The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has deployed a commercial counter drone system to one of the nation’s national laboratories for the protection of a nuclear facility, one of the few U.S. deployments of the technology.
The NNSA, a semi-autonomous agency of the Department of Energy charged with the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, says the counter unmanned aircraft system (UAS) system deployed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico can “detect, identify, track and intercept unsanctioned and suspicious drones.”
This is the first of four such systems the NNSA’s Office of Defense Nuclear Security plans to install at Category 1 facilities that handle special nuclear materials: the Pantex Plant at Amarillo, Texas; the Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and the Nevada National Security Site in Nevada. The other systems are due to be deployed in 2019.
“We need a system to counter threats ranging from on-site disruption by protestors to intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance of NNSA sites, plants, and labs,” says Lewis Monroe III, director of Security Operations and Programmatic Planning at NNSA.
The areas where NNSA has deployed or will deploy the CUAS systems are no-drone zones. NNSA worked with the Federal Aviation Administration for the no-drone zone designation.
Congress in the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act gave the Departments of Defense and Energy limited authorities to test and deploy counter UAS systems in the U.S. to protect certain critical infrastructures. As of July 2018, the DoD had deployed CUAS systems to two locations domestically.
In October, Congress provided similar deployment authorities to the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice and gave DHS responsibility for testing CUAS systems domestically. DHS plans to initiate a testing program for counter drone systems in 2019 (See story above).
For the LANL deployment, the CUAS platform was “selected from systems and components that were tested and evaluated by NNSA’s Center for Security Technology, Analysis, Response and Testing,” NNSA says. Initial testing was conducted by DoE’s Sandia National Laboratories at the Nevada National Security Site and the lab helped with the analysis in the selection for the CUAS system for the four sites.
The NNSA didn’t disclose the vendor for the CUAS system it purchased.