicles like the Polaris MRZR or a Ford F-250 pickup truck, allowing for mobile counter-UAS operations. The Silent Archer technology has demonstrated its capabilities at various U.S. government-sponsored counter-UAS test events.
Smart Shooter’s SMASH fire control solution, which enhances the accuracy and lethality of small arms, has been selected for evaluation in a NATO exercise under the Defense Against Terrorism Program of Work (DAT POW). The combat-proven SMASH system offers a “One Shot – One Hit” capability, allowing operators to effectively neutralize ground and airborne targets, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It can be integrated with assault rifles and other counter-unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS) to provide a cost-effective multi-layer defense solution. Smart Shooter’s SMASH technology has received recognition from the Indian Navy, U.S. Department of Defense, and U.S. Army as a trusted anti-drone solution.
DRDO-made anti-drone system
Meanwhile, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an indigenous anti-drone system that offers both “soft kill” (jamming) and “hard kill” (laser-based) options. The system comprises a radar system, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors, and a radio frequency (RF) detector, enabling 360-degree coverage and detection of micro drones from various distances. The RF/GNSS jammer can disrupt communication from a distance of 3 km, while the laser-based hard kill system can neutralize micro drones at distances of 150 m to 1 km. This comprehensive solution aims to address the growing drone-based threats to national security.
Counter drone market
The Anti-Drone Market size is expected to grow from USD 1,551.86 million in 2023 to USD 4,625.17 million by 2028, at a CAGR of 24.41% during the forecast period (2023-2028).
The demand for anti-drone systems is primarily due to the growing proliferation of cheaper, small drones. Major factors driving the growth of this market are increasing use of drones terrorism and illicit activities worldwide and rising incidences of security breaches by unidentified drones. Major driving factors of the market are security during large events such as party conventions and sports games, VIP protection, and counter-smuggling operations at prisons.
Increased security breach incidences, rising threats of aerial attacks have opened up substantial new market opportunities for the evolution of counter-UAV measures, various commercial establishments and public safety departments worldwide are increasingly deploying counter-UAV measures to address the ever-growing need for security.
The military & defense vertical is expected to account for the largest share of the anti-drone market during the forecast period. Presently, countries are also giving importance to strengthening counter-drone measures to monitor terrorist activities, which would boost the demand for anti-drone systems in the near future. Furthermore, the use of drones for border trespassing, smuggling, and spying has increased. As a result, the military & defense sector is likely to witness increased demand for an efficient anti-drone system in the coming years.
Apart from the defense sector, the counter-drone systems are also being procured by homeland securities and law enforcement agencies to counter unidentified drones entering critical infrastructures.
Counter-drone systems come with their set of challenges at the level of performance, practicality, legality, and policy. The use of anti-drone jammers or unauthorized UAS detection and countermeasure deployments can result in electromagnetic and radio frequency (RF) interference, especially at airports, which can affect the safety of flight and air traffic management issues. Such limitations are expected to challenge the growth of the market during the forecast period.
Anti-Drone Industry Segmentation
An anti-drone system is a customizable integrated system that includes different equipment and solutions depending on the customer’s needs and requirements. It is employed to prevent security breaches at private houses, prisons, commercial venues, government buildings, industrial installations, airports, border security, critical infrastructure, and military facilities.
The anti-drone market is segmented by application into detection and jamming and disruption. The detection segment is further segmented into radars and other sensors (which include RF, acoustic, infrared, and optical technologies).
By vertical, the market is segmented into defense, airports, and other critical infrastructures. The other critical infrastructure segment includes the use of anti-drone systems in nuclear power plants, ports, laboratories, etc.
Military Segment Held the Largest Market Share in 2021
The military segment of the market accounted for a major share of the revenues in 2021. This is due to the increase in the use of drones by adversaries and insurgent groups for spying and attacking military infrastructure across the borders. Such incidents have necessitated the R&D of sophisticated C-UASs that can identify, track, and disable the drone and locate its operator simultaneously. To facilitate the R&D efforts, a significant part of the defense budget is being allocated toward such systems. Also, several armed forces are also focusing on enhancing their counter-drone capabilities. In this regard, during FY 2021, the Japanese MoD allocated a USD 20 million budget toward the R&D of C-UAS technology. The MoD made provisions worth USD 4.8 million to research microwaves that can be used in a C-UAV system. Likewise, with the growing threats to naval vessels, as of July 2021, the French Navy announced its plan to test the HELMA-P laser effector, the anti-drone system developed by CILAS for naval vessels. The Navy plans to begin an assessment for their use in the maritime environment in 2022, and following the assessment, the armed force will test then onboard surface vessels in the coming years. Such developments are expected to drive market growth during the forecast period.
North America Expected to Dominate the Market During the Forecast Period
North America held the largest market share in 2021, and the region is also expected to continue its dominance over the market during the forecast period. This is primarily due to the increasing investments of the US Department of Defense (DoD) into the development and deployment of counter-drone systems. For instance, during FY 2022, the US DoD plans to spend at least USD 636 million on the R&D of C-UAV systems and around USD 75 million on the procurement of such systems. Also, in April 2021, the US Air Force released a request for proposals for the rapid research, development, prototyping, demonstration, evaluation, and transition of technologies that can be used to counter small unmanned aerial systems. By the end of 2021, the US Air Force may award the counter-UAV contract worth up to USD 490 million to provide the technologies to counter the threat of small, commercially made drones. The period of performance for the contract is 72 months. On the other hand, illegitimate drone incursions at airports and other critical infrastructure can result in safety issues, and they have raised concerns over the years across several such sites in the United States and Canada.
