RF-Cyber for Counter-UAS

Next Generation Air Defense in Sensitive Environments

An RF-Cyber hostile drone takeover ensures continuity of communications, transportation, commerce, and everyday life. (Image: D-Fend Solutions)

It’s become increasingly clear that the proliferation of drones across positive applications and use cases is driving modern civilization toward a new drone-driven society. However, enabling the emerging associated drone-powered economy will require a new generation of counter-drone or counter-unmanned aircraft systems (CUAS) to support the growth of safe and secure drone adoption. Innovative technology and solutions are imperative to defend against parallel rogue drone threats and highly advanced technologies are necessary to overcome rogue drone threats. This is because they can safely operate in even the most sensitive and crowded environments and airspace, as well as in a controlled manner that ultimately supports continuity.

The RF-Cyber takeover system supplied by D-Fend Solutions as pictured here can be set up in a wide range of locations for long-range directional CUAS operations. (Image: D-Fend Solutions)

With rapid growth comes a commensurate rise in dangerous drone incidents across various sectors, environments, and use cases. Threat types include attacks, collisions, smuggling, espionage, and various forms of harassment and nuisance while incidents have spanned near collisions at airports, smuggling across borders and into prisons, threats to VIPs, disruptions to events and sports at stadiums and arenas, incursions at critical infrastructure sites, criminal attacks, and invasions of privacy. Given this, counter-drone systems must be optimized for the wide range of environments and sectors in which these threats materialize.

Constant and Non-Stop Drone Incidents

Since the beginning of this year, there have already been numerous serious incidents at US stadiums, airports, and prisons. A drone intrusion at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in Puerto Rico led to the diversion of an incoming flight to the Dominican Republic and caused cascading disruptions for more flights across the Caribbean. An unauthorized drone delayed the AFC Championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Prisons in South Carolina, West Virginia, Georgia, and New York all suffered from various nefarious drone incidents. These are just a few of the many examples of dangerous drone incidents occurring across the country.

The hostile drone threat has migrated from the battlefield to the homeland. This is largely due to the weaponization of cheap and accessible “build or buy” drones, which have effectively become the new “flying improvised explosive devices (IEDs).” These devices have become a new weapon of choice for bad actors thanks to their accessibility and low cost. They can simply take the commercial drone right off the shelf or adapt it for disguise and hostile intents, or use Do-It-Yourself (DIY) drones built from off-the-shelf commercial components.

Traditional air defense technologies that are built for the battlefield have a role to play but often possess major shortcomings that can cause them to struggle in sensitive civilian environments. These drawbacks are seen across detection, identification, and mitigation.

The RF-Cyber takeover system deployed at a military base. (Image: D-Fend Solutions)

On the detection side, radar may show false positives from other flying objects such as birds. Optical camera technologies used to identify threats fall short in urban environments with tall buildings and rural mountainous terrain when there is no clear line of sight. Acoustic sound-based detection is also challenged by increasingly quieter drones – especially in very noisy environments like airports or stadiums – and RF-based directional finders may not always be able to track the drones to a high degree of real-time accuracy.

On the mitigation side, the challenges posed by traditional technologies are even more severe. Jamming or spoofing communications between the hostile drone and the remote control may only have a temporary effect and even more problematic, has the potential to disrupt critical communications and operations in the affected area. Kinetic methods of shooting down the rogue drone by various means including nets, drone killing drones, rifles, lasers, or EMP/HPM can risk serious collateral damage. This could be from either the projectile itself or from falling debris after a hit, with the dangers varying depending on the employed technology.

A Next-Generation RF-Cyber Approach

Today’s sensitive civilian environments require a next-generation approach to achieve more positive outcomes. This means fast and accurate detection without false positives and safe mitigation. This starts with a surgical takeover of the rogue drone and then guiding it to follow a safe route to land with continuity, meaning no communications or operational disruptions or stoppages, and no collateral damage.

RF-Cyber has emerged as a new generation technology that uses RF techniques to take control of threatening drone scenarios. This includes employing cyber techniques to detect and take control of the hostile drone and landing it safely in a pre-designated zone. This non-jamming, non-kinetic, no line of sight required approach executes the mitigation without any traditional air defense technology drawbacks.

RF-Cyber technology capabilities aimed at control and safety occur at all stages of the lifecycle of a rogue drone incident. The technology will first detect the unauthorized drone, activate an alert, and then start to locate and track the drone and its take-off and pilot position. The drone’s key characteristics are identified. Finally, in either manual or autonomous mode, the system can either activate a “fend-off”, causing the hostile drone to go to its fail-safe position of returning to its home, or hover in place. Or, alternatively, the system can take control and land the drone in a safe place.

Systems must determine whether detected drones are authorized and friendly, or unauthorized and hostile. This places more importance on detailed drone identification. The skies are becoming crowded with authorized drones that play a critical role in society and RF-Cyber C-UAS systems bring the advantage of distinguishing between authorized and unauthorized drones.

RF-Cyber technology can address a wide range of commercial and Do-It-Yourself drone threats of all levels. These threats can encompass commercial, long-range, high payload, advanced protocol drones, and simpler Wi-Fi-based drones. The primary focus of course is aimed at drones that can carry heavy payloads, travel long distances, and are easily accessible.

The latest versions of the new generation RF-Cyber technology also bring high operational flexibility and adaptability through multiple deployment configurations including permanent stationary fixtures for sites such as critical infrastructure or prisons, tactical configurations on tripods for on-the-move operations, mobile vehicular configurations to provide moving bubbles of protection on military or covert civilian vehicles, long-range directional configurations to protect environments like air corridors or borders, and even man portable backpack versions to protect areas reachable only by foot.

RF-Cyber takeover identifies rogue drones in protected airspace and then neutralizes the threat by taking control over the drone and landing it safely in a predefined zone. (Image: D-Fend Solutions)

To cover vast areas, RF-Cyber systems can come with their own command and control systems. This allows them to provide shared knowledge and show a single aggregated view across multiple sensors, in which mitigation could be executed by the optimally situated sensor and triggered by operations provided by the command-and-control center. Alternatively, RF-cyber systems can be integrated within a larger multiple-technology layered defense system.

Open Architecture for Multi-Layered Defense

To integrate in such a multi-layered defense and with such external control systems, and to complement other technologies, RF-Cyber systems should have open APIs to integrate with various governmental command and control systems and support the ability to partner and integrate with various defense systems to support defined operational requirements. With continuous software-driven system updates, RF-Cyber provides a rapid response to new threats and anticipates the unpredictable by proactively preparing for upcoming threats.

In summary, RF-Cyber CUAS is built on core concepts for continuity including the idea that the best way to control the drone threat is to take control of the drone itself. A safe landing or safe fending-off is the best possible outcome. This is achieved through a focus on the high risks, meaning the most dangerous drones, and confronting the constantly changing and increasingly complex drone threat by foreseeing the drone future and always staying a drone threat ahead.

Ultimately an RF-Cyber hostile drone takeover ensures continuity of communications, transportation, commerce, and everyday life.

This article was written by Jeffrey Starr, Chief Marketing Officer, D-Fend Solutions (McLean, VA). For more information, visit here .