Drone Technology In recent years, drones have flown over and, in some cases, landed inside restricted areas across our country, with notable incidents in our nation’s capital. In 2015, a quadcopter crashed on the grounds of the White House. Later that year, a drone crashed into the White House ellipse near the South Lawn. Although often used by benign hobbyists, these small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) can be exploited for many illegal activities. We are posing a significant threat to critical infrastructure and national security facilities. It is why Counter-UAS (C-UAS) technology is so important.
The popularity of sUAS, or drones, has grown as the cost has become more affordable. Its nefarious abilities also continue to increase. They can reach high speeds and move in three dimensions with the potential to carry dangerous payloads, smuggle and conduct illegal surveillance. The applications are endless, creating a formidable challenge for our national security agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate.
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New Legal Authority Equals New Security Capabilities
Until recently, a DHS agent or officer observed a drone violating restricted airspace or posing a credible threat to the public. There was little they could do to counter it. Officers could only warn the operator that they were violating airspace. DHS could detect, identify, monitor and track uncrewed aircraft using traditional radar or electro-optical/infrared systems. Still, with the increase in incidents of the unauthorised use, it became apparent that the Mitigation authority needs.
Mitigation in Action
According to FPS Branch Chief Jarred Pennington, “C-UAS is a layered approach to next-generation technology. Tactics and procedures that law enforcement employs to mitigate hostile UAS threats.”
Mitigation strategies range from electronic disruption of operator control to physical banning of the sUAS operator. So the C-UAS team listens for unique radio frequency signatures of sUAS in a protected area to provide real-time threat information to the command centre. Classify and track Suas and establish the operator’s location.
Provides air domain knowledge to develop trend data that enables the officer to understand the operator’s intent better and determine the appropriate tactics to mitigate a potential threat while adhering to strict procedures and security safeguards—protection of privacy.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
In light of this enhanced authority, it is paramount to continue to protect the civil liberties of those who use drones legally and responsibly. A balance must be struck between our government’s ability to mitigate a threatening drone and protect the privacy of a legitimate drone user.
A variety of C-UAS technologies are available today but must adhere to strict guidelines outlined in US Code Title 6 Section 124n to protect the privacy and rights of US citizens. So the process of obtaining permission to use C-UAS technologies that may violate Titles 18 or 49 of the US Code is the 124n process. A collaborative interagency effort.
Practice Makes Prepared
S&T is responsible for coordinating with system vendors to configure and train DHS components to have the C-UAS equipment in place and ready to go after a test event. Multiple C-UAS systems are installed in a facility for a single test event to provide a robust system approach to addressing the threat.
Officers fly their target sUAS from various locations with different flight profiles to assess performance capabilities as the other technologies detect, track, identify and alleviate the incoming target. So the goal is to classify a C-UAS system or a combination of techniques. That can detect, confirm and react in real-time to thwart terror and threats of violence. S&T testers validate how well a C-UAS technology achieves each target’s main stages of detection, tracking, identification and mitigation.
Rapid technological innovation has provided consumers with advanced products at affordable prices. Traditionally, drones are limited to military use due to high costs and technical sophistication. Therefore, due to economies of scale, consumers can buy drones for less than $100.
The Importance of drone technology is quite evident from the above discussion. The wide range of technologies conveys Real-Time applications of drones. With more weight capacity, robust and advanced technologies, longer flight duration and manoeuvrability, drones can be much more helpful than it is now.