Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System (C-UAS) is a military term describing solutions that detect, track, disrupt, and ultimately destroy unmanned airborne aircraft. C-UAS, also known as Counter or Anti-Drones, can be employed in both commercial and industrial environments.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued the first commercial drone permit in 2006, allowing commercial drones to fly legally. Until then, drones were only available to the military. Thanks to organizations like CSMI, this technology has grown in recent years and is now widely available in the commercial, industrial, and consumer markets.
Drones are now used for a wide range of tasks, including:
- Small package deliveries
- Inspections of industrial sites
- Infrastructure monitoring
- Agricultural monitoring
- Emergency response
- Security surveillance
- Military operations
CSMI was founded in 2002 to provide expertise and experience to the Aerospace and Defense sectors. Our team has expertise in technology integration, integrated logistical support, operations and sustainment, and lifecycle support and training.
Our experience enables us to offer our customers a full technology lifecycle support solution for both domestic and international deployments. Continue reading to learn more about counter unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS) and why this technology is in such high demand.
Drone Flying Is Becoming a Big Risk
While drones have numerous advantages, their small size and weight, as well as their capacity to be controlled from up to 5 kilometers away, make them a significant risk. This is owing to their capacity to quickly circumvent practically all physical security measures already in place.
Needless to say, ensuring that these drones are not used to spy, trespass, or endanger the public is quite difficult. Furthermore, they can be used to fly in restricted airspaces, such as hospital helipads or airports.
A well-known incident occurred at Gatwick Airport, in London, England, a few years ago. Reports of drones buzzing around the airport began to mount. Because this occurred during the peak of the holiday travel season, the airport was closed for more than 30 hours. Over 1000 flights were canceled as a result of this incident, affecting over 140,000 travelers.
As a result of the drone incident, the cost to airlines was approximately $65 million. Worse, authorities were unable to locate the drone pilot or even determine where they were operating from. The perpetrator(s) were never apprehended.
Demand for C-UAS Is Growing
The incident at Gatwick Airport has highlighted the growing concern with other large gathering events such as concerts, sports, and, of course, political/governmental meetings. Furthermore, we must now consider the implementation of numerous commercial applications that will use our sky from below 400 feet in altitude.
The rise of C-UAS technology is due in part to the new concerns raised by the increased use of drones in both civilian and military settings. Systems that are smaller and less expensive, in particular. Small drones have proliferated at an alarming rate in the military domain, alarming battlefield commanders and planners alike.
The further you go down this rabbit hole of potential drone risks, the clearer it becomes why we need more robust C-UAS solutions.
Drones Are Now Standard Military Equipment
Previously, drones were exclusively available to countries with advanced aircraft programs. Now, even state actors with limited resources can have competent aerial command of the battlespace thanks to these smaller, less expensive drones.
According to a recent study, at least 95 countries now have active military drone programs. This is a 58 percent increase from a decade ago. Furthermore, at least 21,000 military drones are likely in use around the world.
Drones are, predictably, becoming a more popular weapon among non-state actors. These organizations make extensive use of technology for surveillance, battlespace control, propaganda, and aerial strike attacks.
This technology is expected to advance rapidly in the coming years. As a result, C-UAS systems will become a common weapon in all future conflicts.
C-UAS Civilian Security and Law Enforcement
Counter-drone technologies are also expected to become an important tool for civilian security and law enforcement. This comes at a time when unmanned aerial vehicles are being used for a variety of nefarious purposes.
Consumer drones and hobby kit aircraft can be easily converted into crude but potentially lethal guided missiles or other airborne attack systems. Security and law enforcement officials now describe the likelihood of a lethal drone attack in the United States or Europe as a matter of “when,” rather than “if.”
Unfortunately, drones can be used for a variety of harmful and/or criminal purposes. This increases the need for robust means to detect rogue unmanned systems and, if necessary, bring them down.
The Problem With Traditional Air Defense Systems
To protect airspace, air defense systems have always been designed with inhabited aircraft in mind. In other words, they’re made to spot, track, and shoot down large, fast-moving targets. However, drones built for civilian usage do not require transponders.
