Drones have become a security concern worldwide; with extremely small sizes compared to other aircrafts, yet able to contain processing power for advanced computational tasks, and maneuverability in many environments, they are a force that many emerging counter-drone technologies seek to address.
While there are many significant examples of anti-aircraft and anti-missile research already completed and implemented, and many future prospects for more potential research, research for development of counter measures against small aircrafts like drones and quad-copters are being undertaken by military and intelligence organisations all over the world.
One new research paper published by Chinese researchers and presented at the Global Intelligence Industry Conference 2018 last month looks at counter-measures against Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
China, having a very large market that develops commercial small scale drones, has industrialized their research formulating measures against small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The research paper titled, ‘The Development Of Counterunmanned Aerial Vehicle Technologies‘, analyzes and summarizes some of the Counter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (CUAV) technologies that are under conventional usage, recently developed or conceptualized and currently under development.
Researchers from Changchun Engineering Technology College; Wenqi ZHANG, Lei ZHANG, Baichun YANG, Hairui GU, Dawei WANG and Kai YANG have studied different means for fighting back against malicious UAVs and have emphasized on laser weapons as an effective means for taking such UAVs down.
The paper lists some of the methodologies that are used as counter-unmanned aerial vehicle operations.
The Iron Dome
The USA and Israel have this project implemented in their countries. Radars detect any unidentified aircraft or airborne weapon such as a missile flying anywhere around the country, the borders or the cities; the movement of these airborne weapons is predicted and they are shot down by anti-missiles in shortest time possible.
Although missile systems are favored by many countries, most of these weapons must be projected by fighter jets or conventional air defense systems. It is an overkill considering the usage of iron dome against UAVs, especially small or micro UAVs. Why? Well, because it takes thousands of dollars for the system to operate so as to take down even a small drone.
With the mainstream focus on small UAVs as aircraft bombers or weaponry, iron dome sounds insufficient. Micro UAVs are not easily detected by radar systems and a bulky, processor-heavy system like the iron dome is unable to withstand an attack by small weapons or UAVs scattered apart from each other.
Drones are small. This poses the question: instead of shooting it down – a task that takes extreme precision and accuracy – why not take control of its signals? This is the anti-UAV technique developed by Russia. They can cut off the military satellite data link used to control drones and t implant false data into drones, causing the drones to trek or crash. The electronic countermeasures system is a ground-moving electronic warfare system consisting of dozens of vehicles loaded with radar, electronic jamming equipment, maintenance equipment and commanding agencies. The electronic interference equipment sends out strong electron waves that cause the control systems of UAVs to malfunction.
DroneDefender is a portable, accurate, rapid-to-use counter-weapon to stop suspicious or hostile UAVs in flight, providing critical security protection. The DroneDefender uses radio control frequency technologies to safely stop UAVs in the air, before they can pose a threat to military or civilian safety. Inexpensive, easy-to-use, and lightweight, this point-and-shoot system with a demonstrated range of 400 m provides instant threat mitigation. The sweet benefit of that would be that DroneDefender does not allow the drone to take any quick remote action such as detonation upon control system failure.
Dogfights are aircraft fighting each other in the air and considering the trend with UAVs, it is very likely that drones would be developed to take down other drones in future battlefields.
The French company, ECA, has developed IT-180. It is a drone specially designed to take down malicious micro UAVs. It is also capable of detecting unidentified malicious aircrafts on its own within a minutes under a range of as much as 700 meters.
Lasers are extremely precise, accurate and operate for incredibly long range.
Rheinmetall has proved that concentrating several laser beams on one target can provide sufficient energy to destroy UAVs and cruise missiles. In 2013, the company successfully destroyed three test drones using a 50 kW high-energy laser called Sky Guard using this technology. The laser weapon system is equipped with a radar system to detect drones, and an optical tracking system is responsible for tracking drones. When the target enters the range, the laser weapon will immediately locate the target and destroy the drone in seconds.
As a bottom line it can be said that while conventional anti-aircraft like radar systems are effective against UAVs, laser weaponry is the most practical option for Counter UAV programs against micro UAVs.
Citation: “The development of counter-unmanned aerial vehicle technologies”, Wenqi Zhang, Wenqi Zhang, Lei Zhang, Lei Zhang, Baichun Yang, Baichun Yang, Hairui Gu, Hairui Gu, Dawei Wang, Dawei Wang, Kai Yang, Kai Yang, Proc. SPIE 10835, Global Intelligence Industry Conference (GIIC 2018), 108351O (31 August 2018); doi: 10.1117/12.2505628; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2505628