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    Counter Rogue Drones: Technology to Neutralize Future Aerial Threats

    From Predator Drones to drones delivering your early morning meal, the drone industry has come a long way. Abraham Karem, father of UAV (Drone) technology, never thought that his innovation of unmanned vehicles could become a major industry in future and could transform modern warfare. With the ease in availability, drones are becoming more threatening for general people. These small devices can plan a big destructive attack too with minimum expense than earlier. With such threats coming up, we definitely need a counter drone technology to beat these deadly instances in the future.

    Anti-Drone Market is expected to reach USD 2.4 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 32.2%. The military & defense vertical is expected to account for the largest share of the anti-drone market. Presently, countries are also giving importance to strengthening counter-drone measures to monitor terrorist activities, which would boost the demand for anti-drone systems in the near future. The use of drones for border trespassing, smuggling, and spying has increased. As a result, the demand for an efficient anti-drone system is expected to rise in the coming years in the military & defense sector. The recent attacks on the military is making everyone more inclined towards this major market segment.

    Let’s understand the counter drone technology with no fault and errors to avoid future glitches:

    Available C-UAS technologies

    Counter Drone Technology or C-UAS is the technology to detect, or intercept unmanned aircraft while in flight. This technology is rapidly being adopted with the coming of new drones every minute. The base reason for development of this technology is to protect civilians and military from the threats possessed by drones. C-UAS technology is bifurcated into two systems that are-Drone Detection and Drone Mitigation.

    Recently, a drone attack was attempted on the Indian Air force Technical Airport in Jammu on June 27. Security agencies suspected the role of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the twin drone-driven blasts, on the basis of the past history of the LeT using drones to drop weapons, narcotics and ready-made improvised explosive devices (IED). DRDO possesses an anti-drone technology after the twin drone attack in Jammu.  DRDO’s anti-drone technology provides the capability to swiftly detect, intercept and destroy small drones that pose a security threat. It will have a radar system providing 360-degree coverage and will detect micro drones within a range of 4KM. It will be equipped with EO/IR sensors for detection of micro-drones up to 2KM, RF Detector to detect communication within the range of 3KM.

    Most popular types of drone detection

    Radar and RF detection are the most popular technologies used to detect drones. Radar and RF detection can be used in many different types of environments, such as urban or high noise density, to enhance airspace security. RF and radar can be used in tandem to create a multi-layered solution that gives users increased coverage and protection. One of the most popular drone detection systems is Aero Scope by DJI. The system is used in a layered airspace security approach. It can be paired with other RF sensors and radars to maximize coverage and protection. Drone detection technology gives users situational awareness to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions.

    Popular Drone Interdiction and Mitigation technology

    The most popular drone interception method is drone jamming. Drone jamming works by disrupting the radio frequency link between the drone and its operator. C-UAS mitigation countermeasure technology falls into two broad categories: Non-Kinetic which is controlling the drone and Kinetic which is destroying the drone with a physical attack.

     Non-Kinetic Countermeasures/Soft KillsNon-Kinetic drone countermeasures are also referred to as “soft kills.” Soft kill technology includes jammers, spoofers, and drone guns. This could be any technology that involves the interruption of signals between the drone and the controller or intercepting the signals to take over pilot responsibility while the drone is in flight.

     Kinetic Countermeasures/Hard KillsKinetic countermeasures are referred to as “hard kills.” Hard kill technology encompasses projectile weapons that physically damage the drone or knock it to the ground. Kinetic methods could include nets, bullets, missiles, or another drone. This technology is used in extreme situations when the ultimate option is just to shut the drone down.

    AntiDrone technologies across countries

    Recently, India has confirmed a deal with Israel to buy four new Heron TP drones which will initially be used for surveillance and military reconnaissance missions but later equipped with missiles for precision strikes under Project Cheetah. The Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Heron TP UAVs in the inventory of the Army, Navy and the Indian Air Force (IAF) will not just be upgraded with advanced satellite communication and sensors. It will also be upgraded with air-to-ground missiles and laser –guided munitions for strikes.

