Counter-Drone (Counter-UAS or C-UAS)
Counter-drone systems are an essential part of the airspace security landscape. As uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) have grown in popularity, so have the number of drone incidents. Innovative solutions that detect, track, identify, and mitigate unauthorized or nefarious UAS fill an important security gap in the lower airspace.
What is the difference between a Counter-Uncrewed Aircraft System (C-UAS) and Counter-Drone?
The terms "counter-UAS system" and "counter-drone system" are often used interchangeably. The term "drone" refers specifically to the uncrewed aerial vehicle itself, whereas the term "UAS" refers to all three components necessary for the operation of that vehicle.
The FAA has defined an uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) as: "an uncrewed aircraft and the equipment necessary for the safe and efficient operation of that aircraft"
A UAS refers to the entire uncrewed aerial system, which includes the uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) itself, the control station & the communication between the control station and the vehicle. A counter-UAS or counter-Drone solution is a "counter" system that provides airspace security from those threats.
The Importance of Counter-UAS
As drones become more affordable, widely adopted, regulated, and deployed, organizations and agencies face new security challenges globally in their lower airspace.
Drones can threaten security in a variety of ways, including:
- Airspace obstruction
- Unauthorized media
- Destructive payloads
As drones become more sophisticated and the barrier to entry lowers, it is important that counter-UAS solutions are effective. Hundreds of commercial, government and military customers around the world trust Dedrone’s comprehensive, counter-drone command and control (CUAS C2) solution to protect against the persistent and escalating threat from drones. By leveraging AI and machine learning (ML), Dedrone is the only solution that provides continuous, autonomous interrogation and verification of drones, only elevating high p-uav targets to the operators attention. Whether on-premise / air-gapped or in the cloud, Dedrone customers can easily detect, track, identify, analyze and mitigate drone threats.
The Legality of Counter-UAS Systems
The legislation that governs the C-UAS industry in the USA apply to all three components of a modern UAS. In addition, the legal usage is different for each of the three components (controller, link, & vehicle) and it is important that a counter-UAS solution provider Skyfend understands and applies the proper legal standards to each component of the system.
Counter-UAS systems are used to alert the operator that a drone is in a designated warning zone. These detection systems can be fixed-site or portable, depending on the needs of the operator. They use various detection technologies, including radar, optical and acoustics.
Once a drone is detected, a counter-drone solution may have the capability to track the path of the drone as well as the location of the pilot, providing airspace situational awareness to the operator.
As drones increase in popularity, many organizations have begun to use them in their daily operations. When a counter-uas system identifies a drone signature, the operator can then label a drone as friend or foe, allowing authorized drones to continue functioning without interruption from the C-UAS. The system can also identify the model of the drone, giving security personnel information about the range, speed and payload capabilities of the drone in their airspace.
Drones may be repelled or intercepted using mitigation technologies. Interference signals, for example, might interfere with the drone's operation. Active countermeasures include jamming devices that attempt to disrupt drone communications, missile interception systems designed to bring down uncrewed aircraft, and high-power lasers capable of temporarily blinding or disabling the drone operators.
Types of Counter-UAS technologies
There are several types of counter-UAS technologies:
Some counter-UAS technology use only one type of sensor (ie: just RF or just radar or just acoustics). Others may or may not include one type of mitigation like jamming, takeover or kinetic mitigation. Most military CUAS applications offer an end-to-end kill chain that includes at least one form of DTI that then directs a mitigation option. The most sophisticated CUAS solution act as a C2 CUAS platform and are able to ingest multiple forms of sensor input, fuse this information into a single version of airspace reality and then direct the most appropriate mitigation solution based on the situation at hand. Below are some of the different types of counter-UAS technologies.
Sensors are designed to detect, identify & track UAS in real-time
This section includes sensors that use different technologies to sense drones within their range. Such a solution enables organizations to provide improved airspace situational awareness and take appropriate countermeasures to protect airspace, buildings, aircraft and the public.
Skyfend gathers information from various sensors, analyzes it, and triggers an appropriate response. Our software connects to a variety of detection technologies and is therefore sensor agnostic. Skyfend Hunter, is a integrated detection and jamming of drones CUAS C2 solution that provide real-time intelligence for mainstream drones.
The following are the most effective types of sensors in use today:
The communication link between the UAV (uncrewed aerial vehicle) and the control station is a critical part of the system. Many modern UAS use radio signals in the communication link. RF sensors receive and analyze these radio signals to detect, track and identify drone flights and locate the pilot. RF sensors are “passive,” meaning they can successfully detect UAV without detecting sensor emissions.
Skyfend Defender platform integrates the most popular counter-UAS radar products into our command-and-control (C2) system.
Learn more about about how to include radar in your counter-drone technology stack.
Radio Frequency (RF) Analyzers
The communication link a critical part of the system between the UAV (uncrewed aerial vehicle) and the control station. Most modern UAS use radio signals in the communication link. Radio frequency (RF) sensors receive and analyze these radio signals to detect, identify & track drone operations. RF sensors, acoustic sensors are “passive,” meaning they can successfully detect UAV without detecting sensor emissions.
Our award winning Hunter and Blader radio signal jammer use radio frequence to detect UAVs in real time.
Counter-Drone Acoustic Sensors
Counter-drone acoustic sensors create an acoustic image of the airspace around them and send the information back to a controller or computer system for analysis. Key benefits of acoustic sensors are their ability to sometimes detect drones outside of line-of-sight, including behind obstructions and in darkness or fog. In certain instances, they exceed the detection range of optics. For these reasons, acoustic sensors have a purpose in some drone detection scenarios. As with RF sensors, acoustic sensors are “passive,” or operate without concern for sensor emissions.
