JUST IN: Pentagon’s counter-drone office holds second industry demonstration
A Department of Defense counter drone office held its second industry demonstration to evaluate technologies available for its efforts to contain the threat posed by small but deadly unmanned aerial vehicles.
The Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office (JCO) recently held the demonstrations at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Over a three week period beginning August 30th, five vendors presented either ground based antenna denial systems or portable remote systems. The event allowed contractors to demonstrate their capabilities while also giving the military an opportunity to evaluate new technologies that could fill gaps in its anti-drone efforts.
The Army founded the JCO in 2019 in response to a growing number of U.S. adversaries acquiring and using small unmanned aerial vehicles in combat. Since then, the office has worked with the Military Services and the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) to address the challenges of small drones and pave the way for investment in future defense capabilities.
During the recent demonstrations, contractors’ systems were tested against commercial off-the-shelf drones that the military frequently sees around the world, Mike DiGennaro, the office’s anti-UAS testing team leader, told reporters on Sept. 24 Type of drones “are productive all over the world and we see them as threats in some of our protected areas”.
Two companies were invited to test their handheld systems. IXI Technologies brought in its DroneKiller technology, which uses a software-defined radio, while DroneShield tested a one-handed solution called the DroneGun MKIII.
When a small UAS arrived, the two systems emitted a high-frequency signal that interfered with the operation of the drone.
Other companies that participated in the demonstration tested the ability of ground-based air defense systems or kinetic systems to shoot down incoming drones with ammunition. Northrup Grumman tested the XM1211 30mm Proximity Round, Smart Shooter tested its Smash Hopper and Flex Force brought out the Agile Small Deflection Precision Stabilized Weapon System.
All three systems faced a drone flying the same trajectory and interacting with the target while offering all possible countermeasures, DiGennaro said.
If the JCO thinks any of the vendors could support the Pentagon‘s efforts against UAS, they could be offered a contract in the future, according to a fact sheet made available to reporters.
Col. Greg Soule, director of acquisitions and resources at JCO, told reporters that the office is still evaluating the data from the demonstrations and therefore no company has been notified of a contract. He added that while officials cannot yet report the results of the demonstrations, there is room for some improvement.
“As always, when you run tests on equipment that is still in the research and development phase, there are some trials and errors that need to be run and tweaked along the way,” said Soule.
The most recent demonstration was the second industry event hosted by the JCO and RCCTO. The first also took place in April at the Yuma Proving Ground and was carried out in cooperation with the Air Force. It focused on testing low collateral effects interception capabilities that small drones can defeat and avoid with minimal or no collateral damage.
The JCO will continue to hold industrial demonstrations and test new skills every two years to fill in gaps the military may have when facing small drones in the field. The next demo will take place in April 2022, although the JCO has not set out exactly what gaps in counter-UAS technology the office will fix next, Soule said.
“There is a sense of urgency and everyone on my team in the community is working hard to address these gaps as quickly as possible,” said Soule, emphasizing that US military personnel around the world are potentially exposed to threats from small drones at any time could.
Subjects: Robotics and Autonomous Systems