Our skies will soon be spangled with millions of drones, some of them poorly identified, complicating the task of air traffic controllers and posing a real and present danger to our safety and security. But industry is ready for the challenge, as Thierry Bon, drone countermeasures lead at Thales, explains.
France recently awarded a contract to a consortium led by Thales and CS GROUP to boost the drone countermeasures capabilities of the defence forces. Can you tell us more about this programme?
The contract is valued at 350 million euros over 11 years and was awarded after a request for proposals issued by the French defence procurement agency in 2021 under the PARADE programme.
The PARADE system will detect, classify and neutralise micro- and mini-drones to provide a safe and secure way of protecting people, property, events and critical infrastructure, in full compliance with national and international regulations, in France and on operations overseas.
In the first phase of the contract, the armed forces will acquire six systems, with the first deliveries planned this year.
The drone countermeasures will be deployed for the very first time at an emblematic sporting event in France: the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Why is the PARADE system so special?
Its first big advantage is that it's a fully integrated system operated by a single person. It has quite exceptional qualities in terms of detection and classification (radar, direction finder, optronic sensors), and uses artificial intelligence for decision support.
Second, as well as providing permanent 360° protection at a given site, the PARADE systems are also mobile. That means they can be moved easily from one location to another by road, air or sea, considerably expanding their scope and speeding their deployment. The same systems could also be used for combined civil-military operations, for example to protect critical infrastructure such as military bases in France or in overseas theatres of operations.
Last but not least, the system is a perfect example of a successful partnership between a whole range of different companies.
Can you tell us more about the companies in the consortium that's developing the PARADE system?
The consortium brings together some of the greatest minds in the field of drone countermeasures to focus specifically on the threat of micro- and mini-drones. CS GROUP is widely recognised in France and around the world for its expertise in this area. A number of highly specialised SMEs are also contributing to the programme, including the French companies CerbAir (detection through RF technology), Exavision (optronics) and MC2 Technologies (jamming), and the Dutch company Robin (radar detection).
Thales has more than 40 years of experience in civil and military air operations, and will be providing its expertise in command and control, air defence, cybersecurity and end-to-end system performance, as well as world-class capabilities in complex system integration and digital architectures specifically designed for drone countermeasures.
1Programme de protection déployAble modulaiRe Anti-DronEs / Deployable, modular anti-drone programme