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Counter-drone systems are an essential part of the airspace security landscape. As uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) have grown in popularity, so have the number of drone incidents. Innovative solutions that detect, track, identify, and mitigate unauthorized or nefarious UAS fill an important security gap in the lower airspace.
The terms "counter-UAS system" and "counter-drone system" are often used interchangeably. The term "drone" refers specifically to the uncrewed aerial vehicle itself, whereas the term "UAS" refers to all three components necessary for the operation of that vehicle.
The FAA has defined an uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) as: "an uncrewed aircraft and the equipment necessary for the safe and efficient operation of that aircraft"
A UAS refers to the entire uncrewed aerial system, which includes the uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) itself, the control station & the communication between the control station and the vehicle. A counter-UAS or counter-Drone solution is a "counter" system that provides airspace security from those threats.
As drones become more affordable, widely adopted, regulated, and deployed, organizations and agencies face new security challenges globally in their lower airspace.
Drones can threaten security in a variety of ways, including:
As drones become more sophisticated and the barrier to entry lowers, it is important that counter-UAS solutions are effective. Hundreds of commercial, government and military customers around the world trust Dedrone’s comprehensive, counter-drone command and control (CUAS C2) solution to protect against the persistent and escalating threat from drones. By leveraging AI and machine learning (ML), Dedrone is the only solution that provides continuous, autonomous interrogation and verification of drones, only elevating high p-uav targets to the operators attention. Whether on-premise / air-gapped or in the cloud, Dedrone customers can easily detect, track, identify, analyze and mitigate drone threats.
The legislation that governs the C-UAS industry in the USA apply to all three components of a modern UAS. In addition, the legal usage is different for each of the three components (controller, link, & vehicle) and it is important that a counter-UAS solution provider understands and applies the proper legal standards to each component of the system. Dedrone has been consistently asked to provide policy and regulatory recommendations for protecting airspace from malicious drones. Read more here about thelatest on counter-drone legislation.
Counter-UAS systems are used to alert the operator that a drone is in a designated warning zone. These detection systems can be fixed-site or portable, depending on the needs of the operator. They use various detection technologies, including radar, optical and acoustics. See below for detailed descriptions of some of the most important detection technologies used today.
Once a drone is detected, a counter-drone solution may have the capability to track the path of the drone as well as the location of the pilot, providing airspace situational awareness to the operator.
As drones increase in popularity, many organizations have begun to use them in their daily operations. When a counter-uas system identifies a drone signature, the operator can then label a drone as friend or foe, allowing authorized drones to continue functioning without interruption from the C-UAS. The system can also identify the model of the drone, giving security personnel information about the range, speed and payload capabilities of the drone in their airspace.
Drones may be repelled or intercepted using mitigation technologies. Interference signals, for example, might interfere with the drone's operation. Active countermeasures include jamming devices that attempt to disrupt drone communications, missile interception systems designed to bring down uncrewed aircraft, and high-power lasers capable of temporarily blinding or disabling the drone operators.
There are several types of counter-UAS technologies:
Some counter-UAS technology use only one type of sensor (ie: just RF or just radar or just acoustics). Others may or may not include one type of mitigation like jamming, takeover or kinetic mitigation. Most military CUAS applications offer an end-to-end kill chain that includes at least one form of DTI that then directs a mitigation option. The most sophisticated CUAS solution act as a C2 CUAS platform and are able to ingest multiple forms of sensor input, fuse this information into a single version of airspace reality and then direct the most appropriate mitigation solution based on the situation at hand. Below are some of the different types of counter-UAS technologies.
Sensors are designed to detect, identify & track UAS in real-time
This section includes sensors that use different technologies to sense drones within their range. Such a solution enables organizations to provide improved airspace situational awareness and take appropriate countermeasures to protect airspace, buildings, aircraft and the public.
Dedrone gathers information from various sensors, analyzes it, and triggers an appropriate response. Our software connects to a variety of detection technologies and is therefore sensor agnostic. Dedrone’s DedroneTracker.AI, is a machine-learning CUAS C2 solution that uses multi-sensor fusion to provide real-time best in class intelligence for over 200 different drones.
The following are the most effective types of sensors in use today:
The communication link between the UAV (uncrewed aerial vehicle) and the control station is a critical part of the system. Many modern UAS use radio signals in the communication link. RF sensors receive and analyze these radio signals to detect, track and identify drone flights and locate the pilot. RF sensors are “passive,” meaning they can successfully detect UAV without detecting sensor emissions.
Dedrone's sensor agnostic platform integrates the most popular counter-UAS radar products into our command-and-control (C2) system.
The communication link a critical part of the system between the UAV (uncrewed aerial vehicle) and the control station. Most modern UAS use radio signals in the communication link. Radio frequency (RF) sensors receive and analyze these radio signals to detect, identify & track drone operations. RF sensors, acoustic sensors are “passive,” meaning they can successfully detect UAV without detecting sensor emissions.
Counter-drone acoustic sensors create an acoustic image of the airspace around them and send the information back to a controller or computer system for analysis. Key benefits of acoustic sensors are their ability to sometimes detect drones outside of line-of-sight, including behind obstructions and in darkness or fog. In certain instances, they exceed the detection range of optics. For these reasons, acoustic sensors have a purpose in some drone detection scenarios. As with RF sensors, acoustic sensors are “passive,” or operate without concern for sensor emissions.
