A UK defence firm has debuted a system it has developed which can detect, take over and fly drones away from a protected space.
Specifically, the rapidly growing threat posed by easy to make, cheap, commercially available drones.
Despite their size, “hobby” drones can pack a large security risk. In January, a drunk operator crashed a DJI Phantom drone on the White House lawn. A drone which landed on the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s office in April was carrying radioactive sand.
And at a US Homeland Security briefing recently, Wired reports attendess were told of an exercise which saw $5000 worth of drones fitted with semi-automatic weapons take out a convoy of armoured vehicles.
So there was plenty of interest at the Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition in London yesterday when Selex ES unveiled its “Falcon Shield” system.
It can cover a small group of people, or an entire military base, and be mounted anywhere from rooftops to moving vehicles.
“Electronic warfare is the ability to control the electromagnetic spectrum,” Selex ES C-UAV capability manager Steve Williams said.
Developed with “military customers”, the technology revolves around a five-stage process:
- Find: Radar and electronic frequency monitoring create an electromagnetic shield which locates threats and where they are being controlled from
- Fix: An electro-optical infrared camera joins in to lock on to the drone
- Track: The drone is tracked and its flight path and behaviour assessed
- Identify: The system works to identify if the drone is a threat
- Defeat: “More than just jamming,” according to Williams. If the drone is considered hostile, Falcon Shield takes control of it and forces it into a controlled descent in a safe location
Williams said the “defeat” stage was what made Falcon Shield unique against other “seek and destroy” rival systems.
“This design approach is intended to minimise collateral effects,” he said, but noted that the capability to destroy a UAV’s electronic components could be added to the system.
Selex ES has funded the program entirely on its own, and after three years in development, said it’s on the market and ready to be rolled out immediately.
“It’s about passively sensing an enemy target using radio frequencies so that the enemy doesn’t know you know they are there, and then finding a way to counter that target,” Williams said.
“We are pushing the boundaries of science, so we don’t need to use a kinetic force against a drone or shoot it out of the air or to hack into it.
“You can think of it as we’re exploiting the radar technologies used by the Royal Air Force, and there is no reason for the software or hardware of the drone to be harmed, or for there to be collateral damage to people on the ground.”
Here’s a concept video of Falcon Shield in action:
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