NEWS FROM AUVSI DEFENSE: Pentagon Aims to Sync Counter-Drone Efforts

By Connie Lee
A hunter-killer drone with attached net captures a Phantom 3 drone in mid-flight.

Air Force

Concerned about the threat posed by unmanned aerial systems, the Defense Department is taking steps to synchronize its counter-drone initiatives, according to a department official.

“One thing that industry, academia, other government agencies inside the department [and] our combatant commanders are all screaming about is, ‘Who's in charge?’ Because nobody's in charge,” said Chris O'Donnell, deputy assistant secretary of defense for platform and weapon portfolio management.

In January Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord was tapped to tackle the problem, O'Donnell noted during a keynote speech Aug. 21 at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Defense-Protection-Security Conference in Washington, D.C.

A senior integration group has been established to lead and synchronize counter-UAS activities, according to his presentation. Its responsibilities include establishing policies to help resolve some of the major issues facing the department. There are four lines of effort: technology, acquisition, operations and policy.

Officials have developed a science-and-technology roadmap for bringing on new capabilities. 

“We're trying to get decision-makers to understand that there's a wide variety of things that they can pick to do this stuff,” O’Donnell said. 

The Pentagon also wants to improve acquisition and get new systems into the hands of warfighters faster, he noted. Plans include rapid acquisition programs with emerging technologies. 

When it comes to fighting enemy drones, the military needs to be able to field systems that can work in a variety of locations, O’Donnell said. 

“We’re looking at these different environments that we have to work in,” he said. “We also have to deal with the fact that we're operating in Japan, which has much different regulations for electromagnetic spectrum than Germany does, than Italy does.” 

To improve its counter-UAS capabilities, officials are leveraging Black Dart, the Defense Department's largest annual live-fire, counter-UAS technology demonstration. The Pentagon plans to hold similar events that provide it with information on how it can use these technologies in different places, he noted. 

The military wants to host additional demonstrations “that give us more of an idea of how these technologies can be used in a layered manner,” he said. “Whether that's to protect the [forward operating base] overseas, whether that's working in an urban environment here in the United States, or even overseas in a work-restricted regulatory environment.” 

The department seeks open architecture, multi-layered systems that can take on new technologies, he noted. 

“If you have a good technology, you don't have to have the whole integrated solution,” he said. “We can figure out ways to integrate those into our systems as they exist.”

To improve operations, some steps the Pentagon plans to take include standardizing counter-UAS reporting requirements and assessing training and education needs, according to his presentation.

“We need to establish the training and education requirements in each one of the services’ schoolhouses ... and decide what [military occupational speciality] is actually going to be doing this" counter-drone mission, O’Donnell said.

The military will support efforts to implement counter-UAS authorities domestically and in agreements with allied host nations overseas. "Policy is critical, especially for things that we're doing here in the United States,” he noted.

Topics: Robotics and Autonomous Systems

Comments (1)

Re: NEWS FROM AUVSI DEFENSE: Pentagon Aims to Sync Counter-Drone Efforts

As an sUAS pilot and a former operator, I've experienced both sides of the problem. Over the last few years, I've consulted on this problem and witnessed numerous and vast improvements. Thank you to all who have worked this challenging problem.

Mickey Wright at 8:52 AM
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