Technology: The difficult parade against the threat of small drones


TechnologyThe difficult parade against the threat of small drones

How do you spot a slow, low-flying craft and neutralize it without causing damage?


Attack attempts, overflights of airports and oil rigs, deliveries to a prison with cell phones, small drones are a headache in trying to protect yourself from them. If they can be bought for personal use, they also give cold sweats.

Thus from the perspective of the Rugby World Cup and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. From the massive use of small kamikaze drones, sometimes in swarms, during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 2020 and the use in Ukraine of commercial drones for reconnaissance or targeting are new vulnerabilities.

Guarding against small drones, the number of which continues to increase, would be an almost impossible mission. What is the current state of counter drone technology? Question asked by the Confederation. The French Ministry of the Armed Forces is due to receive the first six anti-drone systems at the beginning of the year, nine months after the signing of a contract awarded to the Thales and CS groups.

“A multi-sensor approach”

“Between the moment when the drone is detected and when it arrives at its target, the operator has about thirty seconds”, according to Egidio Cau, deputy director of the fight against drones at CS group. To cover larger areas, several systems can be interconnected. One of the difficulties is to avoid false alarms because “for a radar, there is nothing that looks more like a drone than a bird”, notes his deputy Tony Valin.

Still, the technological challenges remain immense, he concedes. Almost all commercial drones are piloted remotely and therefore emit waves that can be jammed. But the increasing autonomy of drones, whose trajectory is predetermined and which then no longer emit electromagnetic waves, frees them from this interference. A laser, capable of frying a drone in less than ten seconds at 1,000 meters, should be available in 2024.

Thales, for its part, is working on an “electromagnetic effector”, a kind of large ball that emits a powerful wave several hundred meters against a drone, rendering it inoperative in a second. Other potential additions could be interceptor drones that would net the hostile drone or jammer drones.

Studies are also being conducted on the acoustic detection of drones. For Egidio Cau, “you need a multi-sensor approach, there is no magic system”.

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