Technologies being developed and deployed to detect, track and counter potential threats posed by small drones to aircraft and airport operations and other critical infrastructures need to be tested in real world environments and even after being deployed need to be routinely tested to ensure they continue to meet the needs of law enforcers, says a new report by the inter-governmental police organization INTERPOL.

“These tests should take into account the emerging drone threat and evolution of the drone market to ensure that any system’s capability matches the evolving threat from criminal use of drones,” says the June 24 report, INTERPOL Drone Countermeasure Exercise Report, which was prepared with the Norwegian Police.

The lessons learned contained in the report are based on a three-day exercise at Norway’s Oslo Gardermoen Airport in September 2021. The authors of the report say it is the first exercise where a “wide-range” of counter-unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS) were tested and assessed while the airport remained fully operational and without interruptions.

“An essential takeaway from this exercise was demonstrating how different C-UAS technologies could add value to law enforcement agencies involved in managing drone incidents at airports,” the report says.

Other lessons discussed in the report include the need for extensive training by operators to understand the capabilities and limitations of a particular C-CUAS, having response protocols in place for all “affected parties” in response to a drone incursion whether it be an intentional or unintentional threat, and that there needs to be threat reporting related to criminal use of drones so that authorities elsewhere are aware of capabilities that may be needed to detect, track and identify the same threats.

The best counter-drone solutions differ from one environment to another, and also depend on “existing infrastructure and digital signal landscape,” the report says, adding that testing is challenging and extensive, which is why there is “currently limited knowledge and operational testing data in relation to C-UAS systems.”

INTERPOL last week in Oslo hosted an expert summit on the use of drones. The organization says that authorities worldwide are reporting that small UAS are being detected or observed near or around airports and other critical infrastructures daily and that law enforcement authorities are being tasked to deal with these potential threats in lower airspaces.

The testing last September involved 14 vendors supplying 17 counter-drone systems, including radar, passive systems, multi-sensor systems, and countermeasures. The report includes test results for each system, which for purposes of anonymity are coded.