Military Agencies Boost Drone Defenses
2020-06-30 | 5 min read
The advancement of drones created a new tool but also a very effective threat or weapon. Drones can perform intelligence gathering for foes or cause harm in myriad ways. Defense forces must be able to detect drones and protect themselves and their operating environment. Given the growing sophistication of drones, this feat proves increasingly difficult. Defensive measures must scale to respond to a variety of drone activities, ranging from sophisticated threats to civilian mischief. Although military detection and countermeasure activities are largely classified, two recently revealed techniques offer insight into drone mitigation methods.
An article in the Jerusalem Post revealed that Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Iron Drone have collaborated to integrate interception capabilities into IAI’s anti-drone Drone Guard system. That system provides drone detection, air defense, and intelligence collection systems. IAI’s ELTA Systems manufactures these components.
According to the article, “The intercepting drone can be launched during the day or night from a docking station that hosts several ready-to-use drones. It can be steered to the target with the help of the advanced radar integrated with Drone Guard, capable of detecting drones as they enter the airspace. The radar uses sensors and computer vision to home in and lock onto the target up to the physical hit of the attacker and its neutralization. The entire process is automated, requiring no human intervention.”
In case of multiple targets or drone swarms, several drones can be launched to intercept threats simultaneously. This system relies on advanced radar, but also artificial intelligence and a kinetic interception solution.
The U.S. Navy recently revealed a weapons test performed against drones this past May. In this case, the drones were defeated by a high-energy laser weapon. The choice of laser reportedly makes the response more flexible and thus better able to respond to various threats. At the heart of the new laser is directed energy weapon (DEW) technology.
According to the Navy, the Solid State Laser - Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) MK 2 MOD 0 is a high-energy laser weapon system demonstrator developed by the Office of Naval Research. It was installed for this at-sea demonstration—the first system-level implementation of a high-energy class, solid-state laser. Northrup Grumman developed the laser system, with full system and ship integration and testing led by NSWC Dahlgren and Port Hueneme.
DEWs, which have been in development at the Navy since the 1960s, comprise electromagnetic systems that can convert chemical or electrical energy to radiated energy and focus it on a target. According to the Navy, the resulting physical damage degrades, neutralizes, defeats, or destroys an adversarial capability. In the case of a potential, yet unknown threat, the DEW allows the commander to react on various levels.
These approaches underscore the need for forces to perform drone mitigation quickly and effectively. Drones are pervasive, from the complex systems developed by foreign powers to commercial versions that are easily bought and modified by smaller foes. They also are sufficiently small and fast to evade detection. As drones continue to evolve, buoying their performance and features, military forces will increasingly be pressured to disable or destroy drones in a fast, effective manner.
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