A new study by a drone think-tank reveals growth trends and cautionary challenges for the growing counter-drone industry.
Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone released a 23-page report on Feb 20 that breaks down available counter-drone products and identifies various ways each solution approaches drone mitigation.
Although most drones are piloted by qualified, safety-conscious users, a few instances of rogue UAV flights have raised concerns among military, aviation and law-enforcement agencies.
In the Middle East, ISIS reportedly uses drones in limited military engagements while in other countries, rogue drones have threatened the safety of manned flights and been used to deliver contraband to prisons.
“The growth in the counter-drone technology sector is directly correlated to these concerns,” report author Arthur Holland Michel noted, adding:
“Following hundreds of reports of close encounters between drones and manned aircraft in the U.S. airspace system, the FAA launched a program to test C-UAS at a number of airports, where such incidents are both most common and most dangerous. After law enforcement groups raised the possibility that drones could be an effective weapon for terrorist attacks on large crowds, counter-drone systems began to appear around sporting and political events with increasing regularity.”
The report notes that more than 230 counter-drone products produced by 155 manufacturers are now on the market (the report also provides a complete database). “The expansion of the sector in the roughly five years since counter-drone systems first appeared on the market has been stratospheric,” Michel notes.
“In a market survey conducted in 2015, researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories identified just 10 dedicated counter-drone systems available for acquisition. Today, less than three years later, we have tallied over 200 systems on the market.”
The report dives into the various types of counter-drone solutions, which are divided into larger divisions – detection/tracking systems and interdiction solutions.
Detection/tracking includes products that use radar, RF, infrared, acoustic and electro-optical sensors to detect drones but stop short of removing a rogue threat from the sky.
Interdiction solutions employ tactics that can disrupt RF or satellite signals between a drone and its ground station, as well as launching nets, lasers or other projectiles that simply shoot a UAV from the sky.
Michel notes that the burgeoning market also raises many concerns: “A lack of common standards in the C-UAS industry means that there is a wide variance in the effectiveness and reliability of systems.”