The Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) landscape is rapidly evolving, posing growing challenges to the Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) and their defense and security partners. This evolution is marked by a swift increase in UAS availability, affordability, complexity, and capabilities, heightening the risks. Potential adversaries are adapting UAS designs to outmaneuver current Counter-Uncrewed Aerial System (CUAS) capabilities. They achieve this by reducing UAS visibility, minimizing radio-frequency emissions, enhancing autonomy, and operating at higher speeds, rendering existing CUAS approaches ineffective. Addressing this challenge requires solutions that consider today’s threats and anticipate emerging UAS and CUAS capabilities, envisioning how they may be detected, neutralized, or even exploited in the future.
Canada’s 2017 defense policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged” (SSE), identified CUAS as a top priority, emphasizing the need to develop the appropriate capabilities to identify and defend against the growing threat posed by remotely piloted systems (page 73).
The Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) leads the CUAS efforts, collaborating closely with the Canadian Army (CA), Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM), and even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The information presented in this IDEaS CUAS challenge reflects the collective interests of one or more of these services and the RCMP.
What is the CUAS Sandbox?
Successful applicants in this CUAS challenge will be able to demonstrate their solutions at CFB Suffield, Alberta, from May 27 to June 21, 2024. Notably, selected participants will be present for specific durations within this timeframe. The DND/CAF will provide a well-equipped and fully staffed test environment at CFB Suffield tailored for the challenge. This includes access to test articles, weapon ranges, airborne targets, imagery, data collection facilities, operational scenarios, work and storage spaces, security measures, and more. Moreover, on-site experts from the military, RCMP, US Department of Defence (IWTSD), DND/CAF, and other government safety and security potential users will offer valuable observational feedback to innovators regarding their solutions.
It’s important to note that no fees are associated with using the Sandbox for innovators. Innovators will operate their prototypes per their test and demonstration plans, receiving immediate on-site feedback from end-users. This is not a competitive event with innovators publicly vying against each other before a panel of judges. Instead, the focus is on fostering proactive, one-on-one engagement and a collaborative environment where innovators are encouraged to support each other.
In summary, the CUAS Sandbox offers several benefits:
- Prototype Refinement: Innovators can refine and develop their prototypes during and after the Sandbox, including iterative testing and on-site improvements, while receiving direct feedback from DND/CAF, RCMP, and IWTSD representatives.
- Influencing Future Decisions: DND/CAF personnel can gain insights into potential solutions to address the challenge, which may influence future acquisition decisions.
- Networking and Exposure: Innovators can interact and discuss with others in the field, including selected allied military and security partners, thereby expanding their exposure within and beyond the Sandbox experience.
CAF Projects With Interest in CUAS Systems
The following CAF projects have a direct interest in CUAS systems and the results of this challenge:
- Canadian Forces Land Electronic Warfare Modernization (CFLEWM). CFLEWM is upgrading the Army’s Mobile Electronic Warfare Teams in Light and Armoured platforms. While dedicated CUAS capabilities are out of scope for CFLEWM, a beneficial outcome would be understanding how multi-role EW Sense and Attack capabilities can contribute to the CUAS fight and how dedicated CUAS sensors could be integrated into the EW sensor network.
- Land Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Modernization (Land ISR Mod). Land ISR Mod is investigating capabilities capable of providing sensor systems for targeting. This project is mandated under SSE Initiative #42 and is funded. This project is in Options Analysis transitioning to Definition.
- Counter Uncrewed Aerial Systems (CUAS). A specific CUAS initiative investigates CUAS systems capable of defending critical infrastructure, vehicles, and personnel from Micro and Mini UAS. This project is not funded at this time; consequently, an intended date for any future procurement cannot yet be stated.
UAS threats manifest across a spectrum of operational scenarios, with five specific scenarios holding particular significance for defensive measures. It is highly desirable for a solution to address these scenarios comprehensively, maximizing its effectiveness in each case:
- Operating Base: This scenario involves defending a stationary position, such as a Forward Operating Base (FOB), airfield, or VIP conference location. Here, the CUAS system can be deployed in a static position without significant constraints on equipment size and power consumption. The defended area forms a circular perimeter with a radius of 2.5 km. The CUAS systems, in terms of location and quantity, must be positioned within this circle, extending their effective range beyond the perimeter to deter UAS intrusions.
- Mobile Vehicle: In this scenario, the challenge is to defend a mobile vehicle force, typically comprising a patrol convoy of five vehicles. The CUAS system must be vehicle-mounted and engineered for mobility, creating a protective zone around the vehicles while they are in motion.
- Dismounted Personnel: Defending a small group of 12 dismounted soldiers or a VIP entourage in an isolated setting is the focus here. The CUAS system and its power source must be “Person Portable.” Ideally, it should be operable while the group moves, establishing a protective sphere around it.
- Urban Environment: This scenario unfolds in complex urban settings with cluttered infrastructure, obstacles, and electromagnetic interference. The defended area encompasses a major city downtown, comprising a 4 x 4 block square, with some or all of the blocks featuring office towers of up to 10 stories. The CUAS system must navigate this intricate environment effectively.
- Naval Environment: In this scenario, the objective is to defend a naval vessel, specifically an RCN frigate. The ship operates in diverse littoral waters, ranging from expansive straits to confined harbor entrances. The CUAS equipment must contend with challenges such as the ship’s superstructure, unique electromagnetic conditions around the vessel, varying speeds and movements of the ship, diverse coastal, urban, and port landscapes, and long-term exposure to the corrosive marine salt environment.
Who Can Apply?
Applications for this opportunity are open to a wide range of entities, including individuals, academic institutions, not-for-profit organizations, businesses of any size, and provincial, territorial, and municipal organizations. However, federal government departments, agencies, and federal Crown Corporations are not eligible to apply.
Interestingly, foreign companies are also permitted to submit applications. While the use of made-in-Canada products and solutions is not an exclusive requirement for sandboxes, the extent of Canadian content within each application will be considered during the evaluation process, as outlined in section 6 of the Application Form.
Applications are due before 2:00 p.m. EST on October 5, 2023.
For more information, visit Counter Uncrewed Aerial Systems Sandbox 2024.
Post Image Credit: Adobe Stock by Gary L Hider)