GLOBAL DEFENSE MARKET
EUROSATORY NEWS: Counter-UAS Demand Grows as Drone Tech Advances
PARIS — Unmanned aerial systems are becoming more sophisticated and the systems themselves are easier to buy off the shelf — prompting a surge in the market for counter-unmanned aerial systems.
From the post-9/11 wars in the Middle East to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the Caucuses, UAS have proliferated on battlefields and proven to be a deadly capability. During the Eurosatory international defense conference in Paris this week, several companies showcased counter-UAS technologies that can detect and neutralize enemy drones.
“We have been witnessing the growing demand for anti-drone systems and technologies,” said Meni Deutsch, the regional director for Europe at Skylock Anti Drone Technologies. The company is a subset of the Israeli-based technology company Avnon Group and specializes in counter-UAS capabilities.
“Drones in general are changing constantly,” Deutsch said on the sidelines of Eurosatory. “They pose big threats, because today, drones are so accessible, so available, that even a 10-year-old child can buy it on eBay.”
Counter-drone technologies are innovating just as rapidly as UAS. Common systems use jammers to block radio frequencies or spoofers to send fake GPS signals that mimic a drone’s intended target. Systems can come in a variety of platforms — including short-range handheld jammers, laser neutralizers and systems that cover large areas to provide continuous protection.
One of the technologies Skylock has developed is the VIP Dome, which acts as a miniature version of Israel’s Iron Dome, Deutsch said. The system’s 360-degree radio frequency detector and internal GPS can detect drones and send automated commands to its jammers, which then block communication channels between the threat and its operator.
“Any drone that gets close, his brain will be hijacked by this very unique technology and then pushed back immediately,” Deutsch said. The dome is ideal for military bases, ships or even moving cars, he added.
However, sometimes warfighters need lighter options during missions on foot, said Red McClintock, director of DroneShield.
The Australian company builds artificial intelligence systems for counter-UAS missions. At Eurosatory, DroneShield showcased two of the company’s handheld anti-drone technologies: the lightweight short-range DroneGun MKIII and the larger, longer-range DroneGun Tactical.
Once a UAS is detected, either system can take down a drone at ranges of 0.6 miles and 1.2 miles, respectively.
“Weight is everything for a dismounted soldier,” McClintock said. The DroneGun MKIII weighs just under five pounds and can be operated using one hand. The DroneGun Tactical, however, is a bit larger at 16 pounds and better suited for short missions or as a set-up in a fixed position, he said.
DroneShield systems are used in countries across the world, including the United States, McClintok said. The company has some products being used in Ukraine as well, he added.
As unmanned systems advance, communicating with other companies who make drones and sharing latest trends help both industries keep up with one another, McClintok said.
“We compare ideas, countermeasures, counter-countermeasures,” he said. “We don’t need to wait for the next battlefield. We don’t need to wait for customer feedback in that game of cat-and-mouse. We have smart people, they have smart people, and we can work together.”
During Eurosatory, Finnish defense company Patria unveiled an alternative counter-UAS method to jammers and spoofers. The prototype solution uses an effector that deploys a “string cloud” of materials at small drones and loitering munitions to neutralize them from close range, said Jukka Lemola, product manager for land at Patria.
“It will not just stick to the propellers, it will actually hit the motor while it’s running, which sucks the material in and it will short circuit,” Lemola said at Patria’s booth during the conference.
The strings are made up of a unique material the company has worked to develop specifically for this capability, but Lemola could not disclose specifics. The strings are safe for civilians to interact with once they fall, he noted.
The system can shoot materials at swarms of up to 10 drones from 328 feet away. Only a prototype under production right now. Patria plans to develop effectors that can be used by hand, on top of vehicles, aboard ships and for other fixed structures.
Lemola said the prototype was developed to address gaps their customers saw in counter-UAS capabilities.
“Even though they have some systems, many of them see these as kind of a last line of defense,” he said. “So, if nothing else helps, then there is still a capable solution close to the assets you want to protect.”
Topics: Global Defense Market