While the capabilities of drones for good are set to revolutionise the way we live, there still remains a threat from unmanned air systems getting into the wrong hands.

FINN talked to Tom Laliberty, vice president of land warfare and air defence for Raytheon Missiles & Defense about how the company is countering the threats. Laliberty said the threat of drones falling into the hands of adversaries was a particular challenge to defence with drones available in a large range of the types and at a relatively low cost.

He said: “What makes them particularly challenging to air defenders around the world is the ability to synchronize complex attacks with UAS with drones, cruise missiles, aircraft, and ballistic missiles. So with that total combination, you can overwhelm a singular air defense system. So when you look at critical infrastructure like oil refineries, government facilities, forward operating bases, airports, places where you have civilian populations, the additional threat of the UAS is a great concern.”

No “silver bullet” to defeat entire drone threat set

The technology used to counter drone threats is similar to that used to counter conventional air threats. Laliberty explained: “The key to effective defence is to have a layered, tiered and well integrated system. There is no one single solution or silver bullet that can defeat the entire threat set.

Tracking and detecting the drone threat is the first line of defence and identification of small UAS can prove a challenge, as Laliberty explained: “The very small UAS sometimes might look like birds. The very large UAS might look like either military or commercial aircraft. So you have to have very competent sensing technology and the ability to do identification of these of these objects.”

Tracking and locating is first line of defence

Raytheon Missiles & Defense uses technologies such as sensing capabilities, non kinetic effects, microwave energy, laser and radar to engage classes of threats from small drones up to tactical ballistic missiles. Laliberty said tracking and locating drones was the first line of defence to stop interruptions to infrastructure such as airport closures due to drone incursion, differentiating between civilian hobbyists out with their toy or a more hostile threat.

Kinetic effectors are used for real military applications such as the deployment of Raytheon’s Coyote system which is integrated into a platform for the United States Army. Laliberty explained: “Coyote has been shown to be very effective in complex threat scenarios where you might have swarms of UA bees that attack defended areas. So Coyote has the ability to go out and actually defeat multiple drones at a time.”

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