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Drone Guardian: Countering the drone threat to commercial airports

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Drone Guardian: Countering the drone threat to commercial airports

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L3 Technologies is currently live trailing its pioneering Drone Guardian technology in both commercial and non-commercial settings. Our whitepaper explores the risk factors associated with drones at commercial airports and considers how a flexible and scalable system such as Drone Guardian can be deployed to counter an ever-growing threat from the illegal and hostile use of both commercial and military drones.

L3 Technologies is currently live trailing its pioneering Drone Guardian technology in both commercial and non-commercial settings. Our whitepaper explores the risk factors associated with drones at commercial airports and considers how a flexible and scalable system such as Drone Guardian can be deployed to counter an ever-growing threat from the illegal and hostile use of both commercial and military drones.

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Drone Guardian: Countering the drone threat to commercial airports

  1. 1. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 1 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2 Whitepaper: Countering the drone threat to commercial airports - L3’s DRONE GUARDIAN
  2. 2. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 2 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2 Introduction Airports can suffer high financial losses when there is any disruption to operations, either intentionally or accidentally. Drones reported flying in the approach, take-off or operating areas will force controllers to close the airport. Drones seen flying around cargo areas may require a halt to operations as border authorities request full searches. Simply knowing the location and track of a drone and its timeline will clearly save airport stakeholders from significant financial loss. This paper cannot possibly cover all aspects of how drones might impact airport security. Therefore, this document focuses on the solution that gives airport operators real-time location and tracking of drones in and around the airport and offers some solutions for mitigation. The paper has two sections: 1. Procurement decisions & deployment 2. Technology behind the solution
  3. 3. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 3 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2 1. Procurement decisions & deployment 1.1. Satisfying all stakeholders Airports have many security, operations and business stakeholders within one location, each with their own list of threats and different ways to mitigate them. Further, there are government stakeholders who require data for long term planning and budget assignments. Each airport is important, but a purchasing decision should assess the ability to mix and swap counter-drone systems between airports of different grades. Industry data is not available to answer financial impact questions so procurement directors must make general assessments to build their business case for a counter drone budget. Obviously the cost of closing runways at prime airports quickly runs into the millions. On the other hand, disruption caused by drones is currently rare, albeit growing. But still, a solution is required. Therefore, for cost-effective procurement, airports should consider deploying a solution that can be scaled so that: i) improvements in hardware or software can be upgraded independently of each other, and ii) the system can grow to be used by the different airport stakeholders. For example, those with the most immediate need are typically Air Traffic Control, with sensors covering the runway and apron areas. Once the benefits are seen, cargo security operations may wish to add sensors to cover their parts of the airport. It makes financial make sense for them to use the same core system, simply with more sensors and more user logins. The ability to use the same software but with different sensors, enables procurement to deliver a unified command solution and that is then aligned with the threat/risk profile and data needs of each airport. 1.2. Making the response proportional to the risk. It is important to match the response to the likely threat. Creating the first threat profiles can be the task of small airport-based security sub-teams, comprising representatives from all security stakeholders, led and guided by a third party drone security expert and supported by data gathered from observations and sensor equipment. The aim of the team is to create a scope to define the needs of the stakeholders, how best to deploy sensors and software to gather the required data, and to start to formulate the response actions for drones reported in specific locations at specific times, with the overreaching aim to minimise disruption to airport operations. The desired outcome would be an agreed project timeline with milestones and budgets and a rolling plan for drone developments.
  4. 4. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 4 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2 1.3. Gathering the data Data regarding drone events at airports can come from three sources:  Manual reports from people (security guards etc.).  Computer alerts from specialised drone detection sensors.  Analysis of data from other existing sensors (CCTV, radar, etc.). With software, the data can then be sorted and presented in meaningful ways. As mentioned before, it would be cost effective if the software was scalable to be used in future deployments and upgrades. Picture 1 below, offers an example of placing drone detection sensors around an airport to gather real-time drone tracking data. Picture 1 – Example of sensor locations to provide drone detection for all stakeholders 1.4. Proximity alerts, both real-time and historical To be useful for airport operations, drone activity should be presented to stakeholders in real-time and accessible historically, via a time-selected report feature. For the flight operations stakeholder, it may be sufficient to see the general location of an unauthorised drone, say to a resolution of 300 metres, and ideally have that information displayed on their airport operations map. But other stakeholders, who wish to identify smuggling for example, would wish for more precise tracking with a resolution of perhaps 40 metres to identify specific activity, and have that displayed via a control room screen with alerts relayed to gate guards. This event may even trigger CCTV to the location.
