Lockheed Martin [LMT] Monday unveiled a device that can counteract Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) with non-kinetic cyber defeat options.

The ICARUS, on display at the Association of the United States Army’s annual exposition in Washington, D.C., has a multi-spectral sensor system to detect and characterize in-bound UASs which it can then disable and jam or take over to safely land in a designated area.

“When talking with customers, we believe that there’s an imminent threat approaching called the flying IED (Improvised Explosive Device) or airborne IED. To defeat this threat we think that you need a multi-spectral sensor solution followed by a rapid capability that allows you to take over and control these drones before they hit their intended target,” Doug Booth, director of space & cyber at Lockheed Martin, said at a press event at the exposition.

HUGINN X1 Quad-rotor UAV Photo: Sky-Watch
HUGINN X1 Quad-rotor UAV
Photo: Sky-Watch

Booth spoke of the dangers of combining low cost (several hundred dollar) consumer-type Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or UASs and IEDs. He referenced several cases to illustrate the danger: when a drone hovered near German Chancellor Angela Merkel at an open air campaign event in 2013, when a drone carrying traces of radioactive materials landed on the roof of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office in April 2015, and various drone crashes on the White House grounds.

The company’s ICARUS system combines a multi-spectral sensor system with a quick reaction capability to defeat these kinds of threats, Booth said. The system uses three types of sensors: imagery, acoustic, and RF.

“Whenever these drones are flying, acoustically they put off a signature,” which also carries over to imagery and RF, Booth said. The sensors are connected to a back end characterization database that can quickly analyze the signatures to determine if it is a drone within seconds.

In some cases you can even characterize the exact manufacturer and type of drone it is from the sensors, Booth noted.

The ICARUS then uses non-kinetic payloads to neutralize potential threats.

The next system component is “once you get through the sensors, once you get through the characterization, is our cyber non-kinetic payloads. Those payloads allow you to defeat the device. You can actually disable the onboard cameras if you want, you can knock the unit out of the sky if you want. Or the one that we prefer is you can actually take control of these vehicles and land them in a safe zone,” Booth said.

ICARUS is also “built in mind with a very open, modular, flexible, architecture mind,” Michael Panczenko, director of cyber engineering and technology at Lockheed Martin, added at the event.

Panczenko noted if a client has a different sensor type they prefer, “we can easily accommodate that into our architecture.” This includes various types of radar and microwave sensors, where laws and policies allow.  

The ICARUS system was also touted as being very user-friendly, requiring a minimal training time of 15-20 minutes. “There is a very sophisticated back-end mission manager that handles a lot of the intelligence, that includes all the detection algorithms, the characterization, and determining the best countermeasures delivered.” Panczenko added.

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The most appropriate countermeasure are determined by several factors: the nature of the threat, location the system is operating at with the laws/policies relevant there, and health and safety concerns.

Lockheed Martin sees a market for ICARUS in protecting critical infrastructure. This includes military and government locations, airports, and nuclear power facilities. Large commercial vendors have inquired into this system as well, Lockheed Martin said.

Company officials emphasized ICARUS focuses on passive detection methods, particularly in the RF sensor. This helps mitigate location-based law and policy restrictions on electromagnetic (EM) spectrum uses, at airports in particular. Passive detection allows ICARUS to detect and mitigate a threatening UAS at an airport without interfering with the various broadcast signals used by normal aircraft there, the company said.

Lockheed Martin also presented a mock area of operation for ICARUS at the press event. A satellite map displayed where the system can be deployed, with geo-fences limiting ICARUS’ range of operation.

The company noted the sensor is about the size of a cinderblock and takes 30 to 45 minutes to set up.

Lockheed Martin noted ICARUS is different from its competitors because rather than being a blanket “sledgehammer” EW jammer, it contains cyber non-kinetic surgical payloads.

“If you turn on a jammer you’re actually disrupting the whole environment. In the case of this drone or UAV, when you turn on the jammer you may be knocking it down but as soon as you turn the jammer off it’s actually going to fly back up and go to its intended target,” Booth said.

“What our solution does is actually using the multiple technologies and multiple payloads allows you to control it. Not just through RF means, not through any type of jamming means, but precision strikes allow you to control and fly it to where you want and not just depend on the jamming type.”