For every military innovation, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Tanks are met with anti-tank missiles, planes are met with anti-air missiles, uncrewed aerial vehicles are met with dedicated counter-UAS lasers.
But drones, specifically smaller, cheaper drones, guided by swarming AI, can scale like software, overwhelming traditional defenses that match one-to-one countermeasures to airframes.
Dedrone, a drone detection company, hopes to start changing that exchange in favor of the defense, with the announcement of new drone detection software that can track swarms.
Dedrone has been in the drone detection business for a while. It signed a $400,000 contract with the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit earlier this year. This new update is version 3.5 of their software, which can find and track drones at a distance of up to a mile from the sensor. Once detected, radiofrequency sensors and cameras follow the incoming drone, record its movements and then plott those movements on a user-friendly map. For swarm detection, this update expands that capability to include simultaneous tracking of multiple drones. A demonstration video shows it follow five drones at once.
To develop the new swarm-tracking update, Dedrone says it worked closely with a NATO military to “align this technology with their needs, as well as other militaries facing these threats,” according to a spokesperson. The automated detection capabilities are trained on a proprietary database of drone information through machine learning, which suggests the detection tool may improve its capabilities on its own.
Detecting the drone is still just step one to stopping the drone, and for now, most of the counter-drone tools require a one-to-one countermeasure to drone ratio, be it a missile, a dedicated laser, or even a dedicated jamming rifle. Better detection for now means a better way to allocate those limited resources in defense of a sensitive area. Should swarms scale up, detection will remain part of the solution, but counter-drone arsenals will need a weapon that can blast multiple bodies in a swarm out of the sky at once.
Watch Dedrone’s swarm detection in demonstration below:
Kelsey Atherton blogs about military technology for C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain, Defense News, and Military Times. He previously wrote for Popular Science, and also created, solicited, and edited content for a group blog on political science fiction and international security.