Introduction to the Anti-Drone Technology
Anti-drone technology (Anti-Drone), also known as counter-UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System), C-UAS or counter-UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) technology, refers to a system that can detect and disable drones. Today, the use of drones in civilian and combat environments is increasing day by day. According to relevant data, at least 95 countries currently have drones. Moreover, more and more countries use drones for battlefield reconnaissance, attack and air command. Drones have become the weapon of choice for non-governmental organizations, and their use in surveillance, battlefield management, propaganda and air attacks are effective. Drones are proliferating at an alarming rate in the military field, posing a potential security threat to many countries and regions. This has led to the rapid rise of anti-drone technology.
The rise of anti-drone technology is largely related to the threat posed by the proliferation of drone technology, especially small and inexpensive drones in civilian and combat environments.
In the military field, on one hand, the proliferation of small drones has alarmed battlefield commanders. On the other hand, drones are also increasingly becoming the weapon of choice for non-governmental organizations in surveillance, combat space management, propaganda, air attacks, etc., which are often highly effective.
In the civilian field, anti-drone systems are also seen as important tools for safety, as drones are increasingly used in illegal activities. In global, for example, drones have become popular tools for smuggling contraband into prisons. At the same time, near-collisions between drones and aircrafts are becoming more and more common, and many fear that collisions between drones and planes could lead to catastrophic accidents. In addition, a simple retrofit can turn a cheap off-the-shelf consumer-grade drone into a rudimentary but potentially deadly missile, or other air attack system. Other dangers and criminal uses of drones abound, increasing the need for effective methods of detecting and countering drone systems.
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Air defense systems traditionally used to protect airspace are primarily designed for manned aircrafts, and they have advantages in detecting, tracking, and shooting down large, fast-moving objects. However, when it comes to dealing with small, slow, low-flying drones, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Even very powerful air defense systems are sometimes unable to shoot down rudimentary drones. Given the surge in demand for this gap in modern military and security defenses, the market of anti-drone systems is booming quickly.
- How the Anti-Drone Technology Works?
Anti-drone technology can play a variety of roles. In the military field, it is mainly used to protect military bases, naval ships, and members of the military. In the civilian field, it is mainly used to protect critical infrastructures, sensitive installations and airspace around large events, as well as to protect VIPs and combat air smuggling. In either case, anti-drone technology is a complex multi-step process involving the interactions among several different systems and between these systems and operators.
- First, the detection system must detect, identify, locate and track invading drones. Depending on the type of system used, the equipment that makes the initial detection, such as radar or radio frequency detector, may have to “cross-inform” the auxiliary detection equipment, such as camera or electronic identification element, to confirm whether the detected object is a drone, as well as to determine its precise location and track its movement. Auxiliary detection equipment can also provide additional information about the drone, which may help determine the drone’s intent. For example, camera can show whether the drone is carrying explosives, etc. In addition, certain detection equipment can identify the location of the drone operator. Data from the detection system can often be stored for further use as evidence.
- Based on information obtained by the detection system, the operator may need to decide what to do with the invading drone and whether to activate the countermeasure system. Once the control strategy is activated, the drone will be countered. Depending on the technology used, this can lead to a range of effects, including the drone landing on the ground or activating the “return to home” mode (in case of jamming or spoofing), the capture of the drone or the complete or partial destruction of the drone (laser, projectile, colliding drone, high power microwave).
- Depending on the situation, the drone may be isolated or taken away once it is countered. If the drone has a potential weapon, an explosive ordnance disposal team may be called in to assess it and disable it if necessary.
NovoQuad’s ND-BU001 Standard Anti-Drone System is a standardized anti-drone system, which also follows the working principle mentioned above. The whole system consists of three main units, namely one anti-drone detection unit (anti-drone radar), one anti-drone jamming unit (directional jammer), and one camera unit (dual camera). First, the detection radar with long detection range starts to detect, find and locate the invading target drone, and the detailed target information and tracks will be displayed on the ND-BU001 software interface. Second, once the target is detected, guided by the target information obtained by the detection radar, the jamming unit could interfere with the communication and navigation frequency bands of the drone, to force the drone to land or return. The jamming could be done automatically or manually by the operator. The camera unit, as auxiliary detection equipment mentioned above, could assist the detection radar to get more target information and improve the detection accuracy, as well as could record the drone tracks.
III. Anti-Drone Detection and Counter measure Technology
Different anti-drone systems rely on various technologies to detect and/or counter invading drones. The following is a classification of related technologies.
- Classification of the Detection and Tracking Technology
Radar System: Detects its presence through the radar signal of a small drone, and generates a radar signal when the drone encounters the radio frequency pulse emitted by the detection element. These radar systems usually use algorithms to detect the trajectory of drones. There are many companies producing anti-drone radars on the market today, such as NovoQuad. As one of the companies famous for its anti-drone radar technology, it is specialized in applying professional 3D phased-array radar technology to its Anti-Drone Systems to achieve accurate detection and tacking of low-altitude target drones. Its anti-drone radar has the advantages of long detection distance, low false alarm rate, simultaneous detection of multiple drone targets, strong environmental adaptability, etc.
Radio Frequency (RF)System: Detects, locates, and in some cases identifies nearby drones by scanning the frequencies at which most drones are known to operate. For example, NovoQuad’s ND-BU003 Basic Anti-Drone System is equipped with Radio Frequency (RF) detector, which could detect drones within long range and lead the jamming device to interfere with the detected drones, forcing them to land or return.
Photoelectronic System: Identifies and tracks drones based on their visual characteristics.
Infrared System: Identifies and tracks drones based on their thermal signals.
Acoustic System: Detects drones by identifying unique sounds from their engines.The acoustic system relies on a library of sounds produced by known drones, which are then matched to sounds detected in the operating environment.
Combination Sensor: Many systems integrate a variety of different sensor types to provide more powerful detection, tracking and identification capabilities.
- Classification of Countermeasure Technology
Radio Frequency (RF) Interference: Interrupts the radio frequency link between a drone and its operator by generating a large amount of radio frequency interference. Once the RF link, including the Wi-Fi link, is cut off, the drone usually either lands on the ground or initiates a “return to home” maneuver. For example, NovoQuad’s ND-BD003 Handheld Anti-Drone System uses radio frequency interference to interfere with the frequency bands of the target drone, forcing it to land or return in place. In addition, the ND-BD003 anti-drone jamming gun has reserved user-defined jamming frequency bands to meet various customer demands. As the ND-BD003 is equipped with APP Control Platform, the related jamming parameters could be set in advanced, and the detected target information could be saved for further analysis.
GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System)Interference: Disrupts a drone’s satellite connection, such as GPS or GLONASS used for navigation. A drone that loses the satellite connectivity will often hover in place, land or return to its starting point.
Spoofing: To control or mislead the target drone by providing a false communication or navigation link to it.
Laser: Uses a high-intensity beam of light or laser to “blind” the camera on the drone. The laser uses directional energy to destroy a significant part of the drone’s fuselage, causing it to fall to the ground.
Joint Countermeasure Force: Some anti-drone systems also employ a combination of countermeasure elements to increase the likelihood of successful disposition towards invading drones. For example, many jamming systems have both radio frequency jamming and GNSS jamming capabilities. Other systems may use electronic systems as the first line of defense and power systems as backup measures.
At present, drone technology itself is not stagnant, and the progress in this field will pose new challenges to anti-drone systems. Anti-drone technology must keep pace with the development of drone technology and constantly update and iterate the existing anti-drone technology, in order to deal with the more diverse drone air threats and protect air safety in the near future.