Counter Drone Technology

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Counter Drone Technology

 

Need For Future Unmanned Warfare

 

 

The global drone market is booming and is expected to accelerate from USD 22.5 billion in 2020 to over USD 42.8 billion in 2025 at CAGR of 13.8 per cent. The proliferation of drones has thrown up new societal challenges to security and privacy of both individuals and organizations. The world has lately seen spectacular and innovative methods of utilization of drones by nations at war – as seen in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict & also in the recent Russia-Ukraine war.

 

Drones Market – Growth Rate by Region (2020-2025)

India has seen a significant increase in the use of drones for both military and civilian purposes. UAS technologies are continuously evolving. It cannot be disputed that the drone poses threats to public security and personal privacy. Recent surveys have revealed that as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) become cheap, easy to fly, and more adaptable for crime, terrorism or military purposes, defence forces will increasingly be challenged by the need to quickly detect and identify such aircraft.

Need for Counter Drone Technology

In July 2018, terrorists claimed to have used armed drone to attack the international airport in Abu Dhabi. In August the same year there was a failed assassination attempt against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro which left a few in the audience injured. In September 2019 it was reported that drones flew in from Pakistan a few times to airdrop a cache of arms, ammunition and fake currency which was seized in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district. On 26-27 June 2021, two explosions rocked the high security technical area of Air Force Station, Jammu. These incidents accentuate the potential disruptions and destruction that drones can cause.

 

Drone Attacks and Concerns

Over the past three years, drones have been deployed regularly by Pakistan based outfits to smuggle arms, ammunition and drugs into Indian territory. Drones fly low and therefore cannot be detected by any radar system. According to government figures, 167 drone sightings were recorded along the border with Pakistan in 2019, in 2020, there were 77 such sightings. In 2021, the figure rose to 194. Drones are becoming security threats particularly in conflict zones where non-state actors are active and have easy access to the technology.

Pakistani Drones carrying explosive shot down along Jammu border

 

Drones have low Radar Cross Section (RCS), slow speed and a small size. All these characteristics make the task of detection very difficult, and identification and localization even more so.

 

Using Counter Rogue Drones

Defeating a drone can involve a various different techniques. Some of the techniques may involve kinetic means, electronic warfare (EW) and cyber warfare (CW) techniques, Drone vs drone, and Directed Energy Weapons (DEW) using high-powered microwave or Lasers.

Birds of Prey

 

Eagles have been trained to capture small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS) and drones.

Drone Capture By Birds of Prey

 

Various Challenges with  Counter Drone Technology

The challenges being faced today with respect to counter-drone technology is manifold as drone technology is growing by leaps and bounds. Reconnaissance, Intelligence, Surveillance & Target Acquisition (RISTA) & Electronic Warfare systems will have to work together to tackle the threat of both stand-alone and drone swarms.

Identification Friend or Foe

The identification of friend or foe drones shall always remain challenging, with the use of drones for all unethical purposes by non-state actors. With systems in place to reduce the effectiveness of drone jamming (sandboxing), novel kinetic kill methods will have to be developed.

The defence sector is expected to account for a major share of the anti-drone market in the years to come. The use of drones for cross border terrorism, smuggling, and spying are on the rise.

Drone technology and its demand is increasing at a rapid pace, so the anti-drone systems have to evolve at a similar pace. Though there are drone detection, tracking and interdiction technologies in the market, these systems are not foolproof and have got their own performance limitations, risks and legal implications.

The anti-drone systems will definitely be expensive owing to the technology involved. However, costs involved should not thwart the innovations.  There is nothing that stops India from finally having a drone vs drone ‘dogfight’ or a swarm-against-swarm type of architecture. A situation where drones are “scrambled” to engage and nullify a threat will no longer be mere material for fiction. Indeed, drones being used as a ‘loyal wingman’ are already under test.

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