Special forces testing new anti-drone systems

The Navy unit that oversees SEAL teams is set to test a system that can find and jam an increasing number of weaponized consumer-market drone aircraft.

Vehicle-mounted drone detection and defense system (Photo: Skysafe)

The vehicle-mounted drone-defense system being tested by the Navy Special Warfare Command depends on early detection and radio signal jamming.

The Navy’s special forces and the Defense Department’s tech innovation unit are looking at commercially developed gear to counter the growing threat of weaponized consumer drones on the battlefield.

The DOD’s Navy Special Warfare Command signed a $1.5 million deal with San Diego-based SkySafe to test a field-deployed mobile counter-drone system aimed at detecting, identifying, tracking and intercepting a blossoming fleet of commercial drones outfitted to attack U.S. forces.

Although the system is aimed at military applications, it could also be used by domestic security agencies to protect critical infrastructure, large public events and other vulnerable targets in the U.S., according to SkySafe CEO Grant Jordan.

The Navy Special Warfare Command oversees and conducts special operations and missions. It is primarily organized around the eight Navy SEAL teams.

SkySafe worked through the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental to connect with the Navy, Jordan told FCW.

The contract comes as terrorist groups have seized on the increasing availability of relative cheap and available consumer drones as a new weapon.  In January, for instance, ISIS announced a new group, the “Unmanned Aircraft of the Mujahadeen,” that is modifying drone aircraft to carry explosives.

DIUx awarded SkySafe an initial contract in April for a system that is being used by the Marine Corps to passively identify, track and defeat threats posed by UAS during the day, at night and in all weather conditions.

It also awarded an April contract to Sensofusion for that company’s Airfence system, which can automatically detect, locate, track and take over UAS controls, as well as locate the vehicle’s operator in real time.

The SkySafe system, Jordan said, is a little larger than a toaster and can be mounted on vehicles to provide “a secure bubble” against approaching hostile unmanned aerial vehicles by using early detection and radio signal jamming.

Jordan likened the growing threat of weaponized consumer drone technology to the devastating rise of mass-produced improvised explosive devices in Iraq and other war zones in the early 1990s. IEDs became so common that they fundamentally changed the battlefield for U.S. troops on the ground.

SkySafe, Jordan said, is rolling out a series of  tests and exercises for DOD customers over the next year; the company plans to have systems in the field in 2018.

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