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Arie Egozi

Israel scientists are developing systems to not only intercept a drone but also to kill its operator. Researchers at Ben Gurion University, led by Dr. Gera Weiss and conducted by lead researcher Eliyahu Mashhadi, are developing a unique system that according to them, will be capable of pinpointing the operator. Mashhadi told ESD that a realistic simulation environment is used at this stage of the research to collect the path of the drone when flown from launch point and along its flight path. “We insert all the points along the flight path into a deep neural network that was trained to be able to predict the exact launch point and the location of the drone operator.” The researcher explained that while testing the model with the flight simulator, a 78 per cent location accuracy was achieved.

Precise

Today, different sensors are used for the detection of drones and their operators, the most common are Radio Frequency (RF) Electro-Optical (EO), acoustic and radar.

Mashhadi explained there are automatic and semi-automatic methods for locating the operators based on the radio communication between the drone and its operator. “There are a number of problems with this approach. Firstly, such methods are usually tailored to a specific brand of drones. Furthermore, the radio signal can only be recorded near the drone. Finally, there are ways for malicious drone designers to apply cryptography and electronic warfare techniques to make localisation by analysis of radio signals very difficult.”

Mashhadi elaborated that experiments show that the reactions of the operator, due to environmental and physical conditions, give away enough information for obtaining substantial information about the location of the operator by analysing the path of the drone in the sky.

“To allow for a controlled environment, we conducted all our experiments with a flight simulator that provides a realistic flight experience for the operator that includes sun gazes, obstructions, and other visual effects that produce the reactions of the operators that allow us to identify their location.” He added that the research team used AirSim (Aerial Informatics and Robotics Simulation), an open-source, cross platform simulator for drones and ground vehicles such as cars in addition to other objects.

Israeli sources say that a system that will enable real time localisation of a drone operator is becoming critical because in most cases the operator has more than one drone. “To neutralise the operator is an essential requirement” one said.

Increasing threat

The growing need to kill hostile drones using a kinetic system resulted recently in a cooperation agreement between Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Israeli start up Iron Drone for the integration of interception capabilities into IAI’s advanced anti-drone system, DRONE GUARD. The intercepting drone can be launched during day or night from a docking station that hosts several ready-to-use drones with several being launched simultaneously to address multiple targets or swarms.

To date, IAI’s ELTA Systems, which develops and manufactures DRONE GUARD anti-drone systems has sold over 100 units that detect, identify, and disrupt the operation of malicious drones. ELTA’s collaboration with Iron Drone is part of its strategy to collaborate with startups to leverage their innovative technologies for their existing systems to improve performance. ELTA is a global leader in remote sensing and RADAR systems with a product portfolio including mission aircraft, national cybersecurity administration, ground robotic systems, anti-drone systems, homeland defence systems and more.

The advanced radar integrated with DRONE GUARD is capable of detecting drones as they enter the airspace. The intercepting drone is launched and steered to the target with the help of the radar, using sensors and computer vision to home and lock onto the target up to the physical hit of the attacker and its neutralisation. The entire process is autonomous, requiring no human intervention. According to IAI the new joint venture allows it to offer its customers the most effective technology for addressing future use cases, positioning the company at the forefront of technology. The solution can be used in areas where other defence systems cannot because of environmental factors like airports, populated areas, power plants, sensitive facilities, and other infrastructure.

Advanced systems

The Israeli Defence Forces recently deployed a very advanced radar near the border with Gaza, to handle attacks by drones, while Israeli experts say that in any confrontation between U.S and Iranian forces, armed drones will be deployed en mass by Iran. The radar is the ELTA ELM-2084 Multi-Mission Radar (MMR) which fuses additional ELTA sensors to the main MMR system, thereby providing an active, passive, and combined Air Situational Picture. The deployment of this advanced radar reflects the growing threat from and drones. Israel has been following closely the Iranian effort and Israeli experts say that while in the past the Iranian UAS looked like cheap copies of UAVs operated by other countries, now they are “operational systems”.

Rafael has also developed a drone interception system called DRONE DOME, to which they have recently added a laser gun to the system for more kill options, having sold DRONE DOME to Israel and other countries.