Drone detection and counter-UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) applications have become an important topic the last few years as drone activity is increasing across the globe. According to the FAA, it is estimated there are more than 1.25 million drones in operation today and the FAA believes that number could triple by 2023. Due to many safety concerns, organizations in a variety of industries are becoming more alert and aware of drone activity happening on their properties and in the surrounding airspace to prevent incidents.
When it comes to identifying which technology is best to detect or respond to a drone, it is difficult to decide what is right for your particular problem, which is why a scalable and customizable solution is important. While many people try to categorize drone detection and counter-UAS measures into the same solution, being able to detect and track a drone/UAS is different than implementing a response or reaction to detecting a drone.
Several factors need consideration before selecting drone detection and counter-UAS technology, but let’s focus on the follow two. First, it is important to understand what technologies are available and how they compare to pick the right solution for you. Secondly, you need to decide what the goal of your solution is – do you simply want to know when there is a drone near your facility for cautionary purposes, or are you prepared to respond to a drone in your airspace?
1. What are the most common technologies in the market for drone detection and how do they compare? Below is a chart of the most common drone detection technologies on the market, as well as features to see the capabilities of each technology:
|Position Accuracy||Provides full 3D position measurements of possible threats||Provides full 3D position measurements of possible threats||Angle only sensor||Angle only sensor||Angle only sensor|
|Weather limitations||All weather visibility||All weather visibility||Fog, haze, and precipitation will affect the accuracy of position data||All weather visibility||Fog, haze, and precipitation will affect the accuracy of position data|
|Range||Can cover long distances||Can cover long distances||Can cover long distances, but it is prohibited due to the expense (>100s of meters)||Limited to 1-2km in range.||Dependent on surrounding conditions how far the optics can see.|
|Type of information gained||Speed, make/manufacturer, Communication band, communication type||Speed, size, propeller modulation||Speed, size||Acoustic signature of drone||Eyes on target|
|Passive RF cannot detect or classify fully autonomous drones||Detects all movement in an environment, so it can be cluttered in certain environments||Cost of sensors at long range||Noisy environments prohibit the accuracy of potential drone threats||Low elevation (difficult background to detect drone)|
While all of these technologies have different capabilities and challenges, depending on the solution, a single technology may not be the answer, which is where a layered approach will be most effective. Each of these technologies can bring a new layer of security to your critical infrastructure site – by layering a radar and PTZ camera, you can detect the drone with the radar, and then slew a camera to get confirmation of the drone. You can create a very reliable drone detection system with one or more of these technologies to protect you against the drone threat in your environment. This leads us to our next question: do you need a full counter-UAS system?
2. What is your endgame? If you only want to detect the drone, you do not need to invest in additional technology for the counter measures. However, for organizations that need to go a step farther than detection, reviewing counter measure options is important. Below is a chart of the most popular counter-drone technologies, as well as the sensors needed and the challenges surrounding each one:
|Broad Jamming||Spot Jamming||Kinetic Kill||Capture|
|Sensor needed||RF detection capabilities||RF detection and angle tracking||Highly-accurate, full 3D sensors, operator feedback||3D sensing, seeker on capture vehicle|
|Collateral damage||Civilian and Government uses of those bands are jammed, giving away your capabilities and location||Lowers collateral damage footprint compared to broad jamming, but does not remove it||Kill mechanism could cause collateral damage||Least collateral damage of the 4 options – implement logic to minimize this|
|Gaps||Fully autonomous drones do not respond to RF jamming||Fully autonomous drones do not respond to RF jamming||Urban environments, high collateral environment||Highly maneuverable drones (really fast)|
Building a drone detection and counter-UAS solution is personal and different for every organization. Unfortunately, there is not a “one-size fits all” or single solution for all drone detection and counter-UAS problems. As technologies advance in both the detection/counter-measure industry and the drone industry, it is important you have a scalable solution you can continue to build on as your needs change.
For both drone detection and counter-UAS solutions, layering technologies with radar surveillance creates a reliable detection foundation for your solution as your needs change or as your risk of threats increase. Our radars can detect Group 1 drones up to 5 km away and longer for larger drone groups.