Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the IDGA Counter-UAS USA Summit in Alexandria, VA. The event featured many impressive speakers, including US Army officers and government officials. I was honored to be invited to participate in the Department of Defense (DoD) and Industry Panel discussion about capability gaps and future requirements.
The panel included impressive experts in the field, and I had the opportunity to discuss critical issues such as how to improve the effectiveness of counter-UAS detection and mitigation solutions, and how we can address current and future C-UAS requirements to address the increasing threat from hostile drones. As IDGA highlighted on the event website, the “rapid proliferation of UAS has been one of the most unsettling tactical advancements on the battlefield in recent years.”
There were great and relevant questions during our panel as well as throughout the conference, and I had the opportunity to share my views on how to address these challenges and learn more about the situation from the speakers, my co-panelists and attendees. Let’s dig into some of the most relevant topics we discussed throughout the two-day event:
Military forces have understood for some time now the gravity of the asymmetrical drone threat. Terrorist groups have long been using commercial drones that could be easily obtained online. Explosive devices may be attached to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), transforming drones into remotely piloted bombs. Many commentators have correctly characterized these adapted commercial drones as “the new flying IEDs.” A few hundred dollars of electronics and a commercial drone can directly impact a million-dollar piece of military equipment, not to mention the risk to life.
Over the years, the situation has worsened, as commercial (off-the-shelf or adapted) and do-it-yourself (built from off-the-shelf components) drones continue to be employed in asymmetrical warfare against conventional forces. Drone threats to military units go beyond terror attacks, as they are also used to collect intelligence on troop movements, formations, and bases.
One drawback in countering the asymmetrical drone threat is that kinetic or jamming solutions preclude obtaining intelligence from captured drones. “Unmasking” is also a risk with some C-UAS technologies, and jamming may also disrupt critical communications. These are some of the factors that are making military units look at new generation technologies that can deal with the asymmetric threat created by commercially-based drones, such as RF Cyber-takeover, as a key part of their C-UAS arsenal.
A more robust, layered defense concept for C-UAS is key to strengthening the homeland’s ability to defeat multi-faceted threats from rogue drones. With cross-agency and industry cooperation towards such a layered defense approach, more robust protection will arise, as different but complementary technologies can work together to provide a broader and deeper defense to deal with multiple vector threats.
A cyber-centric approach as the core component in a multiple technology counter-drone defense brings unique advantages including fuller control and safety, the possibility of capturing the drone, and associated intelligence, and the preservation of continuity. Cyber technology can complement traditional C-UAS technologies, including radar for detection, and jamming or kinetic for mitigation as they too will play a role in a multi-layered defense strategy with a single, integrated view. Such a simplified, synergistic approach provides expanded security capabilities for C-UAS solutions, leading to optimized airspace protection, and addressing a wider range of drone threats. Multiple detection and mitigation options provide an in-depth defense mechanism, which can be activated according to situation and security considerations. A layered, less disruptive, more advanced technological approach provides a broad spectrum of options for military, law enforcement, and infrastructure protection, even as the lethality and variety of drones continue to evolve.
Drone threats will always vary significantly by mission, use case and environment, so forces and organizations must carefully evaluate their specific needs. In many cases, it’s best to preserve flexibility and agility since the drone threat can be unpredictable.
Systems must offer multiple deployment options, gaining optimized coverage for a wide variety of scenarios, conditions, and terrain types. Cyber solutions, for example, can be affixed to vehicles or ships, covertly, if necessary, set up as stationary on low or high ground, or taken into the field for tactical use. Hardware should be lightweight and compact, with the ability to rapidly take it apart, move and reassemble it in minutes.
Focusing on safety, control, and continuity, with an innovative and flexible approach towards continuously advancing our counter-UAS solutions, enables us to always stay a drone threat ahead.