Critical Infrastructure Protecting Critical Infrastructure With The Latest Counter-Drone Technology
The commercialization of drones, also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), in recent years has not only made them more accessible to the general public, but also more readily available to those looking to wreak havoc and cause harm to critical infrastructure. This is one of the reasons counter-drone technology, also called anti-drone technology and counter unmanned aerial systems (C-UAS), is seeing significant growth.
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Despite there being strict regulations governing drone usage (e.g., where they can and cannot be flown, how high they can be flown, etc.), the widespread availability of drone technology has made it difficult to control. To combat this problem, companies specializing in C-UAS are continuously developing more advanced technologies to ensure the safety and security of all critical infrastructure.
Critical Infrastructure Threats Boost Need for Counter-Drone Technology
The popularization of drone technology is driving the need for counter-drone or anti-drone technology to protect critical infrastructure.
Drone technology has rapidly advanced in recent years with adoption coming from a range of users including individuals, industrial and military. Unfortunately, the use of drones, also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS), is not always respon- sible, even being used as weapons. As such, there is a strong growing need for counter-drone technology, also referred to as anti-drone or counter unmanned aerial systems (C-UAS).
“There is increasing concern about the intended or unintended misuse of drones, ranging from invasion of privacy over covert delivery of drugs and weapons, to the endangerment of public figures and terrorist attacks,” said Götz Mayser, Director of C-UAS at Rohde & Schwarz. “With the prolif- eration of small rotary-wing UAS that are easily available, the age of the UAS-threat has become a reality and defending against it will require considerable effort and resources from both industry and the military. C-UAS technologies are becoming the go-to technology for homeland security, law enforcement agencies, private security and other government entities.”
Furthermore, the adoption of drone technology is expected to continue growing especially as use cases and capabilities of drones are further developed. “Looking forward governments must focus on technology that can assist in regulation as opposed to simply counter- or anti-drone technology. It is important to first differentiate between the potential threats from the technology and the various types of drones that need to be monitored,” said Thorsten Chmielus, CEO of Aaronia. He added that it is also essential that end users consider the value of the drones that present threats when considering the value of the equipment used to monitor drones.
According to Mayser, governments are currently looking to develop new defensive capabilities that draw upon autonomous decision-making mechanisms as well as networked sensing systems that are capable of detecting, tracking, identifying and defeating hostile drones over complex and varied environments. “Homeland security, law enforcement agencies, private security and other government entities will put their trust into more multi-effector solutions and countermeasure that include control link jamming, GPS jamming, sensor blinding or disruption of electronics,” Mayser explained.
In terms of overall growth, the global anti-drone market is expected to reach nearly US$2.3 billion by 2024, up from $499 million in 2018, at a CAGR of 28.8 percent, according to a report by MarketsandMarkets. Growth is mainly attributed to increasing terrorism and illicit activities across the world, as well as rising incidences of security breaches by unidentified drones. Furthermore, the number of C-UAS technologies being developed is an indication of the increased threat UAVs are posing to various sectors and regions around the world.
Counter-Drone Technology Demand by Region
From a regional perspective, Dave Preece, Chief Data Officer and VP of Marketing at Fortem Technologies noted that his company has customers in the Middle East, Europe and Asia Pacific that are all in desperate need of counter-drone technology.
“Saudi Arabia, Japan and the U.K. are also good examples. There have been well-publicized drone events where billions of dollars have been lost due to inadequate C-UAS,” Preece added. Research from Frost & Sullivan reported North America, led by the US Department of Defense, is expected to spend substantially more than any other region on C-UAS. It added that the Middle East has shown a lot of interest in C-UAS but due to uncertainty about the technologies, is hesitant to make purchases. On the other hand, Europe has the additional ability to use systems at airports as a result of private ownership and better funding, according to the report.
Latest in Counter-Drone Technology Helps Protect Critical Infrastructure
The latest developments in counter-drone technology are helping critical infrastructure operators fight against the threat of UAVs.
As drone technology gets more advanced, so too must counter-drone — also called anti-drone or counter unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) — technology. From the most basic level, there are a few things that every counter-drone solution must be able to do effectively. According to Dave Preece, Chief Data Officer and VP of Marketing at Fortem Technolgies, a counter-drone solution must be able to see/detect, track, classify, identify and assess all drones in the protected airspace. It must also be able to integrate with existing security systems and sensors, as well as be able to ingest third-party data sets, such as those provided by unmanned traffic management (UTM), automatic dependent surveillance — broadcast (ADS-B) and Remote ID.
“A viable counter-drone system must be able to protect the existing security above and beyond its fence lines and map to rules of engagement and escalation of force protocols that are in place,” Preece said. On the market today there are three basic sensors available for drone detection: radar, radio frequency (RF) monitoring and optical sensors, each of which have their own set of limitations. Thorsten Chmielus, CEO of Aaronia opined that radar technology is ineffi- cient when considering drone detection due to the size of drones and limitations in the radars, such as coverage, opening angles and range.
