Induction of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), in the field of military and defense by governments across the globe has drastically transformed the practice of modern warfare and military surveillance methods. Over the years, high-advanced drones are increasingly adopted for executing various high level military operations or missions and have emerged as a crucial technology or device for strengthening national security of a country. According to Statista, the sales of drones in the US have surpassed USD 1.25 billion in 2020 and Goldman Sachs estimated that the global drone market would reach the value of USD 100 billion in the coming years. One key aspect for the massive sale of drone is the increasing use of UAV for commercial purposes such as delivery services, impacted by the surge in demand for online shopping and rapid expansion of ecommerce platforms. At the same time, there has been massive increase in the use of military drones by US government for various airborne surveillance.
The rapid development of anti-drone weapons is influenced by the rising border tension and geo-political issues especially among neighboring countries. Moreover, governments across the globe have to take several precautions to defend themselves from potentially malicious activities conducted by terror groups. For a country, the ability to undergo rapid transformation of its defense systems by upgrading and modernized military weapons defines the meaning of national security and can boost the safety of its geographical territory. Rising incidence of security breaches and frequent occurrence of hostile airborne attacks by unidentified drones or terrorist group present key aspects for boosting the demand for anti-drone systems by homeland securities and law enforcement agencies.
Understanding Anti-drone and its Functions
Anti-drone, also known as counter-drone, is an advanced technology primarily designed to defend and protect certain government facilities and major commercial areas. These drones are available in different sizes and forms performing different functions as per the needs and requirements of consumers and clients. Several customized drones, equipped with high-level performance integrated system, can be seen installed in various places such as government and industrial buildings such as airports, prisons, military facilities, and border security. To avoid any security lapse, these anti-drones are widely installed in private houses and critical infrastructure facilities.
As a modern warfare equipment or military-based defensive mechanism, it is primarily used to counter or destroy drone, which is basically deployed for aerial attack. Anti-drone technology allows to track, identify, and detect the presence of aerial threats and can handle or destroy the UAV drone before it hits the targeted site or military area. With the rapid advancement of innovative technology, anti-drone systems are now highly integrated with multiple advanced sensors system and devices that can easily detect emerging treats using drones. As a result, some anti-drone systems are extensively armed with latest lethal technology such as laser-directed energy weapons to effectively tackle the threats.
Several sophisticated weapons and system defense mechanisms are available to disable the functioning of UAV as these weapons can detect radio frequency of the drones and dismantle the command or control link between the operators and devices. In some cases, anti-drone technology can shut the visual control of the drones through jamming system. Jammers release electromagnetic and radio frequencies interference to create a disturbance in the operation of normal frequencies ranged either 2.4Ghz or 5.8Ghz used by drones that result in the loss of communication between drones and operators. However, the use of anti-drone jammers come with a consequence that the deployment of these countermeasure elements can disturb the overall air traffic management system of a country due to high level of radio frequency interference.
Major Development of Anti-drone Weapons Systems
Over the years, advanced technology has been integrated into a single anti-drone weapon system to perform effective counter of aerial threats. Development of certain technologies such as radio frequency jammers, drone countermeasure and monitoring equipment, radar, optical sensors, and acoustic sensors have made the advancement of high-level counter-drones. The following are the major development of anti-drone weapons systems:
DroneShield LLC’s DroneGun Tactical
DroneShield LLC, an Australia-based anti-drone systems manufacturer, provides AI-based sensor fusion and signal processing anti-drone weapons to ensure an effective command and control solutions for both governments and commercial units. One of the key products of DroneShield is DroneGun Tactical, which provides long range and effective countermeasure as the company claims that the weapon can instantly cease video transmission between drones and operators. In May 2020, it launched its latest camera-based technology designed to easy identification, detection, and tracking of drones.
Dedrone, a US-based smart drone counter manufacturer, has developed its lightweight anti-drone weapons, which are designed to point and shoot incoming drones. DroneDefender has a weight around 4 kilogram and is a smart counter S-UAS device, which can break the communication link between the pilot to the UAS by blocking UAVs radio, GPS, and ISM signals. The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced to spend nearly USD 636 million on the research and development of C-UAV systems during the year 2022.
QinetiQ Group PLC’s Obsidian Counter Drone
QinetiQ Group PLC, a British defense technology developer, provides smart radar system to detect and jam the signal of a drone. Obsidian, as a powerful technology developed by the company, utilizes an advanced 3D radar that helps to generate high accuracy 3D position of a drone and the threat can be automatically contained by neutralizing the device signal using various sensors and jammers.
Market Opportunities of Anti-drone System
Several key players including Lockheed Martin Corporation, QinetiQ Group PLC, Raytheon Technologies Corporation, Thales Group, Boeing, and SAAB AB have actively engaged in the development of versatile and scalable anti-drone systems. At present, the anti-drone defense systems can effectively handle both micro-UAVs and mini-UAVs, which can operate between the range from 1.5 to 2 kilometers and from 8 to 10 kilometers respectively. It is a challenging moment for the manufacturers as drones are becoming smaller in size due to technological advancement and developing countermeasures to contain such small drones are offering several lucrative opportunities for anti-drone market. Gaining a competitive edge of a player requires in engaging R&D and manufacturing compact anti-drone systems.