News | Sep 16, 2019

Counter-drone business is about to boom. Here’s 6 technologies inspired by a growing problem.

New generations of commercially available drones boast longer ranges, better cameras, and complex features that can be modified, exploited, and weaponized.

Flo Maderebner

A string of attacks early Saturday morning damaged two oil refineries in Saudi Arabia, momentarily disrupting fuel production and escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf.

The attacks deep inside Saudi territory were reportedly carried out with drones controlled by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, part of a regional militant network backed by Iran.

The tactics and weapons underscore the effectiveness of small drones and a global proliferation linked to falling costs driven by commercial availability.

Commercial off-the-shelf drones have been weaponized by militant groups like the Islamic State and foreign militaries like Russia’s, prompting a surge in counter-drone research across the U.S. Department of Defense’s laboratories, and according to Raytheon, growing international sales.

For example, the U.S. Army’s Armaments Center has invented several counter-drone munitions, including an electromagnetic pulse rifle and a net munition for 40mm grenade launchers.

Last week, the same research lab received U.S. Patent 10,408,591 for another 40mm munition known as the “stackable kinetic energy ring cartridge,” a simple design that increases the likelihood of damaging an enemy drone using a shotgun effect of metal rings.

“During testing, it was discovered that it is crucial for the rings to be released ‘cleanly’ in order for them to fly in a stable manner. This entails releasing the rings as a stack without impeding the forward motion of the rings. As a result, a ‘capless’ sabot was designed in order to release the stack of rings without thus disturbing them,” according to the Army’s new patent.

And here are three more recently designed counter-drone technologies. Like the three above, each was invented inside the Department of Defense, are patented or patent-pending, and still need a private company to obtain a license agreement to make, use, or sell them.

Drone integrated acquisition tracker

The Naval Surface Warfare Center–Crane has invented a system for detecting, tracking, and potentially commandeering a drone. For counter-drone missions, the system can transmit signals to jam the command and control, telemetry, video, and GPS of the drone. The system can also send legitimate but spoofed signals to deceive the drone and operators.

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Drone delivered counter-drone net

The Air Force has invented a novel technology to capture drones in use (while flying, driving along the ground, or operating at sea). The solution involves the use of a friendly drone that carries an RF Isolating Containment Unit, a mesh cage tethered below the friendly drone and sufficient in size to contain the unfriendly drone.

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In-flight detection, tracking, commandeering rogue drone system

This Navy-developed technology uses a 700 MHz wireless system allowing streaming of the ROV DCPS to a ground receiving system. The MC includes an external GPS and 2.5 GHz USB Alfa Ubuntu installed with hacking tools and autonomous scripts that seek out, either autonomously or by command, ROV systems or rogue systems’ wireless signals used to control or communicate with the ROV to hack and block or hack and compromise and/or control the ROV.

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Headshot Image of Brian Metzger, PhD, CLP

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