  5. 5. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 5 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2 Both users would like to see the direction and track of the drone. Conveniently, the L3 Drone Guardian offers all these features and functionality. Picture 2 shows a screen shot of the user interface. Picture 2 – Drone Guardian C2 operator interface, showing search results from Historical Report 1.5. Countering drones – active and passive Once a drone is detected, tracked and assessed as a threat, decisions can be made regarding the countering of the drone. Countering can be active or passive; for example, active would be Radio Frequency (RF) jamming and passive would be to move vulnerable assets away from the drone. Allowing the drone to continue its route, in some scenarios this would reveal the location of the controller. Many readers may be troubled by the thought of RF jamming at an airport. Rightly, the broadcasting of RF is tightly controlled, but specialist jamming devices have been used at airports without affecting other devices. The deployment of such active counter measures would be case by case and activation clearly regulated. L3’s Drone Guardian offers a range of active counter measure devices and offers strategic consulting to devise passive options for airports. 1.6. Conceiving counter drone con-ops and integration to airport con-ops The concept of operations (con-ops) can largely be pre-conceived and therefore automated. When a drone is detected, by machine or by man, it is virtually impossible to know its intent, or rather the intent of the pilot. Some deductions can be made from the flying location, frequency of event, and time of day. Knowing the type of drone is of little strategic value.
  6. 6. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 6 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2 Deductions can also be made about the general location of the pilot, and if the pilot is in range of sensors, then that location can sometimes be usefully pinpointed by the data analysis in real time. At a high level, it is important that a clear path and hierarchy of communication is created to disseminate relevant information to key stakeholders both on and off the airport site so they may react to a drone event without delay. L3 has some specific expert advice regarding counter drone con-ops for airports. The content of the advice relates to a deeper dive into the items found in Table 1, and offers a selection of pragmatic and/or sophisticated intelligence options. It is not possible to detail them in this document because of the proprietary information and methodologies. For more information, please contact L3 using the email shown at the end of this document. 1.7. Future – evolution and growth A few notes regarding the drone future. It is perhaps possible to predict the development of drones and their threat for the next 5 years. It is envisaged that the current methods of detecting and countering drones will remain relevant, especially the radar sensor and certainly the L3 data fusion and analysis engine software. What may evolve is the methods of controlling drones, their payload capability, and the cunning of the criminal – especially in the smuggling and stealing activity.
  7. 7. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 7 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2 2. Technology behind the solution Our vision when designing Drone Guardian was to give safety managers the tools to deter, detect and defeat the threat of non-compliance drones. In summary, L3’s Drone Guardian product is:  Mature software.  Unified Command - providing visibility across all locations.  Cost effective - offering a large choice of hardware from different vendors, price points, capability, to match the customised needs of each location.  Reliable & Supported - It’s from L3. 2.1. Introduction to Drone Guardian The detection, tracking and defeat of small Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), or drone, threats is a complex problem for which no single technology solution has, as yet, been shown to provide reliable performance across the full range of required operational environments. Systems based on localised radar, acoustic, EO/IR or RF (Radio Frequency) detection have all been deployed with varying degrees of success in different operational situations. Equally, systems mounted on single mast-type infrastructure have all been seen to have limitations when faced with real-world environmental and topographic constraints. DETECT - The L3 Drone Guardian system creates a Counter-UAS ‘distributed sensor system’ using modern correlation and fusion techniques to enable multiple sensors, of different types and capabilities, to operate together to consistently detect and track the threat. EFFECT - This track can then be used to reliably cue or direct various effector technologies to defeat the threat, including hard effects such as RF jamming or physical capture or soft effects such as security patrols. This integration approach provides an effects-based defence, calibrated to the seriousness of the threat, which adheres to the standard Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act (OODA) process cycle, as shown in Figure 1 below.
