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Overcoming obstacles for more effective counter-drone technology

Overcoming obstacles for more effective counter-drone technology
Deploying counter-drone technology at critical infrastructure doesn’t come without its obstacles; however, the latest solutions are ready meet these challenges.
Critical infrastructure requires robust counter-drone technology — also called anti-drone or counter unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) — for protection against drone threats. Although there are many challenges when deploying these technologies, counter-drone companies have developed solutions to overcome these obstacles.

First, though, it is important to understand that drone technology presents a number of different challenges for traditional surveillance equipment, including, but not limited to, the size of the drone, the angle/altitude of attack, velocity, multiple drones (swarms), the location of operator and the mode of communication between the drone and the operator, according to Thorsten Chmielus, CEO of Aaronia.

While end users are quick to focus on the soft or hard kill measures available for drones, Chmielus warns that these are not effective without efficient and accurate detection since these measures impact existing systems at critical infrastructure.

“The focus should be on more than drones, as today most of our infrastructure is dependent on RF systems, these must be efficiently regulated and monitored,” he said.

One step critical infrastructure sites can take is to digitize their airspace so they can see everything in it, offered Dave Preece, Chief Data Officer and VP of Marketing at Fortem Technologies. He also recommends working with local authorities to establish no-fly zones for drone enthusiasts.

Companies offer solutions to beat challenges

Before counter-drone technology can deployed effectively, it is important to define the potential threats and the value of the critical infrastructure, according to Chmielus.

Aaronia offers completely modular systems, which allows the company to provide greater protection in areas deemed as critical and offer a hierarchy of sensors to ensure a fully integrated solution that is efficient and considerate of end-user requirements. They aim to bridge the gap between radar and RF-monitoring by offering a 3D RF solution, which can monitor the complete spectrum of RF (20 MHz to 20 GHz) in 3D and real-time.

Chmielus pointed out that although the focus today is on “silent” drones, just because you cannot hear something does not mean it is not making some noise. By providing complete spectrum monitoring, Aaronia offers the opportunity to detect any device emitting any frequency.

“You must consider the value of the threat and in most cases, these are homemade devices that definitely emit some frequency. Satellite communication is heavily regulated and expensive, as such it is unlikely that most threats are operating completely silent. Technology has become easily accessible; it is possible to procure transmitters that can be set at any frequency for a few hundred dollars with no regulation,” Chmielus explained.

Additionally, Aaronia’s patented 3D DF antenna provides the altitude of the drone, or any flying RF emitter (e.g., 4G phones), together with the coordinates of the drone at 1-degree accuracy. “This is essential as we are speaking about flying targets — without altitude it is impossible to move and focus a high zoom PTZ camera to the target,” Chmielus said.

False alarms are also big challenge for counter-drone technology. Fortem SkyDome’s ThreatAware with TrueView radar RCS and doppler, impact assessment AI, Pattern of Life algorithms and real-time EO/IR cueing help bring the false alarm issue under control.

Another challenge for many counter-drone technologies is not being able to see all the objects in 3D space. Fortem Technologies touts a proprietary, AI-based radar on which its C-UAS solutions are built. “Fortem SkyDome uses our TrueView radar and sees all the drones in the airspace regardless if they are emitting RF or not. Every drone is detected, tracked, classified and identified as a threat or not using Fortem SkyDome’s ThreatAware engine,” Preece explained.

Fortem’s solution conducts threat assessment of drones in the protected airspace multiple times per second. “SkyDome has deep integration with several EO/IR cameras that are cued multiple times per second to provide streaming video of the drone in question. Drones that are assessed as a high enough threat can be mitigated by the Fortem DroneHunter. DroneHunter can be launched to conduct surveillance and to provide another visual angle of the drone in question. SkyDome also integrates with existing security systems, drone remote ID, UTM and ADS-B to provide seamless and complete situational awareness and drone disambiguation.”

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