Drones & Counter Drone technology

On 19th July, CTB365 held a Drones and Counter Drone Technology webinar, one of the panellists, Jackson White, Business Development Director, RF Datalinks and Marketing (SPX Comtech) answers some of the questions that it wasn’t possible to answer during the webinar

Jackson joined the British Army at 16 into the Royal Corps of Signals in 1990. After serving during the Cold War in Germany, Jackson specialised in tactical and strategic communications, deploying domestically and globally in the war on terror, serving in several roles. Jackson has served operationally on the UK Mainland, America, The Balkans, Africa, and the Middle East.

Since leaving the Army, Jackson has completed a degree in Cyber Security and has combined this with his operational experience during his 15 years in Industry as a business development Manager at Enterprise Control Systems Ltd. and Esterline (Racal Acoustics). Then as a sales and marketing director for getac before returning to Enterprise Control Systems as business development director.

Drones are likely to become much more utilised as weapons in warfare, as they are currently in Ukraine. How can we respond to drones being used as a method of attack in war?
We’re currently witnessing the Ukrainian Armed Forces being faced with military UAS threats. Both military and commercial UAS present their own challenges to defeat from repurposed commercial UAS, through to weaponised military UAS. It’s therefore fair to assume that all military forces will use drones regardless of their budget. The question is how do we then defend and counter that threat within a security and military construct. The Counter-UAS challenge is at a tactical level, which often lacks doctrine and a concept of employment. Mission success depends on entry capabilities being scaled and field-upgraded in line with developing doctrine, and tactics in response to the threat evolutionary cycle, ensuring total lifecycle costs are minimised and the flexible Counter-UAS solutions remain fit for purpose in the future. Solution manufacturers must focus on staying one step ahead by combining advancements in radars, radio frequency (RF) detection, electro-optical/Infra-Red imagery and jammers in a multi-sensory approach.

What is being done at national and international level to regularise the status of UAS and counter UAS technology in combat zones?
We’re seeing a huge variation both internationally and within our national borders, mainly to do with the operation and the operational commander. For instance, if someone is involved in security and policing operations and wants to carry out a defeat of a drone to remove it from the airspace, the approach will be different to a military user on the battlefield wanting to take out a state actor or state-sponsored drone. In one place there will be significant legislation and rules about the use of RF defeat, whilst in the other – such as full-on warfare – there is actually no regulation. So one of the things we always have to do is talk with these users to understand their own legislative framework. However, those frameworks have been changing and it’s remarkable how quickly some of these have evolved in countries across the world in the space of seven years. To effectively assist in dealing with the threat, national and international legislation is going to have to keep changing to enable the true defeat, rather than just the detection of a threat. But equally, the technology has to change which will in turn make it easier for the legislators to agree to the use of the defeat. Ultimately, it works and must be considered from both ends, the moving goalpost of legislation and the practical changes in techniques.

What is the effect of using an SDR-based device on a UAS – does the operator then control the UAS?
Given the challenges presented by highly complex UAS waveforms, and the challenges given by the limitations of older DDS-based jamming solutions, the most effective Counter-UAS RF Defeat systems have had to undergo radical technology changes. This is the change to a software-defined radio, or SDR Source generation technique. The key elements of the SDR technique had already been developed as a next generation countermeasure waveform, but it wasn’t needed or implemented until the complex waveforms in the UAS domain appeared. The SDR-based source generation technique was of course triggered by the identification of this new threat, and then further refined to achieve maximum effectiveness in the inhibition and jamming of these complex signals. There is no doubt that the proliferation of this new threat initiated the introduction of SDR-based jamming techniques. So, if we take a high-level look as an SDR waveform, there are a number of key aspects to consider. Most importantly the SDR waveforms can be developed to disrupt the command and control links of UAS platforms in response to the ConOps of the operational user.


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