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Experts at the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency have built an experimental prototype system to detect, identify and localise small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUASs) using low-cost commercial devices and machine learning. The ‘Advanced Recognition Tool using Electromagnetic (EM) waves for Identifying unmanned aerial Systems’ (ARTEMIS) uses advanced techniques to detect and classify Radio Frequency (RF) signals. The system can classify what type of signal it is by processing only 40 milliseconds of data, with a probability of correct classification above 90 per cent. The system continuously monitors the bandwidth where drones normally operate and automatically detects any RF emissions.

If the signal is found to be from a drone, the system will also try to calculate the direction of arrival of the signal to localise it, and the person controlling it, from the ground. The identification of the type of drone was a key driver of this work, since that information determines the threat response. Very high percentages of correct classification were achieved in experiments using up to 10 different drones. ARTEMIS was sponsored by the NATO HQ C3 Board Navigation and Identification Programme of Work, while belonging to a wider family of sensors designed and built by NCI Agency in the past decade.

Growing Drone Threat

The global community’s use of sUASs, or drones, is rapidly growing with present-day efforts to counter insurgent drone capabilities now a global issue of increasing concern for all military, governmental and security force personnel. Terrorist groups have recently demonstrated abilities to remotely carry and employ payloads ranging from live-feed cameras to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) via drones. Due to easy access, low cost and lack of regulations regarding ownership and employment, protection against drones has become an imperative, so the Agency developed the prototype in-house to help the it continue to remain a ‘smart buyer’.

Work on this project will continue. though other agencies and Nations have prototype systems that are likely complementary to it.

Jack Richardson