Pentagon’s technology research wing DARPA recently demonstrated the capability to shoot down adversary drones using an anti-drone system that shot strings of streamers into the propellers of the rival drone causing it to crash to the ground.
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Under what’s called the Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program, DARPA successfully demonstrated a Counter-Unmanned Air System (C-UAS) multilayer defense architecture to defeat unauthorized drone intrusions over military installations or operations.
DARPA shared a video of the demo in which reusable interceptors were launched by a Humvee which goes up in the air to intercept the drone, shooting strong, stringy streamers at the intruding drone jamming its propellers.
The anti-drone system offers protection to moving convoys from small drones while avoiding collateral damage by using non-explosive material to take down the drones.
The MFP system used in the demonstration is mounted on a Humvee, which includes a sensor suite and multiple interceptor launch tubes.
The system utilized a newly-developed X band radar to neutralize the tactically relevant drones. The radar senses and identifies unmanned aerial system threats automatically.
“The radar then pairs targets to specific interceptors through an automated decision engine tied to a command and control system, launching and guiding rotary and fixed-wing interceptors with two types of drone countermeasures while on the move and without operator intervention,” reads the statement from DARPA.
“Because we were focusing on protecting mobile assets, the program emphasized solutions with a small footprint in terms of size, weight, and power,” says MFP program manager Gregory Avicola in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. “This also allows for more affordable systems and less operators.”
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The DARPA anti-drone program focuses on “defeating raids with multiple threats, rather than single unmanned aerial attackers,” it says, adding that “it required the development of an integrated solution of sensors, autonomy, and mitigation solutions more robust than existing systems.”
The use of a non-kinetic defeating mechanism meant that the system was safe to be used in civilian areas. The development of this low-cost reusable drone interceptor system was initiated four years ago “with the aim of creating an integrated system for thwarting attacks from self-guided small unmanned aircraft.”
Although its principal goal is to protect high-value convoys moving through potentially populated regions, DARPA says the system can be used to guard military bases and installations if deployed in sufficient numbers.
DARPA also claims the use of “other non-kinetic techniques” that were developed and tested during the demonstration. Dr. Greg Avicola, who serves as Program Manager for the Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program revealed to TheDrive that the system has been demonstrated using the MORFIUS interceptor that uses a high-power microwave-directed energy weapon to defeat drone swarms.
Avicola acknowledged that although there’s a human operator involved, the anti-drone system is designed to tackle a large number of incoming threats and will, therefore, have significant autonomy in devising the appropriate mechanism to address the threat.
That task is performed by DARPA’s “decision engine”, which does the threat perception, forming a complete picture of the surrounding airspace, and, subsequently, passing recommendations to the human operator for interceptor deployment, The War Zone writes.
Avicola added that in addition to the CUGAR interceptor, another drone interceptor was tested in the MFP demonstrations – Lockheed Martin’s Mobile Radio Frequency-Integrated Unmanned Aerial Systems Suppressor, or MORFIUS.
According to Lockheed, MORFIUS is a tube-launched, “reusable, high-power microwave-based interceptor for C-UAS and C-swarm scenarios.” Using high-power microwaves (HPM), this interceptor is capable of eliminating multiple targets. As directed energy weapons, HPM can destroy the electronics of drones or weapons and render them completely useless.
The successful test of the anti-drone system marks a significant achievement for the Pentagon, which has been striving to tackle the new-age mini drone threat. Anti-drone defense programs are underway across the globe today, with electronic jamming being the fundamental aspect of the system in a majority of those programs.