The Department of Homeland Security of late is hearing from its components that their interest in counter-drone technologies is shifting more toward mobile systems than fixed systems, a department official said on Thursday.
This is a requirement that has emerged in the “last few months” and is a shift in “what we had originally been thinking,” which is that “we’d probably be deploying more fixed-site systems,” Shawn McDonald, the program manager for Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-UAS) within the DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, said during a webinar hosted by S&T.
Fixed-site C-UAS systems would be larger and have longer ranges and “would sit on top of a building and stay there forever,” but mobility offers advantages depending on needs, McDonald said. For example, if Customs and Border Protection is using these systems to monitor the border, “you might want to focus your efforts in a certain area and then move them again in a couple weeks,” he said. “You just can’t do that with large systems.”
McDonald added that “Maybe if we can buy 10 of these mobile systems versus one that sits on top of a building that can never be moved, we might opt for those 10 right now that we can place…in different locations in the same city or be able to move with the threat.”
DHS S&T hosted the webinar to discuss the C-UAS efforts, needs and wants as part of a larger Long-Range Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). Another area of interest to McDonald within the BAA for his program is the need for smarter systems.
By smarter, McDonald said that for drone detection there needs to be an algorithm that uses the data from the sensor or sensors to “help us determine behavior of life, or intent based on that behavior. Don’t just provide me a data point, tell me it means something or try to anyway.”
The mitigation component to C-UAS, which refers to being able to disable, destroy or defeat potential drone threats, needs to have “surgical precision” and “low collateral effects,” McDonald said. DHS is also interested in kinetic tools to mitigate threats from small UAS but these have to be “very low collateral kinetic,” he said.
McDonald also said that advances in drone technology are happening so fast that that if a C-UAS system is fielded today it may be obsolete in a year. Five years to develop and field a system is too long, he said.
McDonald also said that so far in his review of C-UAS technologies during the past year, no one company has a complete system that meets all requirements. This means any solutions require a “system of systems approach,” which offers opportunities for non-traditional developers that may have a good technology for one aspect of drone security to get involved, he said.
Earlier this month, McDonald told Defense Daily that S&T is helping CBP and the DHS Federal Protective Service prepare for C-UAS evaluations soon (Defense Daily, Aug. 7).