AST Digital Magazine July/August 2016 - Page 17

Volume 6 Unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, are a clear and ever-increasing example of this trend. Military drones were the bulk of the mature UAS field just a few years ago – commercial sales have since exploded, with over 700,000 units sold in 2015 in the US alone according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Drones have yielded— and will continue to yield—many positive benefits for society, but the threats associated with accidental or malicious use have also increased as these tools have become more common. Option Challenge Optical Systems Require line-of-sight to threat; can’t see through buildings Audio Systems Must be pointed at the threat to start with; easily fooled in urban environments Drone Guns Do not actually identify the threat; require human operation for threat response Radars Su bject to FCC regulations; “always on” posture may create radiation hazards for people nearby Jammers Typically illegal under federal regulations allowing general use of wireless communications Trained Birds Requires an avian care facility for regular care and feeding of the “fleet” Drones have increasingly been reported performing unsafe or illegal operations. While many situations may be innocent misuse or simple curiosity, the breadth of incidents cannot be ignored: daily sightings on airport property; interference with firefighting operations; suspicious overwatch of police activity; overflights at nuclear power plants; incidents at the White House; and drone deliveries of cell phones, narcotics, and weapons into prisons around the world. The response to unmanned aerial systems is as July-Aug 2016 Edition varied as the threat. Organizations of all types, from police and public safety officials to international military forces, have tried almost every option: radars, guns, jammers, nets, and even speciallytrained birds. These solutions each have their pros and cons, but none have both the precision and the breadth of response that the SkyTracker system provides. A comprehensive response to the threat posed by drones—and other remotely-operated systems— needs to be just as flexible as the system being used. With the right hardware a drone can fly at night, in poor weather, in extreme heat and cold, and at high speeds. Experienced operators can fly their crafts almost as well as a Star Wars X-wing pilot, using military-style techniques to avoid detection until the last minute. When faced with a determined adversary, how will your chosen system respond? (CACI’s SkyTracker detection and engagement system defends against UAS threats. Creating an electronic boundary around sensitive locations, SkyTracker quickly detects, identifies, and tracks both UAS and their operators… Stopping UAS threats to valuable assets and national airspace. It’s scalable in size and scope of mission area and applicable anywhere commercial drones pose a risk. Courtesy of Caci and YouTube) Of course, not every drone pilot means to harm others around them. Many simply enjoy the thrill of playing with what (admittedly) can be an entertaining toy. At the same time, few operators understand the technical challenges that come along with flying a remotely piloted aircraft. It might seem tempting to get a better view of a parade, but what happens if the drone malfunctions and drops out of the sky? The technology that makes up an unmanned system is fantastically complex, and while manufacturers have put a lot of effort into making their products safe for the general public, accidents