Northrop Grumman [NOC] provided reporters with details on its Mobile – Acquisition, Cueing and Effector (M-ACE) counter unmanned aerial systems (C-UAS) solution during a call on May 26.
M-ACE uses three-dimensional radar, radio frequency sensors, electro-optical/infrared cameras, global position systems (GPS), and secure radios, according to Northrop. It was built with open architecture software to be capable of easily integrating with many sensors and cameras. It also uses man-in-the-loop autonomy through artificial intelligence and machine learning plug-ins.
“What we’re using this system for is a testbed for a multi-layered full-size spectrum detection, identification, and defeat of UAS,” Ryan Carlson, senior principal system engineer at Northrop Grumman, said during the call. “So what that means is that we have a variety of both active and passive sensors on here, as well as both onboard and off-board effector mechanisms to be able to engage UAS.”
The base platform sits in the back of a standard truck with an 8-foot cargo bed making it easily transportable. The tower rises out of the bed to about 30 feet when in use.
The 3D radar, a White Gryphon R1400 radar, sits on the top of the tower, Carlson said.
“What you’re seeing at the top is a White Gryphon R1400 radar,” Carlson said. “It’s a 3D radar that essentially allows you to detect any aerial and ground threats into the city and you pinpoint position on where that asset is. What that allows you to do is meet up the kill chain, which is a big intention of what we’re trying to do the next couple of months next couple years for the main product line.”
The R1400 radar is supplied by SRC, Inc.
M-ACE uses a CDC Nikon camera system with an infrared (IR) camera and a visible spectrum camera. The cameras also have laser rangefinders to autonomously move the cameras to the spot where a threat has been detected, Carlson said.
The system has both active and passive operations for the execution of the C-UAS kill chain.
M-ACE is powered using the vehicle alternator or by hydrogen fuel cells.
“What’s great about this system is although we have a lot of sensors that can be very power-hungry sensors, we’re able to power everything off the vehicle alternator, that essentially is feeding a battery bank that we’re drawing down when we turn on the system, enabling it to run for several hours,” Carlson said. “There are other ways that we power that battery bank as well including hydrogen, hydrogen fuel cells, solar power to be connected, and above shore power. So, a lot of really great options to be able to keep the system operational.”
The M-ACE system received design verification last November and its development was funded by Northrop’s internal research and development. The system has been showcased for the Army, Air Force, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to Northrop.
“M-ACE (the Mobile Acquisition, Cueing and Effector) system is intended to provide a mobile capability where it can drive and set up at a certain point,” Jarrod Krull, a spokesperson at Northrop told Defense Daily via email. “This is best used as tactical (battlefield application). Likewise, Border Patrol could use the system to provide border surveillance and protection. Police could use the system to provide surveillance and security to key infrastructure or during events. The system is also designed so that it can be moved and set up in a containerized fashion where the system is contained in a structure and moved to a temporary site to quickly provide a counter unmanned capability. Lastly, the system could be part of a fixed site such as an airport. We chose to create the development capability as a truck mounted variant to prove its ability to be mobile and that a system could be packaged as a mobile system.”