The Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) has been extremely busy testing counter-drone technologies and evaluating their effectiveness in various environments and mission types. DHS S&T recently released a summary of its activities in 2023 and provided a preview of upcoming technology assessment activities in 2024.

To counteract the potential malicious use of drones, DHS S&T conducted assessments of innovative counter-unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS) technologies, also known as counter-drone technologies, through two live demonstrations last summer. Before these events, DHS S&T issued two public requests for information (RFI) in April 2023 to collect vendor data about existing counter-drone technologies. One RFI was to test innovative technologies to counter “dark” unmanned aircraft system (UAS) swarms, and the other was to assess kinetic mitigation capabilities for countering small UAS. The most promising solutions were selected to participate in the subsequent live demonstrations.

Kinetic Mitigation System Testing

In a live demonstration held at Camp Grafton South in North Dakota, several vendors participated in assessing the collateral effects of kinetic mitigation systems, which physically alter, bring down, or destroy drones using forces like projectiles, nets, photon plasma from lasers, and electromagnetic or radio waves. The purpose was to collect information on the potential unintended consequences or collateral effects, such as falling debris from intercepted drones. The University of North Dakota (UND), Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS), and accessND provided personnel and expertise for the demonstration.

Following a live demonstration assessing the collateral effects of kinetic mitigation systems against drones, initial observations have provided a basic understanding of these effects. Further analysis of the results aims to establish a basic methodology for measuring collateral effects. DHS seeks to develop an understanding of the kinetic mitigation capabilities of current counter-drone technologies, assess the inherent risks, and determine potential damage that may result from their use.

Counter Swarm and Dark UAS Testing

The second live demonstration evaluated non-kinetic solutions for detecting, tracking, identifying, and countering swarms of small UAS remotely controlled. It also assessed technologies capable of detecting and mitigating “dark” drones emitting minimal or no radio frequency (RF) signals, noise, or emissions. The demonstration aimed to address potential threats posed by drone swarms in scenarios like interfering with first responders or launching distributed assaults on critical infrastructure during events of national or international importance. The event occurred at the Oklahoma State University Unmanned Aircraft Flight Station in Stillwater, Oklahoma, collaborating with industry partner Amentum Services, Inc. and the OSU C-UAS Center of Excellence.

The event drew visitors from U.S. homeland and defense agencies and foreign government partners. Six technology vendors also participated—three from the United States, and three were international.

Upcoming DHS S&T Tests in 2024

Following the promising evaluations and initial findings, DHS S&T and its partners are analyzing results from both events to determine future testing needs and prioritize research and development investments. Demonstrations for kinetic counter-drone technologies are planned for summer to assess collateral impacts and test additional technologies. The goal is to enhance the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) capabilities to safeguard the homeland against potential threats from UAS.

Post Image Credit- Oklahoma State University