As the last fans took their seats in the stadium for the football match and their chatter died down, a strange hum grew in intensity. They paid little attention until they saw a flying object overhead. A drone, they surmised, probably for TV coverage. But was it? Some became restless, thinking of recent terrorist attacks and drones in warfare. Luckily, this one was indeed for television and soon flew off.
But in fact, it couldn’t have been different! Unknown to the fans, local authorities had been tracking the drone since it entered the seven kilometre security zone around the stadium. Realising that it was authorised they let it proceed. If it had not been, they could have taken appropriate countermeasures to protect the fans.
In effect, Counter-Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems (C-UAS) can create a safe “bubble” around event venues and civilian installations such as airports or stadiums. Working with civil, military, and government bodies, Thales is introducing new ways to monitor and control drones, and to make UAV Traffic Management (UTM) a priority for airspace security.
“Thales has long been at the nexus of military and civilian avionics and airspace protection and is thus ideally placed to counter the threats faced by civilian facilities and events from hostile drones,” Michel Dechanet, Product Line Manager for C-UAS systems, Thales.
Thales provides solutions allowing civil and military aviation authorities to detect - even without data transmission - and verify a drone’s registration number, identify its pilot, and confirm its flight authorisation, all in a few seconds. By the same time, to cope with unexpected or non-registered drones, detection and classification are the first steps before a engaging a graduated response.
For the drones that are not allowed, then a complete set of graduated neutralisation can be deployed, ranging from hijacking, jamming, drone interception, or even shooting down throught high-energy weapon or ultimately air defence systems.
Hijacking a drone by taking control of its guidance system is the first option. This is already compliant with regulations and does not affect other electronic equipment, so it is good for sensitive areas such as airports or other civilian installations. It can be done from mobile vehicles at a safe distance and be efficient against drones that are not cyber protected.
The other regulation-compliant option is jamming - saturating specific frequency bands and areas with radio waves, rendering drones there inoperable. This also works for cyber-protected military drones when their frequency bands can be detected. This solution is efficient for datalink dependent drones.
The third option is interception with defensive drones, when necessary in swarms, deploying nets or using electromagnetic waves on their targets. Although this is still in development and will require updated regulations, it promises to be a safe and affordable alternative, since the defensive drones can be extensively reused.
When defensive measures fail and when drones’ threats are considered as highly critical, taking down drones becomes the only option. The preferred method, now under development, will be to use drone-based high-power radio signals to disable or burn out the embedded electronics of hostile drones to make them crash, far from their targets. As a final, more intrusive, option authorities can call in the military to shoot down drones with light missiles or with air defence guns firing “air burst” munitions.
“In any case, to make all this come together we need the real-time, global information on drone movements that Thales can provide. Combining our expertise in connectivity, big data, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence, all gathered in, we can allow society to benefit from commercial drones, while providing solution to keep sky safe, limiting the threats from hostile drones,” emphasized Michel Dechanet.
With a digital revolution underway in all the markets that Thales serves, the company is investing heavily in the four technological pillars of connectivity/Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity. Thales aims to be a trusted partner for its customers, helping them in their digital transformation, and using its capacity for innovation to offer new ways of working in new ecosystems.