Some of the Key players include: QuinteQ, Thales, Lockheed Martin, ELTA Systems, Dedrone, SmartRounds, Airbus, ELBIT, Rheinmetall, Drone Shield, IAI, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Aselsan, Cobham, Chenega Europe, Meritis, Repulse, Accipter Radar, My Defense Communication, Advanced Protection Systems, Allen Vanguard, ALX Systems, Broadfield Security Services, Delft Dynamics, DeTect, Inc, ELT-Roma, EXPONENT, Joint-Stock Company Scientific and Technical Center for Radio-Electronic Warfare
Anti-Drone Market News
- In May 2022, DroneShield, a leading manufacturer of RF sensing, artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) systems, announced that it has deployed its DroneSentry solution for city-wide coverage of the 2022 IRONMAN Texas triathlon event held in April 2022.
- In October 2021, DroneShield Ltd announced that the US Department of Homeland Security purchased several of its DroneSentry-X systems that can provide on-the-move Counter-UAS (C-UAS) capabilities.
- In August 2021, the Indian Armed Forces signed an agreement with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to deliver the D4 system (D4S), the first indigenous anti-drone system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The system is capable of detecting and jamming micro drones and uses a laser-based mechanism to terminate the targets. Both the static and mobile versions of D4S will be deployed for the Indian Army, Navy, and Air force.
Evaluating Cutting-Edge Solutions:
Militaries across the globe are actively exploring a range of cutting-edge counter-UAV solutions to tackle the evolving drone threat landscape. These solutions encompass a diverse array of technologies, including advanced radar systems, sophisticated electronic warfare tools, directed energy weapons, and autonomous defense systems. By evaluating and fielding these solutions, militaries aim to enhance their situational awareness, detection capabilities, and response time to neutralize drone threats before they can cause harm.
Radar Systems and Sensor Integration:
One key area of focus for militaries is the development and deployment of advanced radar systems capable of detecting and tracking drones with high accuracy. These radar systems employ advanced algorithms and signal processing techniques to differentiate drones from other airborne objects, minimizing false alarms and improving detection reliability. Furthermore, integrating multiple sensors, such as radar, optical cameras, and acoustic sensors, allows for a comprehensive approach to drone detection, enabling faster and more accurate threat identification.
Electronic Warfare and Jamming:
Electronic warfare plays a vital role in countering the UAV threat. Militaries are investing in state-of-the-art electronic warfare systems that can disrupt and disable the communication links between drones and their operators. By leveraging RF jamming techniques, these systems can neutralize the control signals and render the drones inoperable or force them into a fail-safe mode. This proactive approach aims to prevent drones from carrying out their intended destructive missions.
Directed Energy Weapons:
Another promising avenue being explored by militaries is the use of directed energy weapons to counter drone threats. These weapons employ high-energy laser beams or electromagnetic pulses to disable or destroy drones in-flight. By targeting critical components such as electronics, propulsion systems, or payloads, directed energy weapons can effectively neutralize drone-borne threats with precision and speed.
Autonomous Defense Systems:
Recognizing the need for rapid response and autonomous decision-making, militaries are also incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous defense systems into their counter-UAV strategies. These systems leverage AI algorithms to detect, track, and engage hostile drones in real-time. By automating the defense process, militaries can minimize human intervention, reduce response time, and enhance overall effectiveness in countering drone threats.
Collaboration and Information Sharing:
In the face of this evolving threat landscape, collaboration and information sharing between nations and organizations are of paramount importance. Militaries are actively engaging in partnerships and sharing best practices to collectively develop comprehensive counter-UAV strategies. This collaborative approach enables the pooling of resources, knowledge, and expertise, fostering innovation and ensuring a more effective response against drone-borne threats.
British Government is contemplating the deployment of military-grade anti-drone equipment. The decision comes in response to disruptive drone sightings at Gatwick and Heathrow airports, leading to extensive flight cancellations and operational suspensions. The proposed measures aim to secure critical infrastructure, including airports, power stations, prisons, and military sites, by enhancing defense capabilities against illegal drone activities.
Public awareness campaigns can educate individuals about the responsible use of drones and the potential security risks associated with their misuse. Additionally, technological advancements can play a vital role in developing countermeasures to neutralize threatening drones effectively.
Collaboration between governments, industry stakeholders, and technology experts is essential in mitigating the risks posed by drones. It is incumbent upon manufacturers to prioritize security features and safeguards in their drone designs. Authorities should establish clear regulations and guidelines to ensure responsible drone usage, while also fostering innovation in the drone industry.
As the drone threat continues to evolve, militaries worldwide are actively evaluating and implementing cutting-edge counter-drone technologies and solutions. By recognizing the multifaceted nature of the drone threat and adopting proactive measures, we can effectively safeguard public safety, national security, and critical infrastructure. Through a combination of public awareness, technological advancements, and collaborative efforts, we can mitigate the risks posed by drones and ensure a safer future for all.
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