Counter-UAS Products Emerging to Meet Security Needs
This is article two in a series of four articles exploring the Counter-UAS industry. If you haven’t yet read the first article, it can be found here- The Emergence of the Counter-UAS Industry.
If there is one word used to exemplify the Counter-Uncrewed Aircraft System (C-UAS) industry over the past decade, that word chosen would be ‘ingenious.’ Whether it be the vast array of products to assist Counter-UAS operators or the innovations made in camera technology to assist C-UAS missions, it becomes clear quickly that the industry requires a high degree of flexibility, ingenuity, and agility to keep pace with evolving threats. This article will provide an overview of the variety of products serving the C-UAS market and showcase more specific product examples currently provided by industry leaders.
Any organization, including public safety and law enforcement, should be aware that the functionality of some C-UAS products, such as radio frequency (RF) jamming solutions and some RF detection solutions, may violate federal laws and regulations (1). Due diligence should be exercised before committing to any C-UAS products and services.
Industry Started with Existing Solutions
The Counter-UAS industry has grown by repurposing several existing technologies like RF detection systems, radar, and camera technology to improve drone tracking and identification capabilities. Several companies have also emerged with custom solutions such as laser platforms, collision drones, and even futuristic, handheld jamming guns to help drive further growth. C-UAS, or airspace awareness and protection products, generally fall under three distinct categories, which include Mitigation & Interdiction (M&I) products, Detect, Track and Identify (DTI) solutions, then generalized or specialized product types which include computing equipment, software, custom vehicles, and geospatial surveying solutions (2).
These systems can be deployed on various platform types depending on the mission. These platforms, defined in more detail later in this article, include ground, aircraft, and maritime variants. The below infographic summarizes the primary product types per their general classification and C-UAS mission purpose.
More sophisticated products also exist, often called Multi-System or Multi-Sensor C-UAS Solutions. These systems will typically combine multiple M&I or DTI product types depicted above as part of a more comprehensive defense-in-depth solution. These Multi-System solutions provide different methods to detect or mitigate drone threats and provide the end-user with flexibility, depending on the types of UAS or tactics used by sophisticated threat actors.
For a more detailed definition of each C-UAS product outlined previously, the below series of tables provide more context to begin understanding key differences between each product type and the individual solutions which reside within them.
Detect, Track & Identify
Mitigation & Interdiction Systems
Deployment Platform Types
Now that a more solid understanding of C-UAS products has been obtained, the article will delve into examples of products offered by a variety of C-UAS providers who are leading the charge in the industry, assisting their customers with lowering their aerial risk profile and helping them achieve their drone security or mission objectives.
Echodyne, the radar platform company, offers several sophisticated close and medium-range products to satisfy C-UAS mission objectives. Echodyne’s software-defined C-UAS radar products, EchoGuard CR, EchoGuard, and EchoShield, achieve high standards for their compact, lightweight, solid-state format and commercial pricing, resulting in a highly scalable and flexible C-UAS solution. The EchoGuard product is a fixed or portable active beam-steering 4D radar best used to monitor ground-based areas or the airspace surrounding critical facilities and infrastructure (3). As a multi-mission radar, EchoGuard simultaneously detects and tracks ground (vehicles: 3.5 km; humans: 2.2 km) and airborne (sUAS: 1.5 km) threats, with some variation in the detection range based on the actual threat entering a monitored area (3).
EchoShield sensors boast a 4x greater range than its EchoGuard counterpart, achieving threat detection and active tracking of targets at distances of 20 kilometers2. Echodyne CTO, Tom Driscoll, Ph.D., provided comments noting, “Echodyne’s proprietary MESA technology creates breakthrough radar performance in any operating condition.” Tom went on to note that “Echodyne provides highly advanced radar technology to non-Defense markets at commercial price points, with a focus on delivering high fidelity data that improves fusion, heightens awareness, and protects critical infrastructure.” Dr. Driscoll ended by stating “Of all the C-UAS solutions available today, radar is a standout which can operate completely in all weather and lighting conditions, serving as a necessary and essential addition to any enterprise perimeter surveillance portfolio containing heightened risk.”
Radio Frequency Detection
Transitioning to AeroDefense and its AirWarden RF-based sensor network, this passive DTI product is focused on detecting RF communications emitted by drones or their controllers, assisting C-UAS operators with quickly identifying drone aircraft flying over protected areas, like an airport or prison complex (4). CEO Linda Ziemba goes on to further describe the patented AirWarden system, noting, “The system tracks both the drones and the persons flying them, enabling security personnel to quickly find and apprehend the drone operator, which is a best-case scenario versus drone mitigation overcrowded areas which could have unpredictable results.” Ziemba commented that AirWarden leverages a proprietary spectrum sensing methodology allowing it to identify known drone manufacturer types and unknown drones that are built using homemade kits. “AirWarden contains other great features such as anti-spoofing measures when attempts by drone pilots occur to misdirect detection efforts and also lowers the legal risk for our customers because the solution doesn’t demodulate or interfere with the RF signals it captures, ensuring our product doesn’t violate federal wiretapping laws.” said Ziemba.
