Military Embedded Systems

Networked and "smart" C-UAS sensors can increase protection for ground troops


May 11, 2023

Flavia Camargos Pereira

Military Embedded Systems

Networked and "smart" C-UAS sensors can increase protection for ground troops
Photo: Flavia Camargos Pereira

SOF WEEK 2023 -- TAMPA, Fla. During the SOF Week 2023 exhibition a number of defense companies showcased uncrewed aerial systems (UASs) and counter-UAS (C-UAS) products featuring machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) software in addition to advanced target detection and high-fidelity tracking solutions.

The widespread deployment of drones in Ukraine is highlighting the relevance of equipping ground troops with advanced C-UAS capabilities; in this vein, the industry has been increasing efforts to develop and field sensors and solutions to be deployed in a networked approach in order to enhance troop protection.

One company is Liteye Systems (Centennial, Colorado), which displayed some of the parts of its SHIELD solution, which is a multidomain, multimission protection system that combines several sensors to enable a networked method to counter Classes I, II, and III UASs. SHEILD uses Spyglass 3D radar, AI-based RF detection, AI target prioritization, and automated video tracking. SHIELD also uses a man-on-the-loop local command-and-control (C2), which requires a low level of personnel power to operate any system from any console with a distributed common operation picture. It can also be customized in diverse mission platforms (fixed/semi-fixed, light vehicle-/man-portable, mobile, and uncrewed robotic vehicles).

Weibel Scientific A/S (Allerød, Denmark), meanwhile, exhibited a Doppler radar (see figure, above) designed to enable UAS detection from very long to close ranges. Lars Vammen, the company’s director of business development, points out that it is a multifunction product and offers higher fidelity in terms of classification: "The main focus here is for drone protection of the units on the ground. You can create an umbrella with a 7 km (4.3 mile) range, where you know exactly what is coming in," Vammen asserts. This radar solution is currently in service with Norway and other undisclosed European countries.

Another supplier showcasing C-UAS systems was DroneShield (New South Wales, Australia), which exhibited its DroneGun tactical system, a UAS countermeasure designed for two-hand operation and long-range defeat. The product includes high-performance directional antennas in a lightweight robust rifle-style design. When alerted, UAS targets respond via vertical on-the-spot landing or return to their remote controller or starting point.

Also at the SOF Week 2023 convention, Northrop Grumman announced that its Mobile, Acquisition, Cueing and Effector System (M-ACE) and its gun truck will be shipped to Ukraine. Although those capabilities have been through several trials with U.S. branches, this will be their first operational deployment. 

Rob Menti, air defense strategy, Northrop Grumman, describes M-ACE as a "developmental solution optimized to engage small UAS and provide multidomain force protection." Once deployed with the gun truck, it can identify, track and defeat UAVs. M-ACE uses ML and AI technologies to quickly identify the UAS based on known operating frequencies and external signatures; by deploying its C2 capability, M-ACE can cue a variety of kinetic, non-kinetic, and directed-energy effectors.

The system uses an open architecture software system that works with industry protocols and can be integrated with different types of sensors and cameras in a networked approach.