The U.S. Defense Department’s Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO) will sponsor an event early next year to evaluate counter-drone tools and promote industry cooperation in the sector, an agency official said Nov. 17.
The “Hard Kill Challenge” will “invite a number of vendors” to demonstrate a “whole slew of different technologies” for destroying and disrupting fixed- and rotor-wing unmanned aerial systems, said Lisa Swan, JIDO’s deputy director of mission support. JIDO wants not only to see the private sector’s latest offerings but also to encourage companies to join forces to improve their products.
“I can’t make industry work together, but my hope would be, as people see what others have and what works and what doesn’t work, that they’ll do some partnerships,” Swan told reporters after speaking at the Defense One Summit. “I’ve seen it happen in previous jobs, where this vendor has this and this vendor has this and they figure out, ‘hey, if we work together, we can do it a whole lot better.’”
Other U.S. government agencies, including U.S. Central Command, and coalition partners are expected to observe the challenge, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 20 and occur at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
Swan said her agency is using its rapid acquisition authority to help the military quickly address the growing threat posed by small, inexpensive, commercially available drones that are armed with explosives or conducting surveillance. Her agency is often willing to support a “good enough” solution instead of waiting for a perfect one.
“An 80 percent solution today may be all that’s needed today,” she said. “If you need the 100 percent and you’re going to need lots of them and it’s a long-term thing, then that goes into the formal acquisition process.”
Several other defense agencies are also tackling the problem. In October, Army Secretary Eric Fanning said that countering hostile UAS will be among the top priorities for his service’s new Rapid Capabilities Office. In September, Eglin Air Force Base in Florida hosted an exercise focused on jamming and other non-kinetic, non-destructive ways to bring down UAS. And in August, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a request for information on technologies that could be fielded in three to four years to detect, identify, track and neutralize small UAS.
Non-defense agencies are also involved in counter-UAS. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Homeland Security, for example, are evaluating drone-detection technology near Denver International Airport this week. The Denver work is one of six technical evaluations scheduled over an 18-month period, the FAA said Nov. 16.