Inside Unmanned Systems

JUN-JUL 2019

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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62   June/July 2019 unmanned systems inside DRONE BEAT by ABE PECK plication probably out to more than a ki- lometer, Patterson said. "That sort of laser, packaged with its beam direction and an- cillary equipment, would easily fit in a pick- up-sized package. And some of these are nearing man-portable size." Patterson echoed the reality that there's no perfect solution, allowing that a laser system might have limitations around airports. "The biggest risk is eye damage ref lected from the target." However, lasers away from the eyesight band of 1.55 mi- crons are in development. "We've looked at wavelengths that would allow good enough propagation to have the effect you need to have but be partly absorbed by the atmo- sphere such that they present minimal eye hazard to anyone on the ground," he said. Fortem Technologies approaches air- space awareness, safety and security via a network of hand-held radars across a range of installations. The goal is what CEO Timothy Bean called "total airspace aware- ness," with allowance for package delivery, air taxis and other impending systems. The Pleasant Grove, Utah-based com- pany also has developed the DroneHunter, which engages intruders autonomously using AI-directed guidance and tracking, capturing them at safe distance without collateral damage. "It's like a magnet," Bean said. "When it sees a drone in the airspace it follows it like a dog on a leash, shoots it with a net and tows it away with a tether— all autonomously. Fox also argued for his technology not risking interference with authorized com- munication through jamming. He recalled how the New York Stock Exchange was dis- rupted at the same time on multiple days— until technicians figured out that "some- body had a GPS jammer in a truck driving across the road." As for jamming ISIS in Iraq, "terrorists now drop explosives when they detect jamming because that jamming needs them overhead. "Kinetic systems have a place," Fox al- lowed. "Shooting projectiles, chasing it down, shooting a net at it, all of those things have a place. But not in the urban environ- ment, not in airspace where you are going to cause more disruption." No system offers total protection, Fox admitted. Truly autonomous drones may challenge WhiteFox' solution. But, Fox not- ed, those drones still have a data link even if they are not being actively controlled. "There is no silver bullet in counter- UAS," Fox concluded. "It's about truly choosing the technology that truly ad- dresses the threat, whether that's disrup- tion or terrorists, and then ensuring that the counter-UAS system does not cause more disruptive value than what you're trying to solve." ELIMINATING THE THREAT Kinetic solutions have their advocates, whether via lasers or netting, as what General Poss described as "our last, best The DroneHunter, about to purse a detected airborne threat inside the No-fly-zone. Timothy Bean, CEO, Fortem Technologies "NETS ARE SAFE, AND INEXPENSIVE AND EASY to operate over people. That's why we chose them. Protecting your airspace is a tenth of the cost of defending from the ground." line of defense" against those autonomous drones that won't respond to external commands. Stan Patterson of Radiance Technologies is one such advocate. An electrical engineer by training, Patterson was a long-time civil- ian employee of the Army, mostly in its laser research program. With corporate head- quarters in Huntsville, Alabama, Radiance employs about 1,000 people in engineering, technology and prototype development. Photo courtesy of Fortem Technologies. "Currently we have capabilities in hand to shoot down drones in a military environ- ment," Patterson said. The technology, he noted, has become more compact than its early use in the 1970s, with diesel genera- tors now charging the batteries that power the laser. A 10-kilowatt single-mode laser would be effective in a counter-drone ap-

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