Saab is delivering a technical solution which will reduce the impact of drone incursion on airports.

The Giraffe 1X is a mobile, deployable or fixed asset for short-range surveillance and Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) which provides forces and operations with early warning and the ability to detect and classify more than 100 different targets, including drones, simultaneously.

Per Ahl, CEO of Saab Digital Air Traffic Solutions explained that the solution is suitable for all phases of the airport operation from small regional airports to international hubs.

He added that the issue of drone incursion on the operation of airports was one which needed immediate consideration, citing drone impacts on operations at both London’s biggest airports Gatwick and Heathrow.

System will be able to identify drones as legitimate or malignant airspace users

“What we can see for the future, is they will become an airspace user that we have to handle. So what we have done now, and I represent a part of Saab is also doing air traffic control with airport operation, is we are the first in the world to have a digital airport operation.

Saab began digital airport operations in Sweden in Cranfield and London City within the UK. Ahl explained: “What we have done is take that new possibility with digitalisation and to add on other means of surveillance and today we are showcasing a new radar that are capable of detecting drones for a very large distance. And it’s automatically saying that ‘this is a drone, this is a bird’ and so on. All that information can now be derived from the radar into our digital operation environment.”

He said a number of companies had produced systems which can detect a drone, but Saab had taken the information to an operational environment with processes and controls which he described as the “backbone” of Saab’s capabilities for detection and operation.

Process needs to be in place for correct drone handling

He said the Giraffe would work alongside remote towers or as a stand alone system but it would have to be fully integrated to harness the power of digital. “If you really would like to have the full operation part, it has to be integrated in the work and position. And that’s where the digital power comes in. We can use that information and display it for the operational people and handle a situation because you can detect hostile drones – these are the bad guys.”

“But, in the future, we will have drones flying all over the world. You need to handle them. And this is where you have to have the process in place. And that’s where we play a major factor that we can have the system to detect them, but also how to handle them in order to have a full good operation at any point in the world. We have started to integrate it and we actually have some test sites, so definitely, it’s just around the corner.”