“The solution further becomes expensive when we consider the need for visual verification due to potential false alarms from birds, leaves falling from trees, sandstorms and more. Because of these problems radar can’t be used as a so-called main sensor,” Chmielus said. On the other hand, RF monitoring presents several benefits including greater range of detection and simulta- neous detection, verification and classification. However, for the most part these systems only offer simple direction finding, or even worse only RF monitoring of common frequency bands, which is of no use since today’s latest generation of drones can operate at any frequency band, Chmielus explained. Preece pointed out that the large majority of anti-drone technology today relies on radio frequency.
“RF solutions are OK for clueless and careless drone operators who are using a drone’s remote control device to fly the drone. In these cases RF solutions can locate a rogue drone and then interrupt the signal by taking it over or jamming it. They can also locate the drone operator,” he said. Unfortunately, now that criminal and terrorist drone operators know they can be detected, they do not employ a remote control.
In fact, according to Preece, criminal operators can fly most drones without detectable RF (RF-silent drones) by using easy-to-use free downloadable software. A report by Frost & Sullivan pointed to “disruptive transformations in the [C-UAS] market” in the form of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that can automate the detection, identi- fication, locating and tracking of drones with minimal false alarms, and directed energy weapons that can mitigate multiple drones quickly and/or simultaneously.
To capitalize on the future of the C-UAS market, Frost & Sullivan recommends that companies develop as-a-service revenue streams with effective systems that are easily transportable; build C-UAS that can detect, locate and track drones no matter what their configuration or mission; and integrate advanced AI into C-UAS to automate as much of the process as possible.
Overcoming Obstacles for More Effective Counter-Drone Technology
Deploying counter-drone technology at critical infrastructure doesn’t come without its obstacles; however, the latest solutions are ready meet these challenges.
Critical infrastructure requires robust counter- drone technology — also called anti-drone or counter unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) — for protection against drone threats. Although there are many challenges when deploying these technologies, counter-drone companies have developed solutions to overcome these obstacles. First, though, it is important to understand that drone technology presents a number of different challenges for traditional surveillance equipment, including, but not limited to, the size of the drone, the angle/ altitude of attack, velocity, multiple drones (swarms), the location of operator and the mode of communi- cation between the drone and the operator, according to Thorsten Chmielus, CEO of Aaronia. While end users are quick to focus on the soft or hard kill measures available for drones, Chmielus warns that these are not effective without efficient and accurate detection since these measures impact existing systems at critical infrastructure. “The focus should be on more than drones, as today most of our infrastructure is dependent on RF systems, these must be efficiently regulated and monitored,” he said. One step critical infrastructure sites can take is to digitize their airspace so they can see everything in it, offered Dave Preece, Chief Data Officer and VP of Marketing at Fortem Technologies. He also recommends working with local authorities to establish no-fly zones for drone enthusiasts.
Companies Offer Solutions to Beat Challenges
Before counter-drone technology can be deployed effectively, it is important to define the potential threats and the value of the critical infrastructure, according to Chmielus. Aaronia offers completely modular systems, which allows the company to provide greater protection in areas deemed as critical and offer a hierarchy of sensors to ensure a fully integrated solution that is efficient and consid- erate of end-user requirements. They aim to bridge the gap between radar and RF-monitoring by offering a 3D RF solution, which can monitor the complete spectrum of RF (20 MHz to 20 GHz) in 3D and real-time.
Chmielus pointed out that although the focus today is on “silent” drones, just because you cannot hear something does not mean it is not making some noise. By providing complete spectrum monitoring, Aaronia offers the opportunity to detect any device emitting any frequency.
“You must consider the value of the threat and in most cases, these are homemade devices that definitely emit some frequency. Satellite communi- cation is heavily regulated and expensive, as such it is unlikely that most threats are operating completely silent. Technology has become easily accessible; it is possible to procure transmitters that can be set at any frequency for a few hundred dollars with no regulation,” Chmielus explained.
Additionally, Aaronia’s patented 3D DF antenna provides the altitude of the drone, or any flying RF emitter (e.g., 4G phones), together with the coordi- nates of the drone at 1-degree accuracy. “This is essential as we are speaking about flying targets — without altitude it is impossible to move and focus a high zoom PTZ camera to the target,” Chmielus said. False alarms are also a big challenge for counter-drone technology. Fortem SkyDome’s ThreatAware with TrueView radar RCS and doppler, impact assessment AI, Pattern of Life algorithms and real-time EO/IR cueing help bring the false alarm issue under control.
Another challenge for many counter- drone technologies is not being able to see all the objects in 3D space. Fortem Technologies touts a proprietary, AI-based radar on which its C-UAS solutions are built. “Fortem SkyDome uses our TrueView radar and sees all the drones in the airspace regardless if they are emitting RF or not. Every drone is detected, tracked, classified and identified as a threat or not using Fortem SkyDome’s ThreatAware engine,” Preece explained.
Fortem’s solution conducts threat assessment of drones in the protected airspace multiple times per second. “SkyDome has deep integration with several EO/IR cameras that are cued multiple times per second to provide streaming video of the drone in question. Drones that are assessed as a high enough threat can be mitigated by the Fortem DroneHunter. DroneHunter can be launched to conduct surveillance and to provide another visual angle of the drone in question. SkyDome also integrates with existing security systems, drone remote ID, UTM and ADS-B to provide seamless and complete situational awareness and drone disambiguation.”