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A Drone Guard Ready to Protect Critical Sites

Aero India 2019 SpecialBy SP’s CorrespondentPhoto(s): By IAI
Drone Guard

As unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and drones become more common in our daily life, they also become potential threats. Whether used by innocent enthusiasts to snoop into a local airport, smuggle drugs or weapons into a prison, or laden with explosive on a terrorist attack, drones are regarded as potential danger for certain critical assets and secured locations. However, the means available to regulate and control drone access to protected areas are limited.

Small, slow and low flying vehicles multirotor drones are hardly spotted from the ground by radar, camera or the human eye. When spotted over sensitive areas such as airports, drones can cause significant disruptions – as the three-day closure of London Gatwick in December 2018 has shown. Such incidents have made it clear that authorities need new tools to regulate and enforce drone restrictions to ensure public safety, security and privacy.

Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) operationally proven Drone Guard counter-UAS system meets this need. The latest version has been optimized for operation in high security environments such as airports, prisons and strategic infrastructures. As a system integrating multiple sensors to detect, classify, identify and track drone targets, Drone Guard employs a multilayered approach to manage drone activity and defeat targets suspected to be dangerous or hostile.

When protecting a secured site such as an airport or other highly secured facility, DroneGuard can be controlled from the operations center. The system’s sensors and effectors may be located in multiple outposts, in fixed or temporary locations covering the entire premises. Deployment of multiple units enable operators to employ electronic means to effectively jam and ‘takeover’ or spoof suspected drones using low power effectors, thus minimizing the potential of electromagnetic interference. Such an array monitors the entire secured area, inside and outside, effectively detecting and locating drone activity immediately as it appears and even locates their operators beyond the protected perimeter. Such systems also track the activity of drones authorized to operate inside the protected area.

The system relies on radar and Communications Intelligence (COMINT) as the means to detect drone activity in and around the protected area. Some types of radars can even track hovering drones, or drones being prepared for takeoff, by the unique signature emitted by their rotors. The radar model used for the Drone Guard is ELTA ELM-2026B X-band radar.

The active radar is the first line of detection. The detection is robust and is based only on the drone movement and not on radio transmission. The radar detects targets in all-weather condition.

The passive COMINT is used to detect and classify drone activity by the electromagnetic signals emitted from the drone and ground control unit. Based on the most advanced techniques derived from military systems, Drone Guard intercepts and interprets both familiar signals from commercial systems as well as unfamiliar signals of hacked drones. Drone Guard’s COMINT spots such signals from several kilometers, including in situations beyond the line of sight of EO and radar sensors.

Once a drone presence is verified, the radar directs the Electro-Optical (EO) system to identify it. The EOcamera is the Drone Guard’s third sensing channel, used to visually verify a target and track it within the line of sight. As a passive sensor EO can track targets that have minimal radar reflection and no electromagnetic signature.

The different sensors are part of Drone Guard’s multilayered detection capability, maximizing the system’s efficiency and enabling authorities to manage situations and recommend the most appropriate enforcement and response.

Once detected and identified, operators can deal with the drones as required. Some response suffices tracking only, others require documentation, and evidence collection pursuing criminal charges against the operators. Drone Guard provides such capabilities with the data recording from COMINT and the EO camera. Deterring drone operators, security forces can quickly dispatch to apprehend rogue drone operators, relying on Drone Guard’s indications. When operational needs require immediate ceasing of the drone’s activity, Drone Guard provides various possibilities to deal with the situation.

The most basic is the use of electronic countermeasures against the drone’s control and navigation channels, using different protocols to ‘fend off’ a drone from the guarded premises or bring it down safely using cyber ‘takeover’ and spoofing methods. In a civilian environment the use of electronic countermeasures, such as GPS or communications jamming is restricted, as it may jeopardize air traffic safety, other counter-UAS measures are employed. In such events Drone Guard supports various ‘Hard Kill’ measures, such as net guns and firearms, integrated with special sights to effectively aim and engage drones when they are in sight.

Employing the latest software defined electronics to provide an agile and adaptable C-UAS platform sets Drone Guard apart from numerous C-UAS systems available in the market. Based on operational lessons learned, ELTA has tailored Drone Guard to address a wide range of applications, from relatively simple deployments monitoring and alerting drone activity in a civilian area to conducting military C-UAS missions within a challenging electromagnetic environment. Drone Guard is best prepared to counter present and evolving threats and endure the most challenging situations.