Rafael Advanced Defense Systems presented a new anti-drone defense solution, including anti-swarm defense, for maneuvering ground forces at the 2019 UVID-Dronetech Conference last November. The new system, Drone Dome, is already deployed operationally at a British Army base in the Middle East. "When the reference scenario involves an attack against armored columns by drone swarms, this is one of the most serious threats currently facing ground forces," said at the conference Meir B., Marketing & Business Development Manager at Rafael's Air & Missile Defense Division.
The people of Rafael are very careful about revealing how they had solved the problem of providing a defensive solution against drone swarms, owing to confidentiality, but do explain how they had managed to come up with a solution for individual drones. The interception process starts when the drone is detected by the SigInt element of the system, as soon as the operator turns on his remote control unit. The SigInt capabilities make it possible to differentiate between the operator and the drone. The air defense operator receives an aural alert to the effect that a drone had been detected. In the next stage, the radar element kicks in and provides a spatial location of the drone for the C3 system. Following the radar stage, the target is handed over to the electro-optical tracking element. The surveillance camera is directed automatically, and at this stage, the target is classified. In the final stage, the air defense operator decides whether to activate a frequency jammer, a laser beam, or some other form of interception against drone swarms.
"An anti-drone defense system is yet another layer in our multi-layered air defense approach," explained a representative from Rafael. "We have multiple layers that include the anti-drone system, the Spyder system, the Iron Dome system, and the David's Sling system. Our reference point for the defense solution consists of attacks against specific, pinpoint targets using drone swarms. Nasrallah, who follows the worldwide progress in the field of drones, may be preparing to employ his own drone swarms."
The statements made by Rafael officials have not come "out of the blue." Various civilian companies, including Intel and EHang, have already produced spectacles involving thousands of drones in a single swarm. Admittedly, this is a civilian capability, but it is safe to assume that military organizations, as well as terrorist organizations, are in the process of acquiring such capabilities. "We saw video clips from Syria and Iraq where the users took hand grenades, attached them to a drone, and came up with a precision-guided munition for the price of $2,000. Drones can paralyze airports, too. In Britain, more than a thousand commercial flights were canceled during the days before Christmas owing to the presence of drones near major airports. We face the same problem at Ben-Gurion Airport, too," said the representative of Rafael.
An Emerging Market
According to a study Rafael presented at the conference, the anti-drone market encompasses about 60 companies. Some of these companies focus on surveillance/detection, others on effectors, while others offer full integration. Rafael belongs to a small group of companies that offer end-to-end solutions. "This market has shown a growth trend of 20% a year. In the US alone, there are more than 1,300,000 registered drones. With such numbers, the need for an anti-drone defense system is expected to increase in the coming years," Meir B. says.
Rafael's anti-drone defense (C-UAS) solutions focus on preventing these platforms from entering specific zones, border sections, and, as stated – areas where military maneuvers take place. The platforms regarded as a threat are Category 1 UAS (Micro-UAS), capable of carrying up to 500 grams of payload to an operating range of about five kilometers, at a flight level of about 300 meters.
Rafael's Drone Dome system provides an aerial status picture that includes the ability to differentiate friendly drones from enemy drones. The Drone Dome system includes a radar system by Rada, a surveillance camera by Controp, a frequency jammer, a SigInt capability, and a laser beam – and integrates all of these elements into a single, unified system. Rafael assembles the C3 picture using a technology by Airways. The SigInt technology used is DTOA (Differential Time of Arrival). It can pinpoint a drone very accurately at ranges of more than 3-4 kilometers. "These are the ranges for defending a site or a border section," says Meir B.
The Drone Dome system utilizes proprietary Rafael algorithms to classify the target automatically and for automatic day and night tracking. The operator is responsible for closing the loop – he decides whether to employ a high-accuracy jammer or to destroy the drone. The detecting and identification range is about 3.5 kilometers, and the operating range is about three kilometers. What do you do with an autonomous drone that cannot be jammed? "For this we need laser-beam interception at ranges of 1-2 kilometers," the people from Rafael explained. The system has an output of 5-10 kilowatts. "The target is handed over to fine tracking, and the laser-beam interception is enabled only then. We can burn the payload and then the platform," says Meir B.