  8. 8. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 8 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2 Figure1: L3 Drone Guardian Effects Based Defence OODA Cycle Referring back to Figure 1, the L3 Drone Guardian system is ‘component independent’ and scalable, meaning a solution can comprise of any combination of quantity and quality and capability of sensors, all connected to a unified command software. This attribute of Drone Guardian ensures the future-proofing; allowing for new and improved sensor and effector technologies to be integrated easily. The system can deliver the following benefits: Item Benefit C2 Integrated Command and Control platform at the heart of the system, capable of multi-mission operations. Any Sensor Integration of multiple sensor types to ensure earliest possible detection. High accuracy High probability of detection and identification, due to the inherent capability of multi-sensor fusion. Many targets Multiple target detection, identification and tracking to support complex decision-making. Counter measures Integrated management of effector systems, with the ability to cue/slew and/or digitally task multiple active defence systems. Future proof A flexible component architecture to accommodate future threat and technology changes. Table 2: Summary of system benefits
  9. 9. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 9 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2 2.2. System Architecture The L3 Drone Guardian system has been designed to enable the incorporation of different sensor types and models and integration with third-party effector defeat systems. The selection and configuration of these can be tailored to the requirements of each customer application. The system can be installed within a fixed base or defended area, or in a portable deployment using a number of vehicles to house the various components. Figure 2 below shows the system architecture with a full suite of sensor components and an RF jammer effector connected (as an example). Each component is detailed in the following sections. Figure 2: L3 Drone Guardian System Architecture
  10. 10. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 10 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2 2.3. Core Components  Drone Guardian C2 Server/Workstation: Provides the core C2 integration of data coming from the various sensors, and command of a connected effector system. Fusion and correlation of the sensor data is based on L3 ASA’s advanced tracking technology, developed over the past 25 years in the space and air defence realms (as described in Section 5 of this document). An operator Human Machine Interface (HMI) provides visual tracking of detected and identified drones against customer-specified background mapping or imagery, and enables operator command of a connected effector system. Warning areas and areas of potential false alarm can be configured by the operator.  Server/Workstation: Provides state-of-the-art operator interaction with the alerts, image and video feeds provided by the various sensors and composite tracks produced by the Drone Guardian C2 system. Video Media Server: Provides media storage and streaming capability for the video feeds received from the camera and/or co-operative drone components which can be accessed on demand by the operator. 2.4. Sensor Components  Drone Tracking Radar: Provides active RF detection and tracking of multiple autonomous drones. A number of suppliers have tailored existing low power X-Band radars to the task of drone detection. Radar provides a longer range for early warning (typically 3km) over the full 360 degrees and good geo-location of detected targets. L3 will choose an appropriate radar sensor, dependent on the threat, environment and other customer specification.  RF Detection Nodes: Provide passive detection of RF (Radio Frequency) emissions from a drone, in particular the command and video channels. These are typically monitored in the 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands, although the nodes are capable of monitoring any frequencies between 10 MHz and 6 GHz. A distributed array of nodes enables accurate geo-location by the Drone Guardian C2 system using Time Difference of Arrival (TDOA) processing. L3 will choose appropriate RF sensors, dependent on the threat, environment and other customer specification.  Drone Tracking Cameras: Provide optical detection of drones using powerful camera and lens combinations, and state-of-the-art visual detection and analysis. Moving objects of interest are tracked and then viewed in higher resolution to enable drone discrimination. These images also enable the operator to confirm identification of a hostile drone, whilst the tracks generated contribute to the fused picture in the Drone Guardian C2 system. Thermal cameras can optionally be added to improve day/night operation. L3 will choose appropriate cameras, dependent on the threat, environment and other customer specification.  Acoustic Detector: Can provide early warning of an approaching drone based on its audio signature. L3 will choose appropriate acoustic sensors, dependent on the threat, environment and other customer specification.
  11. 11. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 11 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2  Co-operative Drone Component: Provides the ability to launch and fly a drone either to intercept a hostile drone or to provide visual intelligence on its ground operator or mission. Telemetry is fed back to the Drone Guardian C2 system to add to the overall situational awareness. Video is provided to the operator.  ADS-B or other Receiver: Provides live transponder returns from aircraft or other friendly drones in the vicinity to the Drone Guardian C2 system. This is particularly useful in a busy air environment; e.g. around an airport, as it enables false radar detections to be eliminated; e.g. from rotor propelled aircraft. 2.5. Defeat & Effector Components The detected drone tracks which are output from the L3 Drone Guardian C2 system can be used to manually or digitally task a range of active defeat systems, appropriate to the environment. In particular:  Mobile or Static RF Jammers: Block the communication channels between the operator and drone, usually in the 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz bands. Blocking the video channel disrupts operator control and video surveillance. Blocking the control channel will cause the drone to either land immediately or return to base, depending on drone type and configuration. It is also possible to jam the GPS receiver on the drone, preventing its autonomous operation. Jammers can operate omni-directionally to affect multiple drones at shorter range, or be steered directionally and frequency controlled to maximise the effect on a specific drone at a longer range. L3 will choose appropriate jammers, dependent on the threat, environment and other customer specification.  Drone Capture Nets: Usually projected using air-powered cannon to capture the drone and bring it to the ground using parachutes. The cannon can be controlled by the C2 system but, more usually, by a ground operator.  Intercept Weapons: To physically damage or destroy the drone using firearms or a projectile weapon. There are significant legislative and safety issues in deploying this method which will often preclude its use. 2.6. Network Architecture The L3 Drone Guardian system has been designed to operate over a standard IP-based network with options for firewalls and encryption between the core C2 elements and connected sensor or effector systems. Figure 3 below shows a representative network architecture for a full suite of sensor and effector components.