    Apart from India, many big countries are making their anti-drone technology game stronger. The US military is developing THOR, or the Tactical High Power Operational Responder. Built for the Air Force Research Laboratory, THOR is one way that bases or other military installations might defend themselves against aerial robots traveling in groups. THOR is a “counter-swarm electromagnetic weapon” that “provides non-kinetic defeat of multiple targets”. This means that instead of using bullets or explosions to disable robots, THOR turns to messing up their electronics, specifically by hitting the gaggle with a high-powered microwave. The effect of such an approach against an electronic system can vary, from temporarily impairing the ability of the drones to communicate with one another all the way up to frying the electronics and rendering entire machines in the swarm broken.

    China has unveiled new advanced radars that could detect stealth aircraft, including drones, as well as low-flying cruise missiles, as the country continues to aggressively boost its fighting capabilities and flexes its military muscle amid emerging tensions in the region.

    “YLC-48 radar” can “effectively detect and track incoming targets from any angle,” it uses digital integrated circuits, and it can be mounted on all kinds of lightweight weapons platforms, can conduct missions under all-weather conditions, and can be rapidly deployed and withdrawn. It is also said that it can be operated by single soldier.

    Drones changing the definition of Modern warfare

    Drones and counter-drone are both giving a modern warfare scenario without the use of human operation and even without any human loss. Precision is yet another advantage of using drones in the battlefield. It lowers the risk to military personnel and has less political and military ramifications. A remote control war through the use of drones has become institutionalized as one of the major counter insurgency/terrorist strategies of the US since 9/11. The US has conducted a large number of drone strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, including attacks on non-state actors and important terrorist leadership.

    Armenia Vs Azerbaijan

    Talking of a recent instance, a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan started in September last year over the disputed land of Nagorno-Karabakh region. While Armenia only fought with tanks, artillery and air defence systems, Azerbaijan relied heavily on drones, specifically the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 and the Israeli-made Kamikaze drones. The two drones can carry bombs of up to 55 kg and 15 kg respectively. This was the first time in the history of modern warfare that entire war is fought on drones.

    Azerbaijan cleverly played in the whole scenario with tactics which defeated the Armenia. Azerbaijan sent a biplane with a single propeller engine that converted into an unmanned single use drone later, Armenia freaked out after watching the biplane and reacted in the moment by activating their radars and missile batteries which disclosed their position. The drone which was just ready to locate them, came and destroyed them.

    The defeat was kind of unfair and uneven as Armenia was fighting purely on ground weapons while Azerbaijan attacked from air. A person sitting in the tank and continuously trying to defeat the opponent is suddenly dead because he doesn’t know his opponent was standing just over his head.

    Right from the very inception of the unmanned aerial vehicle, the definition of fair war has crashed. The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan was one such example but there are many such already exist and will keep on coming in the future also. US has been a major supporter and user of drone and its applications. Post 9/11 attacks, predator drones were already used to observe Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader, from the skies. The first strike, in October 2001, however, missed its intended target, Taliban leader Mullah Omar, killing some of his bodyguards outside the leader’s compound. The US since then employed the use of drones in Afghanistan and Iraq. The country also used drones in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya to carry out operations.

    If the world is moving fast towards drone attacks or modern warfare scenario, there is an urgent need to get the counter-drone technology advanced. Counter drone technology is as important as drones if we want a fair warfare and want to have some appropriate estimation of the power of our opponent. Otherwise the modern warfare will only be a messed up ground of fighters and the results will mostly be unfair, uneven and indecisive.

    Yet the conclusion is that the world is getting a major market through drones be it fair or unfair and the military is getting a sort of different scenario for wars which can be kind of fully remote in future. Be it military or civilians, everyone will evolve, learn and grow with this technology.

    Sheeba Chauhan  Sub Editor | ELE Times

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