A recent test by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DAPRA) demonstrated the ability of radars supplied by Echodyne to detect and track small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in urban airspace, the company said last Friday.

More than a dozen of Echodyne’s radars were installed on two aerostats, towers, and building tops in the San Diego, Calif., metropolitan area for large area, comprehensive surveillance of drones as part of DARPA’s Aerial Dragnet program, which began in 2016. Under the program, DARPA is seeking technologies that can provide persistent, wide-area surveillance of all UAS operating below 1,000 feet in a large city.

Echodyne, based in Washington, worked with the Applied Physics Laboratory at the Univ. of Washington (APL-UW), to employ its EchoGuard and EchoFlight radars for the evaluation, which the company touted as successful.

“The DARPA requirement to create full urban airspace situational awareness has been challenging yet rewarding,” Tom Driscoll, Echodyne’s chief technology officer, said in a statement. “In conjunction with APL-UW, we operated more than a dozen radars on aerostats and rooftops to detect and track urban drone flights. Our performance demonstrated that Echodyne’s innovative, beam-steering, electronically scanning radars have unique operational, sensitivity, and intelligence characteristics necessary to conduct networked airspace surveillance over a major U.S. city like San Diego.”

Aerial Dragnet is aimed at protecting U.S. troops operating in urban areas overseas but the technologies being developed and evaluated as part of the program could potentially be used in the homeland to protect against threats from small UAS. The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Aviation Administration are planning evaluations soon of technologies that can be used to detect, track, identify and even mitigate small UAS.

Airport authorities in the U.S. and overseas are increasingly concerned about operational disruptions and the potential for deadly mishaps due to both careless and nefarious drone usage near airports.

Under the guidance of the White House National Security Council, an interagency working group has given the Transportation Security Administration the lead in the federal response to address a persistent UAS disruption in airport environments (Defense Daily, Nov. 15).

For the testing the week of Oct. 21, radar sensors were installed on two large tethered aerostats flying at up to 400-feet above the ground, as well as fixed roof-top and tower-mounted locations. The radars were tuned to detect and track the UAS and distinguish them from the background environment, including buildings, vehicles and birds, Echodyne said.

“The testing assessed how well the system could detect, track and identify over 150 sorties of drones including various commercial-off-the-shelf models, similar to those available at electronics stores or online retailers, which simulated unauthorized/unidentified drones flying in the city,” the company said.