Counter UAV systems put to test in MITRE challenge

By UAS Magazine Staff | October 24, 2016

To test an array of new technologies or strategies designed to stop unwanted drones from entering no-fly zones, a team of researchers mimicked real-life scenarios. Organizers of a counter unmanned aircraft vehicle challenge looked to news headlines for inspiration, such as the drone that reached the White House lawn or the small UAV landing unannounced next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Researchers from MITRE—a not-for-profit government organization that performs research and development—created the challenge. The goal was to put radar systems, software programs or physical hardware to the test in scenarios ranging from operators flying with little flight knowledge and no intent, to skilled pilots flying with a deep technical know-how combined with ill intent.

“Spotting drones or stopping them from being where they aren’t supposed to be is becoming a national issue,” said Jonathan Rotner, lead sensor systems engineer and co-organizer of the counter UAV challenge. “The world is waking up to thinking about how to counter UAVs.”

For two weeks, the counter UAV teams worked to mitigate unwanted drones flying into a fake city setting near Quantico, Virginia. “Tactically and technically, it gave a range of what our counter UAV systems could stop and what they were truly prepared for,” Rotner said, adding that following the competition the entire group realized there was no silver bullet.

DroneRANGER, a system designed and built by Virginia-based Van Cleave and Associates, won the best end-to-end system for its 360-degree scanning radar, positioning system for visual and thermal imaging and radio frequency jammers. The system uses the radar and imaging before initiating the jamming frequencies.

Not every winner utilized radio frequencies to stop drones, however. SkyWall 100, a shoulder-mounted net-dispersing interdiction system won a $20,000 prize. The unit relies on a compressed air powered launcher and a projectile that includes a net and a parachute.