Global Trends and The Influence of R&D on the UAV Defense Market...

Global Trends and The Influence of R&D on the UAV Defense Market for the Following Years

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Article by Or Shalom

The use of UAVs for various missions has grown significantly in the past few years. In addition to their use in the HLS market and battlefield, one can find a use for them in the fields of agriculture, monitoring, patrolling, search and rescue, shipping and more. The use of UAVs on the battlefield was naturally suited for intelligence and patrolling missions, and later on was adapted for short and long ranges attacks with various methods. The demands and global influences affected the UAV and drone manufacturers, who brought a variety of solutions and implemented abilities like the integration of payloads, changes for observation and gathering intelligence, dropping payloads and shooting targets, explosion and suicide missions, and even integrating a number of abilities in one drone[1]. Faced with these abilities, more and more anti-drone solutions are being developed, as well as defense from loitering munition in general.

A Greek experiment demonstrated in April 2023 proved that a UAV can launch a rocket 2.75 inches (70mm) in diameter and 1.8 meters in length, with a 1.92 meter wingspan[2]. This launch can include a rocket-propulsion missile to increase its spatial abilities. According to reports, this is the first documentation of a successful launch of this kind from a UAV. The proven uses and abilities for attack on a battlefield, as well as developments in the field of R&D are like a thermal map influencing the planning and security design in border defense, critical infrastructures (oil infrastructure, airports and seaports), prisons, stadiums or sport fields and facilities. These plans need to be in accordance with the threat, terrain (urban, border, etc.), motivation analysis and the enemy’s abilities on the battlefield, as well as possible consequences of terror use[3].

If we analyze the events of the Aramco oil infrastructure of 2019 as a case analysis and see the consequences of significant physical damage to a critical infrastructure, we’ll find that the preliminary defense plans must include solutions to kinetic threats and UAVs. With the goal of intercepting possible attacks, these solutions are based on early discovery and classification for quick reaction and response, and would be manifested in kinetic responses or quick frequency jams (in the case of UAVs)[4]. This, for example, would be how the ability to recognize and discover a drone and estimate its speed would affect a response, like the ability to intercept with a suicide-drone (a drone that can reach a speed of 200 kph), net throwing or kinetic shooting[5]. Therefore, the matter of detection and discovery is critical and requires an examination of performance limitations in terms of range detection, functionality, weather dependency, etc., in the planning and operational deployment stages[6].

Both historic and recent use of loitering munition for attack also requires preliminary planning in the construction stage in order to characterize and create built-in difficulties and defenses (like raising concrete reinforced walls, doubled walls, resistance to field conditions and environmental threats, speed, carrying capacity and more) that will further impede the results of line-of-sight fire, in addition to detection radars deployed throughout the radius for redundancy and discovery abilities, as well as coverage against indirect fire threats.

A French experiment carried out in preparation for the 2024 Olympics proved drones can be destroyed with lasers from a kilometer away. The conclusions of the experiment were in relation to the defense of strategic and military facilities, especially since this system provides a solution to the threat of near UAVs or objects undetectable by radar, or autonomous UAVs (which are not dependant on a GPS)[7].

Events of drone launches near landing strips in airports (including the events of 2018 at Gatwick and Heathrow airports in the UK) have further security consequences that demonstrate the challenges. The solutions to these threats near airports are complex due to the fear of using kinetic means to intercept the drones in urban areas, and the potential danger to innocent lives. On the other hand, there are limitations and risks that accompany the use of frequency jamming systems due to the possible electromagnetic interruptions and RFs, and potential disruptions of flight safety. Therefore, there is a need for controlled destruction methods (soft kill), like a laser-based destruction system, without endangering innocents. Conclusions have been drawn from the Police’s actions during these events, whose efforts to locate the people controlling the drones did not succeed. Despite existing concepts, according to research conducted by the Ben-Gurion University for locating drone operators using patterns, characteristics and frequency analysis, these abilities are still relatively limited (due to environmental noise and interruptions, urban sounds, etc.)[8].

When analyzing security risks there are consequences for the threats of using UAVs and drones in close security areas, for example when analyzing threats in the vicinity of a convoy or important, secured personnel, which raise the need for close coverage technologies in 360 degrees and a radius of 1 to 3 km (depends on the environment, jams and possible interruptions). There are tactical solutions of course, like jamming using an RF gun or a similar system for preliminary radio frequency jams, GPS blockage and more.

The need for anti-UAV systems stems mostly from the growing use of cheap UAVs from various manufacturers, UAV events and incidents, terror and malicious use and the threats they hold. Furthermore, the developments, autonomous abilities and the ability to deal with jamming systems (counter jamming), flight that does not depend on GPS-based systems both as a single aircraft and as a swarm, will all accelerate the demand for advanced, high-performance systems. Environment conditions and various needs will preserve the demand for different technologies and abilities in the field of kinetic solutions and abilities, moderated destruction abilities and blockage abilities.

The author is a security, cyber and HLS technology expert and consultant to government ministries and defense industries. He holds a master’s degree, as well as civil and national qualifications in the realm of HLS and Cyber Security. He has experience in consultation and business development for security companies and groups in matters of planning and building defense, innovation and security technology, exercises, and training in security and cyber.


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