  12. 12. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 12 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2 Figure 3: L3 Drone Guardian Network Architecture Conversion to/from third party sensor and effector system APIs is performed in the Drone Guardian C2 Server. Alternatively, an ‘open’ API for connection to Drone Guardian can be provided. Options are available for connection to a video wall system and to a Drone Guardian Web Situation Picture Display (SPD) app running on standard mobile devices. 2.7. Performance The L3 Drone Guardian system was demonstrated and instrumented in a live trial in the UK in 2017 using drones flown in realistic threat trajectories against a defended base. The sensor types deployed were an X band continuous wave radar, an optical camera system and a network of RF detector sensors. The drones flown were commercial DJI Phantom and DJI Inspire systems that are used for aerial photography or to carry small items. Two demonstration scenarios were devised to place distinct demands on the system: an intelligence gathering drone mission and a contraband delivery drone. These were performed multiple times to gather meaningful statistics on the sensor and system performance. The results from the two scenarios are shown in Figure 4 below. In both cases the combined Drone Guardian C2 system detected and tracked 100% of the drone engagements at ranges of more than 500m from the protected area and with maximum speeds exceeding 55 km/hr.
  13. 13. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 13 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2 Figure 4: Average Percentage Contributions of Sensors 2.8. Product History At the core of the L3 Drone Guardian system is a sensor data fusion engine which has been developed by L3 ASA over more than 25 years using both company R&D funding and UK/US government funding. Although originally conceived for ballistic missile tracking, the engine has been extended to handle airborne targets of various types as well as ground and surface targets. The engine has an open architecture message interface and the control functionality required for use by C2 systems. As a result, the sensor data fusion engine has been trialled and deployed in a wide range of domains, many of which contribute to the Counter-UAS application of Drone Guardian as shown in Figure 6 and listed below:  Ballistic and Theatre Missile Defence (BMD/TMD): ballistic missile Trials Ranges, Early Warning Radars, BMD extensions to existing air defence radars and C2 networks. 0 20 40 60 80 100 Intelligence gathering scenario: average track time percentage for drone track contributors % System Drone Track Time % Radar Drone Track Time % Camera Drone Track Time % RF Drone Track Time 0 20 40 60 80 100 Contraband delivery scenario average track time percentage for drone track contributors % System Drone Track Time % Radar Drone Track Time % Camera Drone Track Time % RF Drone Track Time
  14. 14. WP/CUAS/Civilian Airports Page 14 of 14 December 2018 cuas.asa@l3t.com Issue 2  Air Defence: Combat ID exercises, radar/EO sensor integration trials, Land Environment Air Picture Provision system for UK MoD, GBAD systems and simulations.  Space Situational Awareness: extension to Early Warning Radar systems to detect small objects and debris in orbit.  Counter Rocket Artillery & Mortar (C-RAM): base area protection and threat assessment in operational theatre for UK MoD.  ISTAR: fusion of EW GMTI plots and RF detections into combined air picture. Figure 6: Sensor Fusion Application Domains Supporting Counter-UAS 2.9. Summary The L3 Drone Guardian system is based on the strong pedigree of sensor fusion and correlation technology developed by L3 ASA. The system has been designed to use multiple sensor and effector technologies to deliver a robust and effective solution to the growing Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) or Drone threat. The system provides a cost-effective solution tailored to meet specific operational needs and is readily integrated with existing security infrastructure. More information can be provided by contacting L3 ASA at cuas.asa@l3t.com.

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