09 Apr 19. The UK MoD has launched a £2m competition for proposals to tackle the future threats of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The competition, run by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), the MoD’s innovation hub, will seek robust and cost-effective next-generation solutions to the risks posed by hostile UAS.
The MoD is looking to develop new defensive capabilities which draw upon autonomous decision-making mechanisms and networked sensing systems capable of detecting, tracking, identifying and defeating hostile UAS over complex and varied environments.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said, “As the security threats from hostile drones are evolving at pace, it’s critical that our armed forces benefit from the very latest technology to stay ahead. This competition will draw on the brightest and best of our defence industry to find innovative solutions that will ensure we are protected in the years to come.”
The competition is the latest stage in Defence Science and Technology Lab’s (Dstl) ongoing research programme into Countering UAS which has been running for ten years.
This programme has included the extensive research, testing and evaluation of the counter-UAS technology currently employed by the MOD, including the landmark series of ‘Bristow’ trials with industry in 2013, 2015 and 2018.
Dstl’s Principal Engineer, David Lugton said, “Hostile UAS is a challenging threat in many different ways and requires cutting edge technology and well-thought-out system approaches to counter it effectively. Through this competition we are looking to inspire and develop a range of solutions to mitigate the threat posed by UAS now and in the future. Among the technologies we’re looking for, we’d be interested in those which can detect and track multiple threats simultaneously, with minimal human oversight, and against a broad spectrum of UAS types. We’re also interested in Counter-Unmanned Air Systems which can overcome the challenges posed by line of sight blockages, collateral, and ones which can link systems together to improve understanding of the local “drone air picture”.”
Today’s call is focused on tackling the challenges of current and future UAS capabilities, in particular:
- Next-generation Counter-UAS technology – new technological solutions to provide robust and cost effective sensing and defeat options.
- Flexible Counter-UAS technology – programmes capable of bringing counter-UAS technologies together and linking with other surveillance systems and cooperative drone awareness systems.
- Countering Future UAS Systems – developing capability to detect and mitigate threats from UAS acting autonomously, in swarms and in highly congested airspace.
Phase 1, which will deliver proof of concept of the proposals, will be worth approximately £800k and is scheduled to take place from July 2019 to March 2020. The total funding for the competition is expected to be at least £2m, split over multiple phases.
James Gray, Managing Director for Raytheon UK Cyber and Intelligence said, “We welcome this initiative from the Ministry of Defence. December’s drone shutdowns at Gatwick and Heathrow have made it absolutely clear that the dangerous use of unmanned systems is a challenge for the UK both at home and abroad, and this is a timely call for action. Raytheon is already developing integrated counter drone technologies including drone-detecting radars, cyber effectors, high-energy lasers and high power microwaves that disrupt and disable the threat. We are fully committed to working with the UK to further secure its place as a global leader in defence and security.”
BATTLESPACE Comment: This is a smart move by the UK MoD and will keep the UK in the forefront of C-UAV technology. This development will also gloss over the embarrassment caused by the cack handed manner by which Chris Grayling and Sussex Police handled the Gatwick incident. Companies expected to bid for this will include, the AUDS Team of Blighter, Chess Dynamics and ECS, collectively or as separate entities, Raytheon UK, Thales, Leonardo from the UK; Leonardo DRS, Liteye, Northrop Grumman, Echodyne, SAIC from the US; Robin Radar from the Netherlands; Droneshield from Australia; Rheinmetall and Diehl from Germany; Elbit, Rada and Rafael from Israel. A research firm estimates the global drone market will be worth $17bn by 2025. While the benefits of drones are numerous, so are the risks. In the wrong hands, drones could easily become weapons or illegal surveillance systems. As drones become more prevalent in our global airspace, it’s critical that we develop solutions to safeguard against threats.