Identifying and neutralising unmanned air threats

The proliferation of unmanned air vehicles has been stunningly swift. Thales is working with civil, military and governmental bodies to introduce new ways to monitor and control this pervasive technology. In just a few years, the science of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) has progressed from providing high-end military systems, to versatile aerial platforms for TV and video producers, to emergency relief delivery systems, to recreational hobby aircraft and right through to terrorist drones.

Everyone, it seems, has a use for UAVs. And their proliferation has been so swift that legislation to govern their safe operation has barely been able to keep up. There are two main areas of concern: the legal operation of unmanned aircraft in controlled and uncontrolled airspace, and the threat presented by ‘uncooperative’ UAVs in close proximity to sensitive areas.

Working together for safer skies

The good news is that Thales and other interested parties are working to create the technologies and processes which will mitigate both intended and unintended threats.

Thales’s vision is to unlock the economic potential of unmanned air vehicles by providing solutions that meet the requirements and constraints of all stakeholders. Not only does this mean designing UAVs with a high degree of autonomy that behave in predictable ways (for navigation and collision avoidances, for example) but systems that can be controlled by, and respond to, real-time flight management services.

Defeating uncooperative drones

A greater and more urgent threat comes from ‘uncooperative’ drones and Thales is working hard in this field, too. In May 2017 Thales teamed up with technology partners Cluster Drone Paris and Cœur Essonne in a full-scale demonstration of a system for the surveillance, identification and neutralization of unmanned air threats.

The system, which use a unique combination of multiple, active and passive 2D and 3D radars; goniometers, and day/night optronics technology for visual and electronic identification, is sensitive enough to detect the smallest mini- and micro-drones.

It is ideal for detecting and defeating threats against all type of critical infrastructures including energy, transport, ports, airports and stadiums.

At its heart is Command Post, which collates and analyses the information gathered by multiple sensors, identifies the threat and recommends defensive actions to the operator.

Integration with existing systems

As well as being deployable as a standalone solution when needed, the Counter-UAS system can also be integrated with existing monitoring and defence systems including the command and control chains of the Air Force as well as civil air traffic management systems.

It is, perhaps, the missing link in air traffic management and surveillance systems that will bring a rapid, dependable end to the intended and unintended threats presented by the remarkable technology of today’s unmanned air vehicles.

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