Improving Defense Capabilities with Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems

The fight against unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is both an art and science when it comes to countering proliferation and ever-advancing threats across the modern battlefield. Since its founding in 2017, Onyx has been at the edge of the counter unmanned aerial systems (CUAS) technology, having served as a trusted and strategic advisor for both the public and private sector clients seeking to explore innovative methods to address this new type of rapidly evolving threat.

Onyx has assessed CUAS technologies across the industry to provide insight and expert consultation to both domestic and foreign defense ministries to aid in expansive defense modernization programs. These assessments have traditionally aided in developing and refining requirements for countering unmanned systems, testing and evaluating the efficacy of detect and deter platforms, and advising on policy matters while shaping programs and practices to advance the implementation of counter-unmanned systems to protect critical infrastructure in dynamic operational environments. The Onyx CUAS solution was created to assist our clients in guiding the development of new and innovative technologies that reinforce critical defense in depth against such threats.

Tactical unmanned systems have benefited from advancing autonomy, inertial navigation, and GPS-denied flight technologies that have increased the capabilities of the threat. Similar to the cat-and-mouse challenges of the counter-improvised explosive devices (C-IED) threat experienced during the War on Terror, the CUAS fight has exposed a 3-dimensional challenge that requires a comprehensive strategy enabled by even more innovative tiered defensive technologies.

The recent media reporting on the conflict in Ukraine has put the spotlight on the matter, highlighting the use of military drones in this new threat environment.

There is no silver bullet to the CUAS crisis. It is our position that this fight of technology and wit requires a comprehensive and layered approach. If we look at the fundamentals of a tactical defense strategy, it is exponentially effective when each layer of a defensive network reinforces in concert by feeding real-time updates and assessments that drive critical decisions when time is finite. 

Layered CUAS Approach 

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Onyx counter unmanned aerial systems Defense in Depth implies a focus on one or more objects projecting threat to static or dynamic resources. 

Perimeter Security

Perimeter security is the first layer that seeks to detect and classify a threat from the greatest range possible. Once a platform has been classified, this data instantly feeds the response loop. 

  1. Detect - radar, optics, and other early warning systems determine the trajectory of one/or many small objects meeting the threshold to alert the monitoring center.
  2. Identify/Classify - optical and radio frequency assessments are automated to determine the object, its class, type, and other unique signatures to feed potential deterrence systems.

Electronic Security

Electronic Security refers to the gate which analyzes the information served from perimeter data to determine appropriate technical engagements. These can include radio jamming, telemetry exploitation, or GPS affecters. The design of the electronic security gate is to affect both the trajectory and accuracy of the threat system. 

  1. Deter RF - methods of electronic engagement include jamming or pirating, which attempts an initial technical barrage to incapacitate or redirect the object.
  2. Deter Positioning - in order to mitigate electronic fratricide, positioning systems are targeted to affect the precision of the closing object and throw it off target or trigger platform fail-safe.

Endpoint Security

Endpoint Security is the last attempt to incapacitate an unmanned object; electronic mitigations have failed, and kinetic or physical response must damage or destroy the object to protect critical assets. There are many solutions on the market for these applications, and each is riddled with pros and cons in both effectiveness and distance. The threat continues its attack profile on the path to a critical resource. 

  1. Kinetic - all other electronic methods have failed, and direct physical engagement is required to incapacitate the platform; the focus here is on the rotors, motors, and structure of the object to affect its aerodynamics and flight profile. 

Resource Security

Structural protections serve as a last resort to dampen the effects of impact. These include physical improvements like cages, fences, or nets that reduce the impact or mitigate a triggering mechanism from direct contact.  

  1. Structural Protections - the impact is imminent. Structural protections are physical barriers or restrictions that reduce the impact of a precision strike unmanned system. Included in this category are fences, reactive netting, or cages that mitigate the impact on critical infrastructure.

Controls

A layered CUAS solution requires controls throughout the chain. These controls provide oversight to the system and are reflected through effective policy management, monitoring, and response. Critical to these controls are permissions and authorizations to engage highly technical or physical responses that potentially have effects beyond the targeted object(s).

Onyx has adopted a layered approach to ensure appropriate controls throughout the chain of organizational structure:

Administrative: an organization's policies and procedures will drive the responsiveness and engagement strategies beyond the identification and classification of a potential threat. At what point is the system considered a threat, and at what stage is policy able to engage in either physical or technical prevention? 

Technical: technical controls are the hardware and software mechanisms with the purpose of protecting resources and infrastructure. These may include electronic jamming, packet intrusions, or other technical means of affecting the telemetry, controls or trigger inherent failsafe to mitigate the threat of the object.  

Physical: physical controls are any security access features that a counter unmanned solution will provide. Be it projectile, air burst munitions, water jets, or nets. These are the barriers that react to the physical impact or threat posed by the platform(s). 

Curious to learn more?

Contact us today to explore how Onyx can help you effectively counter threats posed by unmanned aerial systems and enhance mission success.


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