With drones gaining more popularity, anti-drone technologies may become a necessary countermeasure in years to come to neutralise drone threats in the defence, commercial, and homeland security sectors by detecting and intercepting drones. Anti-drone technology is also known as counter-UAS, C-UAS, or counter-UAC technology. As in any market segment, anti-drone manufacturers consist of the larger corporates like Thales, Lockheed Martin, and SAAB, however start-ups are becoming fierce competitors with their own in-house innovations, low-cost manufacturing capabilities, and the ability to build anti-drone systems to customer requirements.
Anti-drone technologies can be ground-based (fixed or mobile on buildings or vehicles), hand-held (operated by hand), and UAV-based (mounted on drones). They can have a detection and tracking capability with radar, radio frequency (RF), electro-optical (EO), infrared (IR), acoustic, or combined sensors, and/or an interception capability with RF jamming, GNSS jamming, spoofing (takes control of the drone by accessing the drone’s communication link), laser, nets, and projectiles. Further, anti-drone technologies can initiate controlled landings or instruct the drone to return to the operator. But technologies are not the only option. A company from the Netherlands called Guard From Above, trains birds of prey to intercept drones. The most commonly used drone detection methods are radar, RF detection, EO, and IR – with jammers being the most popular for interception.
Apart from the obvious military and law enforcement applications, the anti-drone market varies greatly to include government installations (such as prisons), commercial venues, critical infrastructure, and airports. Drones are readily available and cheap, a hassle-free option for non-state actors to utilize them for a number of operations. Non-state actors like ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, Houthi rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and Colombian and Mexican drug cartels have all used drones. Drones can be armed with explosive payloads or used as a delivery system for biological or chemical weapons, where the controlled landing of a drone is absolutely critical. However, drones do not necessarily need to be weaponised to cause disruption and can be used as surveillance, recording devices, and delivery vehicles.
The anti-drone market will inevitably grow with a variety of systems available to counter drones’ many applications. The future will see an increase in partnerships between companies wanting to collaborate on anti-drone technologies such as Belgian software company Unifly who recently announced that they have joined forces with Integra Aviation Academy to set up an Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system, which alerts pilots on emerging drone threats. To date, the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in the U.S. has identified over 230 anti-drone products manufactured by 155 manufacturers in 33 countries.
Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA