The federal government late Monday afternoon began to solicit interest from industry for upcoming evaluations of technology for detecting, tracking, identifying and mitigating potential threats from small drones and other aircraft flying in the homeland.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Departments and Defense and Homeland Security, other federal partners and stakeholders in the Homeland Security Enterprise on Oct. 27 released a Request for Information seeking manufacturers, supplier and systems integrators for detecting, tracking and identifying manned and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and for mitigating UAS systems.

The Air Domain Awareness and Protection in the National Airspace (NAS) 2019-2020 Equipment Demonstration and Evaluation will initially focus on air domain awareness and contending with UAS, and eventually the program will include manned aircraft and marine vehicles. The program is also interested in being able to detect, track and identify the ground controller of an unmanned systems and the pilot of manned aircraft.

The new program stems from authorities enacted into law last October allowing DHS and the Department of Justice to test, operate, and evaluate systems that detect, track, identify and mitigate UAS in the U.S. The FAA was also given authority to test and evaluate Counter UAS, which refers to being able to mitigate, disable or disrupt UAS. The DoD and the Department of Energy were previously given these authorities.

In addition to testing and evaluating, the new law also permits DHS and DoJ to conduct Counter UAS operations against UAS threats that pose a threat to covered facilities and assets.

The Air Domain Awareness and Protection program will gauge how well the air domain awareness and protection technologies “to develop performance standards to support a proactive security regime for air domain awareness,” the RFI says. Moreover, it adds, “The information gleaned from these demonstrations will validate security response plans, procedures, procurements and actions.”

The RFI had been expected to be issued earlier this year with the evaluations beginning this year. Responses to the RFI are due by Dec. 12.

The technology evaluations are expected to begin late next spring, Tim Bennett, the Air Domain Awareness Program Manager with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, told Defense Daily before release of the RFI via an email response to questions.

Bennett said, “we have been touring the North to come up with demonstration sites for mountainous, plains, maritime and urban regions. We are looking at Montana for the mountainous, North Dakota for plains, and Michigan for the maritime and urban. We have also looked at Ohio for deep water maritime on Lake Erie.”

The RFI also mentions airports as an evaluation environment.

The government will evaluate the technologies of selected participants for two to three days for air domain awareness in a specific environment and may be asked to participate in a longer evaluation in a “separate environment” such as airport, urban, plains, mountainous and maritime for air domain awareness and mitigation, the RFI says.

The RFI defines mitigation to “include the capability to disrupt, disable, destroy, take control of, and/or provide alternate flight instructions to a UAS.” These capabilities include kinetic, such as projectiles and nets, non-kinetic such as radio frequency jamming, spoofing, and intercept, and GPS jamming and spoofing, and hybrid kinetic, which is defined as “non-kinetic with kinetic effect.”

Hybrid kinetic includes microwave, acoustic, laser, and non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse.

For the air domain awareness portion of the evaluation, the government will evaluate systems that detect, track and/or identify from ground level to 8,000 feet. Vehicles of interest include UAS below 55 pounds and UAS weighing 55 pounds or more, and manned ultralight aircraft, manned small aircraft, and small manned and unmanned boats.

For the protection portion of the evaluation, the government will assess mitigation “with minimal or no collateral damage from ground level to 500 feet,” against UAS weighing less than, and more than, 55 pounds.

There are urgent needs for systems to detect, track, identify and counter small UAS.

A recent task force made up of airport stakeholders recommends that lawmakers in the U.S. and Canada pass legislation that extends the counter UAS authorities to state and local law enforcement agencies that would be the first responders to deal with potential drone threats in and around airports.

In addition to airports, there is broad interest in protecting various critical infrastructures such as government facilities and assets, as well as stadiums and other venues from potential threats posed by drones.

The U.S. Border Patrol recently purchased systems from Citadel Defense to detect drones along portions of the southwest border that are being used to smuggle drugs and help bring illegal aliens into the country undetected. Also, two companies, AeroDefense and Australia’s DroneShield, recently announced that they have supplied systems to detect and track small UAS at stadiums in the U.S.