AirWarden deploys an open architecture model allowing it to integrate with existing customer security solutions, deploying with either a fixed sensor antenna, mounting to existing infrastructure or as a mobile sensor, allowing sensors to be mounted to marine vessels, land vehicles, and in other portable configurations.
Squarehead’s Discovair G2 Acoustic Sensor solutions, also a DTI product, attempt to passively monitor for sound-based emissions from drone platforms, particularly the propellors attached to drone airframes, alerting security personnel to their location and allowing them to execute their C-UAS standard operating procedures (5). Squarehead’s Director of Defense Business Development, Knut Moe provided more details on their leading Discovair G2 solution, noting, “There are classes of drones that avoid detection by the more traditional RF and radar C-UAS solutions, which greatly increases customer risk.” “Our product has grown by helping our customers understand the need for a blend of sensor technology and evolving effectors, including our acoustic offerings.” Said Moe.
The Discovair G2 provides flexibility for fixed or mobile installations, not requiring a strict line of sight to track drone targets. Leveraging a patented array of microphones and an open architecture similar to other products featured previously, the Discovair G2 can be used to secure building perimeters or larger areas like a geographical border. Real-time data is fed back to C-UAS operations personnel in a Graphical User Interface (GUI), displaying drone threats on a map based on the sector where they were detected. Moe noted, “We can output date to most C2 systems through the API.”
Other Unique Products to Meet End User Requirements
Other unique products have emerged to meet specific user requirements developed from this unique security mission.
Boresight Pty Ltd, an Australian-based company, has designed cost-effective UAS to be used as targets across various training and testing scenarios. Their product offerings include quadcopter and vertical take-off and land (VTOL) options that can fly consistent pre-defined flight profiles and scenarios (6).
RF Detection, Jamming, and C2 Solutions
Companies like DroneShield and Dedrone have emerged to provide a variety of airspace awareness and protection solutions for the industry. Dedrone, for example, has its proprietary C2 solution called DedroneTracker. DedroneTracker can integrate Dedrone’s RF detection solutions and other 3rd party sensors such as radars, cameras, acoustic, and various mitigation solutions. They have also developed multiple handheld RF jamming solutions- the DedroneDefender and DroneDefender (7).
DroneShield has also developed multiple handheld RF jamming solutions. Their DroneGun Tactical and DroneGunMk3 provide a portable mitigation option for drone threats. DroneShield offers a mobile detection solution, the RfPatrol, that can be worn on the body. DroneSentry-X is a detect and defeat option for both mobile and fixed-site missions. Their C2 solution- DroneSentry-C2 can integrate DroneShield detection and mitigation solutions and other existing security systems (8).
High Power Microwave
Epirus, a company based out of Los Angeles, offers a software-defined high-power microwave (HPM) solution effective against various electronic threats, including drones. Leonidas™ can neutralize a single system in tight, crowded spaces or disable multiple threats across a wide area (9).
Radio Frequency Jamming
BlueHalo provides various layered defense solutions, including a High Energy Laser (HEL), the LOCUST Laser Weapon System, as well as theTitan™ C-UAS that provide radio-frequency-based airspace awareness and mitigation options for the user (10).
An integral airspace awareness capability evolving is the development of slew-to-cue EO/IR camera solutions with real-time AI processing. The AirScout from Walaris fuses data from deployed sensors, running billions of computations in real-time to identify known patterns or objects (11). This technology will play a significant role as drones migrate away from traditional RF command and control technology.
Only the beginning…
This article has only scratched the surface of the wide variety of incredible C-UAS products driving improved outcomes for UTM, ATM, and airspace awareness and protection security applications. A key takeaway from this article is that there is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach when selecting and operating a C-UAS solution.
Enterprises must juggle several factors as they seek to evaluate, test, and onboard a C-UAS product, including an assessment of legal risk, ongoing budget analysis, the flexibility of the solution, and its ability to integrate with existing enterprise security solutions. Enterprises must also carefully assess the specific drone threats which may impact their business operations and ensure any C-UAS solution candidates fully meet the needs of the business and can return ongoing value back to enterprise stakeholders.
In the following article, we will delve deeper into C-UAS services, understand how they differ slightly from C-UAS products, and how they have emerged to satisfy increased demand for airspace security and protection operations.
See article #1 in this series- The Emergence of the Counter-UAS Industry
See article #3 in this series- Counter-UAS Services are a Security Force Multiplier
See Article #4 in this series- Exploring C-UAS Job Opportunities and Events
1. US Government Accountability Office Report on C-UAS considerations, including lawful use – https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-22-105705
2. Bard College Counter-UAS systems Report Sources – https://dronecenter.bard.edu/projects/counter-drone-systems-project/
3. Echodyne EchoGuard product sheet – https://www.echodyne.com/documents/
4. Description of AeroDefense’ AirWarden – https://www.aerodefense.tech/airwarden-drone-detection-system
5. Squarehead Discovair G2 Solution overview – https://www.sqhead.com/drone-detection/
6. Boresight overview- https://www.boresighttargets.com/
7. Dedrone overview- https://www.dedrone.com/
8. DroneShield overview- https://www.droneshield.com/
9. Epirus overview- https://www.epirusinc.com/
10. BlueHalo overview- https://bluehalo.com/
11. Walaris overview- https://walaris.com/