As a result, modern air traffic control systems are unable to detect and monitor them. Detecting drones exclusively based on visual observations is a fool’s errand. Even at a distance of a few hundred feet, drones are practically invisible to the naked eye.
Because of the rise of unmanned aircraft that operate precisely within this loophole in existing military and security defenses, the market for fit-for-purpose C-UAS systems is growing.
How Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-UAS) Can Help
C-UAS systems use a variety of ways to identify and/or intercept drones. The key detection and countermeasures methods used by current market products, as well as the major platform kinds, are described below:
Identification, Detection, and Tracking
- Radar: The radar signature of small unmanned aircraft is formed when the aircraft comes into contact with radiofrequency pulses released by the detection device. These systems frequently employ algorithms to distinguish between drones and other small, low-flying objects, such as birds.
- Radio-frequency (RF): By scanning for the frequencies on which most drones are known to operate, it detects, locates, and in some cases identifies nearby drones.
- Electro-optical (EO): Drones are identified and tracked based on their visual signature.
- Infrared (IR): Drones are identified and tracked using their heat signature.
- Acoustic: Drones are identified by the distinct sounds their motors make. Acoustic systems work by comparing noises heard in the field to a library of sounds made by known drones.
- Combined Sensors: Many systems combine a variety of sensor types to provide a more comprehensive detection, tracking, and identification capability.
- RF Jamming: It disrupts the radio frequency link between the drone and its operator by generating large amounts of RF interference. When the RF link is severed, which can include WiFi links, the drone will usually either descend to the ground or perform a “return to home” maneuver.
- GNSS Jamming: The navigational satellite link of the drone, such as GPS or GLONASS, is disrupted. When a drone’s satellite connection is lost, it will usually hover in place, land, or return home.
- Spoofing: A phony communications or navigation link can be used to take control of or misdirect a drone.
- Dazzling: To “blind” the camera of a drone, a high-intensity light beam or laser is used.
- Laser: Using directed energy, the drone’s airframe is destroyed, causing it to crash to the ground.
- High Power Microwave: Directs high-intensity microwave energy pulses onto the drone, rendering its electronic systems inoperable.
- Nets: Designed to entangle the targeted drone’s rotors.
- Projectile: To destroy incoming unmanned aircraft, regular or custom-designed ammunition is used.
- Collision Drone: A drone that is programmed to collide with another drone.
- Combined Interdiction Elements: To improve the chances of a successful interception, several C-UAS systems employ a combination of interdiction features. Using RF and GNSS jamming capabilities, for example, or using an electronic system as the first line of defense and a kinetic weapon as a backup.
- Ground-based (Fixed): Systems intended for use from either stationary ground positions.
- Ground-based (Mobile): Systems that can be installed on vehicles and/or operated while moving.
- Hand-held: Systems that are designed to be operated manually by a single person. Many of these weapons have the appearance of rifles or other small arms.
- UAV-based: Systems created specifically for mounting on drones.
Counter Unmanned Aircraft System (C-UAS) Is Here to Stay
Implementing C-UAS technology can be beneficial in a variety of circumstances. During a military conflict, C-UAS can be employed to protect bases, naval vessels, convoys, and ground units, for example.
C-UAS technologies can also be useful in civilian settings. They can be used to safeguard critical infrastructure, sensitive sites, and large events such as political conventions and sporting events. C-UAS can also be used to safeguard VIPs and combat aerial smuggling in prisons.
More than ever before, C-UAS technology is being employed for private purposes. In each of these cases, combating a drone is a multi-step process involving interaction between a variety of technologies as well as between those systems and the human operator.
Drone technology is evolving, and developments in this field will present new hurdles for anti-drone systems. The market for unmanned aircraft systems continues to grow, as does the variety of readily available aircraft types.
Current C-UAS systems are adaptable enough to detect and neutralize a wide variety drones of various shapes and sizes. For more information about C-UAS solutions, contact our team at CSMI.