Optical sensors enable visual verification of drone incursions. Optical sensors are cameras that are integrated into the Counter UAS system. High-resolution video can provide security providers visual evidence of a drone's payload, allowing them to react to the observable threat. Optical sensors range in sophistication from simple security cameras to highly engineered EO/IR capable cameras.
Skyfend Hunter allows adds the scope payload, Expand the field of view and combine it with a visualization screen to create a unique aerial counter-drone solution.
Counter-UAS mitigation strategies can be divided into four categories:
Each method has its benefits and shortcomings depending on the specific threat at hand and the target that is being protected.
Another way to classify CUAS mitigation options is proactive versus reactive. Proactive countermeasures are techniques that allow for the anticipation of a drone's intended flight path. This allows for the implementation of defensive measures, such as turning off a drone's navigation system or stopping an uncrewed aircraft before it reaches its target. Reactive countermeasures take place once a drone has been detected by sensor systems; these may involve disabling the drone, repositioning defenses to intercept drones flying over sensitive locations, or issuing warnings when a drone is detected nearby (“ie: duck and cover”).
Radio Frequency Jammers
Jammers interfere with the communications link between the drone and the control station. By severing the transmission link, jammers cause the drone to go into its safety protocols meaning that the drone typically sets itself down gently or navigates back to its launch location. Jammers work on all RF drones and also work on drone swarms.
Jammers may be stationary, mounted devices or built into highly mobile, gun-like devices. They can be directed as a conic beam or an omni-directional force.
Skyfend hunter drone jammer is a compact, cost effective, all-in-one anti-drone jammer that can detect and jam the signals of all advanced small unmanned aerial vehicle (SUAV) threats. The device detects drone signals in all directions and provides users with preemptive warnings.
Skyfend Hunter jams in the most common frequencies in which drones operate and effectively counters a wide range of COTS UAS.
Cyber-takeover is a way of mitigating a drone by taking over the drone remotely, by impersonating the control station. It is done by hacking into the drone, essentially tricking the drone to switch fromthe legitimate controller. Cyber-takeover lets the mitigator direct the flight of the drone and access the drone's data and camera. This is an elegant way to mitigate a drone when it works. Unfortunately the success rate of cyber takeover is low for two reasons, the mitigating controller must be able to predict frequency hopping of drone and must always maintain a more powerful a signal to the drone than the original remote. Additionally, cyber-takeover does not work on a drone swarm.
Kinetic Mitigation Options
There are many forms of kinetic mitigation options. Kinetic solutions are essentially all options that physically effect the drone from reaching its intended target. These can include everything from missiles, to kamikaze drones, to drones that shoot nets and even specially trained birds of prey. Kinetic mitigation solutions, although mentally satisfying suffer from lower success rates and do not work on drone swarms.
High Energy Mitigation Options
- Lasers: Lasers are a type of high-energy mitigation and can be used to destroy malicious drones. Lasers are cost efficient as a means of mitigation and effective over long distances. They can also affect drones that are hardened against jamming, including drones that operate without radio signal direction, or are autonomously programmed. They can be mounted on vehicles or aircraft and do not require a lot of setup time. They also have little effect on human beings or other objects, making them safe to use in populated areas. Drawbacks include being affected by adverse weather and other line of site factors.
- High Power Microwave (HPM) Devices: High-power microwave devices use high power electromagnetic energy to stop drones. The counter-UAS system emits an intense microwave beam that is so powerful it can destroy a small drone within seconds. The counter-UAS system uses high power microwaves to disable or destroy nearby drones. The device emits an intense beam of energy which can quickly destroy uncrewed aircraft. It can mitigate either individual drones or even swarms of autonomous drones because the wide beam that destroys the drone's hardware over a wide area. HPM devices are a high cost/high impact technology and are traditionally more available to the military.
In addition to all the mitigation methods above, one can also out in place reactionary methods that act more as protective measures when a drone is detected nearby. These generally fall under an umbrella known as “duck and cover”. For example, some modern office buildings are equipped with automatically triggered window shades that block views from the outside to protect from corporate espionage by drone cameras.
Skyfend Anti-drone Solution: Integrated Counter-UAS Systems
Integrated counter-drone systems are the only answer to true airspace security. By integrating various anti-drone equipment and anti-drone technologies, we can truly block drones in all directions on land, sea, and air, reduce UAV drone threats, and provide airspace security.
Multi-anti-drone equipment integration solution
Skyfend anti-drone solutions include portable anti-drone solutions, fixed solutions, and vehicle-mounted anti-drone solutions, which combine anti-drone jammers Skyfend Hunter, Skyfend Blader, and drone deceiver Skyfend Spoofer, drone radar Skyfend Defender, drone detector and pilot locator Skyfend Trace, and anti-drone software Skyfend C2 can comprehensively detect and combat potentially dangerous drones.
The Skyfend Trace counter-drone detector provides complete situational awareness of airspace activity and prevents unwanted interference. The Skyfend Trace monitor can also detect the location of the drone pilot based on the Drone ID/Remote ID, thereby combating illegal drone operations at the source.
Anti-drone command and control system
The anti-drone command and control (C2) system can be combined with all Skyfend anti-drone hardware equipment to perform drone identification, classification, situational awareness, and detect, identify, plan, command, and resolve drone threats.
Mobile Rapid Deploy Systems
Mobile rapid-deploy counter-UAS systems bring all of the same benefits of a command-and-control system into remote locations quickly. This capability allows counter-UAS operators to quickly deploy an airspace security system to wherever it is needed to mitigate drone threats. Additionally, the mobile system’s ability to rapidly relocate can allow for closer proximity monitoring of critical areas. Mobile counter-UAS systems also allow operators to react to emerging threats as they may occur.
This overview of modern counter-drone solutions is designed to help organizations the world over to understand the solutions available in today's environment.