Optical sensors enable visual verification of drone incursions. Optical sensors are cameras that are integrated into the Counter UAS system. High-resolution video can provide security providers visual evidence of a drone's payload, allowing them to react to the observable threat. Optical sensors range in sophistication from simple security cameras to highly engineered EO/IR capable cameras.
Dedrone's open platform allows for the integration of the industry leading PTZ (Pan, Tilt & Zoom) cameras within the Dedrone command center, creating a true airspace security end to end solution. These PTZ’s can range from simple to highly complex cameras.
Counter-UAS mitigation strategies can be divided into four categories:
Each method has its benefits and shortcomings depending on the specific threat at hand and the target that is being protected.
Another way to classify CUAS mitigation options is proactive versus reactive. Proactive countermeasures are techniques that allow for the anticipation of a drone's intended flight path. This allows for the implementation of defensive measures, such as turning off a drone's navigation system or stopping an uncrewed aircraft before it reaches its target. Reactive countermeasures take place once a drone has been detected by sensor systems; these may involve disabling the drone, repositioning defenses to intercept drones flying over sensitive locations, or issuing warnings when a drone is detected nearby (“ie: duck and cover”).
Jammers interfere with the communications link between the drone and the control station. By severing the transmission link, jammers cause the drone to go into its safety protocols meaning that the drone typically sets itself down gently or navigates back to its launch location. Jammers work on all RF drones and also work on drone swarms.
Jammers may be stationary, mounted devices or built into highly mobile, gun-like devices. They can be directed as a conic beam or an omni-directional force.
At only 7.5 pounds and just 22 inches long, DedroneDefender is one of the lightest and smallest precision jamming systems available on the market. It comes equipped with narrow-band jamming to minimize disruption to other devices and meets military standard MIL-STD-810H. DedroneDefender’s use of narrow-band or “comb” jamming reduces the risk of interference with other systems in the area like Wi-Fi and is specifically configured to the identified malicious drone’s protocols as prescribed by DedroneTracker.AI detection solution. Once communications are interrupted on a drone, it enters a pre-programmed safety mode to minimize risk to others and damage to the drone.
Dedrone's DroneDefender® jams in the most common frequencies in which drones operate and effectively counters a wide range of COTS UAS.
Cyber-takeover is a way of mitigating a drone by taking over the drone remotely, by impersonating the control station. It is done by hacking into the drone, essentially tricking the drone to switch fromthe legitimate controller. Cyber-takeover lets the mitigator direct the flight of the drone and access the drone's data and camera. This is an elegant way to mitigate a drone when it works. Unfortunately the success rate of cyber takeover is low for two reasons, the mitigating controller must be able to predict frequency hopping of drone and must always maintain a more powerful a signal to the drone than the original remote. Additionally, cyber-takeover does not work on a drone swarm.
There are many forms of kinetic mitigation options. Kinetic solutions are essentially all options that physically effect the drone from reaching its intended target. These can include everything from missiles, to kamikaze drones, to drones that shoot nets and even specially trained birds of prey. Kinetic mitigation solutions, although mentally satisfying suffer from lower success rates and do not work on drone swarms.
In addition to all the mitigation methods above, one can also out in place reactionary methods that act more as protective measures when a drone is detected nearby. These generally fall under an umbrella known as “duck and cover”. For example, some modern office buildings are equipped with automatically triggered window shades that block views from the outside to protect from corporate espionage by drone cameras.
Integrated Counter-UAS Systems
Integrated counter-UAS systems are the only answer for true airspace security. By integrating various sensor technologies, the system provides operators with real-time information on drone locations and movements, helping to identify potential threats quickly. At the same time, having multiple mitigation options enables a security team to choose the most effective solution. The issue is to bring all these sensors into a single operating picture that can be quickly understood by the operator while simultaneously interrogating potential new threats.
Dedrone provides an open-systems architecture, which allows our customers to choose the sensor technologies they need. All these inouts are then integrated with Dedrone's AI/ML driven multi-sensor fusion C2 system to ingest the data from the entire spectrum of different sensors, including radar, PTZ cameras, acoustic and RF.
Dedrone counter-UAS system DedroneTracker.AI provides complete situational awareness of airspace activity and protection from unwanted interference. While autonomously interrogating potential new threats in the background and then only bringing high puav targets to the operator’s attention. Our multi-fusion capabilities combine state-of-the-art RF-sensor technology with powerful processing capabilities to deliver a comprehensive view of airspace conditions.
Counter-UAS command and control (C2) systems combine all sensor inputs into a single airspace picture to answer two simple questions:
This single view of the airspace then enables operators to make quick and effective decisions.
Dedrone’s complete airspace security platform, DedroneTracker.AI, provides a complete view of airspace C-UAS activity, including early detection and warning of approaching UAVs. DedroneTracker.AI's airspace security technology fuses drone detection sensor data into a command-and-control AI-based platform with systems architecture that integrates best of class radio frequency, radar, acoustic and optical sensors for complete airspace situational awareness.
Mobile rapid-deploy counter-UAS systems bring all of the same benefits of a command-and-control system into remote locations quickly. This capability allows counter-UAS operators to quickly deploy an airspace security system to wherever it is needed to mitigate drone threats. Additionally, the mobile system’s ability to rapidly relocate can allow for closer proximity monitoring of critical areas. Mobile counter-UAS systems also allow operators to react to emerging threats as they may occur.
This overview of modern counter-drone solutions is designed to help organizations the world over to understand the solutions available in today's environment.
As noted above there are many subtopics of critical importance to this field. We encourage you to click the links to become more educated.
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