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Insights into current technologies on drone defence

Which dangers do we face from small drones today? Which dangers can we expect in future? How can drone attacks be successfully averted? And where does today’s technology stand in the battle against drone attacks? These and other questions were addressed and discussed on 9 September 2021 in Bure (JU). The event «Defence Against Micro- and Minidrones» was organised by armasuisse Science and Technology together with the Combat Training Centre West of the Swiss Armed Forces.

17.09.2021 | armasuisse Science and Technology

A black interceptor drone catches another smaller drone with a net
An interceptor drone with integrated net launchers in action

They fly, are easy to operate, relatively cheap to purchase and permeate more and more aspects of our everyday lives – we are talking about small drones. Their significance is also increasing in the military environment, both in terms of use and defence. Unfortunately, these small drones can be misused for criminal and terrorist purposes or even deployed for warfare. Worldwide, flight operations have thus been disrupted

 at airports and illegal substances even smuggled into prisons or over borders. In order to demonstrate the current state of technologies in drone defence, an event on the topic of Defence Against Micro- and Minidrones took place on the military training area in Bure (JU) on 9 September 2021. 

An introduction to the area of drone defence

Around 300 representatives from industry, academia and the government as well as various different blue light organisations had the opportunity to find out the latest information on drone defence.

The event was opened by Dr. Thomas Rothacher, Head of armasuisse Science and Technology (S+T) and Deputy National Armaments Director. He addressed the various coexisting ecosystems of society-industry-Swiss Confederation as well as their interaction. Society thus has the need for security and stability. This is preserved by the Swiss Armed Forces together with other institutions. armasuisse S+T acts here as a connecting link. It researches, trials and tests technologies and products for the Armed Forces. It integrates the acquired expertise in the procurement of systems, which in turn is used by the Armed Forces to preserve the security of Switzerland. And in this regard, drones also count as one of the newer technologies which should not be disregarded and which must be examined more closely.

Lieutenant General Hans-Peter Walser, Chief of Training and Education Command and since 2021 Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces, expanded on the topic of drones. At the same time, he emphasised their growing significance, for example as sensor or communication platforms and underlined their increasing areas of application. The Armed Forces must, for example, support the continuous development of skills in the area of drone defence and use Switzerland’s potential.

The last speaker, Brigadier Daniel Krauer, Chief of the Military Intelligence Service and the Service for Preventative Protection of the Armed Forces, added to this. The recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, for example, has shown that drones present a real threat for nations and cannot be ignored. This makes active engagement in the area of drone defence all the more important for the security of Switzerland.

Exchange between experts and interested parties

After these introductions, there followed an exchange and transfer of knowledge between the attending guests and experts as part of an exhibition. Various Swiss companies were able to present their drone defence products and systems here. The technologies exhibited covered the entire chain of effects of drone defence and ranged from sensors for detecting and identifying drones to effectors for defence against missiles. It was thus possible, for example, to see various radar devices, acoustic and optical detection systems, but also a 35 mm gun, interceptor drones with integrated net launchers and electromagnetic systems. In addition to the exhibition of products, armasuisse S+T’s research results were also presented. Apart from the exhibition, both sensors and effectors were presented in a live demonstration. In the training village of Nalé, various small drones continuously flew above the semi-urban terrain in which the representatives from industry and academia had installed their sensor systems. This enabled the participants to see the various detection systems in action and to compare them with each other. An impressive interceptor drone with net launcher as well as a jammer and a net launcher were on display. At the end of this live demonstration, the guests were sensitised with regard to the threat of the various possible technical uses of small drones. For example, both very fast surface planes as well highly agile racing drones were presented. A drone controlled by the mobile phone network which, for example, could not be averted by regular radio jammers was very impressive.

Growing technology market for more security

The event made it clear that small drones can in no way be regarded as useful for peaceful purposes only. In fact, they present an increasing security risk which can only partially be countered with conventional air defence networks. And everyone is unanimously aware of this risk. The market in the area of drone defence has therefore been growing steadily for years. Here, new trends such as artificial intelligence and autonomous navigation are taken into account and transformed into marketable products in the battle against drone attacks. The Swiss Armed Forces must also continue to develop its competence with regard to these new technologies. Together with armasuisse S+T and industry, the skills for assessing and integrating the technologies will be continuously built up and reinforced, in order to guarantee society’s needs for security and protection now and in the future.

Such events encourage direct exchange and consolidate interdisciplinary and open cooperation between research, industry and the task forces.

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