With the U.S. government slow to fund and test counter-drone systems for domestic applications, Fortem Technologies is finding plenty of business overseas for its suite of solutions to detect, track and neutralize threats from small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), says Fortem CEO Timothy Bean.

Other countries are “more forward thinking” than the U.S. when it comes to protecting critical infrastructures and their populations from threats posed by drones, he tells HSR on Jan. 31 in a telephone interview. These countries are buying the company’s “end-to-end” solution to protect people, bases, stadiums, oil fields and other infrastructures, he says.

Last summer, Fortem began doing more demonstrations of its counter UAS capabilities for various overseas customers, which led to four times the number of bookings versus the prior year, Bean says. The Iranian-sponsored drone attacks on Saudi oil fields last September also are helping drive demand as security professionals increasingly realize the need to protect their airspace, he says.

Fortem recently opened a Middle East office in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and the company is also doing a lot of business in Asia, Bean says. The company has 109 employees, nearly double from this time a year ago.

“Our foreign customers are moving rapidly,” he says.

The U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy for several years have had authorities to protect domestic installations from potential drone threats. Congress in the fall of 2018 provided similar authorities the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

This year, DHS is expected to begin evaluation programs in various environments, including borders and airports, to be able examine technologies for detecting and tracking small UAS where they pose a risk or are being used for criminal activities. Bean says the funding for these activities remains minimal, adding the government wants vendors to “test for free,” which “hurts small businesses.”

Bean also says there isn’t much funding in the U.S. for counter drone purchases, adding it’s “not seen as a significant problem within the country.”

New DoD Award

While U.S. demand trails international opportunities, Fortem is having success domestically. The company in early February said it received a DoD contract for a layered C-UAS solution for use in various military operations.

The contract, awarded through the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), which contracts with commercial companies to more rapidly acquire technology, covers various solutions from the company, including its SkyDome, DroneHunter, DroneHangar and TrueView radar.

SkyDome is an artificial intelligence platform that integrates the TrueView radar and other sensors to digitize the airspace, creating a mesh network to be able to autonomously monitor the airspace, cue defensive measures, and alert authorities to potential threats.

DroneHunter is a small UAS that can pursue and capture threatening drones using a net and tether to disable them and land them safely. DroneHunter can also be equipped with a TrueView radar to further enhance the SkyDome network.

DroneHangar is designed for the DIU and will keep DroneHunter heated, cooled, dry and charged. DroneHangar is integrated with SkyDome so that it can be opened and closed based on the rules engine and also provides net gun and batter health monitoring.

Bean tells HSR that the company’s radar technology offers customers protection against drones that present a risk. He says radio frequency-based systems only see between 70 and 80 percent of drones but miss the risky ones, which make up 95 percent of the threat, because criminals and others turn off RF signals and use other techniques to fly where they don’t belong.

TrueView radars allow users to see “everything in the airspace,” Bean says, adding that Fortem’s solutions can integrate with RF-based solutions as part of a layered defense.

Fortem said the new DoD contract demonstrated that government understand the threat from drones that are operating without emitting an RF signature.

New Radar

Fortem in early February also announced a new addition to its radar family, the TrueView mid-range R30. The company says the new radar, which is under 150 watts and weighs less than 15-pounds, can detect and track drones at over 1,500 meters.

The company’s shorter-range phase-array R20 and R30 radar combined can digitize an “entire urban landscape” and decrease false positives, Bean says.

In a statement accompanying Fortem’s introduction of the R30, which is available for shipping, Bean said “We now have a cost-effective, short and mid-range networkable radar with accuracy and features perfect for diverse venues, campuses and entire metro regions. The advancements Fortem has achieved with TrueView radar give security professionals the ability to see everything in their airspace at a lower cost point and higher accuracy and safety than ever before, while enabling unprecedented threat assessment capability.”

Bean says the problem with using longer range radar for C-UAS solutions is that they pick up too much clutter, resulting in too many false positives, adding that they aren’t suited for small moving drones.