Developing intelligent CEMA solutions
Founded in 2011 and located in the heart of the City of Lincoln, neighbouring the University of Lincoln, and, not unnoticed, within a building named after the great mathematician George Boole, METIS Aerospace Ltd are providing signals intelligence expertise, products, and Radio Frequency (RF) spectrum monitoring capability to government agencies, military organisations, commercial integrators and private organisations. This has led to METIS Aerospace, together with their SKYPERION passive RF drone detection solution, finding themselves at the leading edge of the fight against rogue drones and their operators.
The need to monitor for, and alert to, the presence of unmanned airborne systems (UAS) or drones, has never been more necessary than it is today. The threat from drones that have been modified to carry improvised explosive devices is becoming more prevalent, and unfortunately is only likely to increase. Recent (27 June 2021) drone borne attacks on the Jammu Indian Air Force base situated in the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, close to the border with Pakistan, exemplify the problem. Equally, the response to such an attack, clearly demonstrates the importance of being prepared for such occurrences. The fact that it has now been reported that “in wake of drone threat, security agencies in Jammu have installed an anti-drone system at the Air Force station”, is surely a stark reminder of how ‘shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted’ is no effective attack mitigation measure. It really is important to have ‘all your ducks in a row’ before the event.
Whilst there are many solutions on the market, the most effective is likely to require a multi-layered approach, combining different sensor technologies including Passive RF, radar and electro-optics to Detect, Track and Identify (DT&I) targets (the DTI Trilogy), as well as most likely also requiring an ‘effector’, to actually do something about the drone.
Whatever the solution, there is always compromise. Radars are ‘active’ and may not be allowed to transmit at the facility/area you are trying to protect. Electro-optics need cueing to a target in the first place; that is, they need a third-party sensor to point them in the right direction. Effectors may be good against a drone target, but are likely to be equally as efficient at taking down or ‘effecting’ something you don’t want stopping.
The METIS solution
The METIS component of the DTI trilogy is their SKYPERION Passive RF detection solution. Passive RF systems, by their very nature, tend not to have the same issues to contend with as the other two sensor elements. Quite simply, as they don’t transmit RF, they don’t interfere with anything. As such, passive RF sensors are considered by many as the most important sensor of any drone detection trilogy (and we’re not being biased; just truthful); moreover, they invariably provide the first detection from which other sensors take their cue. This positive outlook does have to be tempered by the fact that, for the majority of passive RF systems, detection performance is only as good as the currency of the target library or database within the system.
Deliberately (not fortunately), METIS SKYPERION is not database dependent, but incorporates algorithmic (thank you for the idea Mr Boole!) and Computer Vision (a subset of Artificial Intelligence) detection techniques. Consequently, SKYPERION delivers a more flexible and rapid response to new drone types, ensuring that it not only detects the obvious commercial/hobbyist drones, which make up 80% of the market, but also the ‘jail broken’ commercial and home built/hybrid types that do not follow commercial manufacturers parameters.
The product range
Encapsulating all that is CEMA (Cyber and Electro-Magnetic Activities), METIS have taken the technology from their opening compact, modular, and scalable Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) solution (HYPERION) and developed it into their flagship SKYPERION passive RF drone detection sensor. SKYPERION, a CPNI rated product, has become a proven capability with both commercial and military customers. Instrumental in the re-opening of London Gatwick Airport following the 2018 drone intrusion 'crisis', SKYPERION continues to provide 24/7 cover at that location.
With a range of applications across military and commercial markets, METIS capabilities integrate with existing security measures to protect armed forces, critical national infrastructure, VVIP’s, individual and institutional privacy, and public safety.
SKYPERION can be installed in a ruggedised or lightweight configuration (largely determined by the expected ambient conditions) and can be located as a static permanent or semi-permanent installation. In parallel, METIS are currently developing the SKYPERION capability to enable wider utilisation; this includes Mobile Vehicular, Marine and UAV/Helicopter versions. In addition, there is also a Backpack solution in development for use by dismounted soldiers in tactical situations or emergency services where incident locations require protection from unwanted drone-borne surveillance.
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