Thales expects its counter-UAS (C-UAS) system at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport to be fully qualified and operational by year-end, the company has told AIN.
The company (Chalet D7) will present its C-UAS solutions, including Hologarde, at the Farnborough International Airshow. The Hologarde project consists of Thales, DSNA (the French Civil Aviation Authority), and ADP Group, a major operator of French airports. Thales became involved in the project through its acquisition last year of Aveillant, the British producer of the Gamekeeper drone detection radar, a key component of Hologarde.
There are two operational requirements for Hologarde, said Michel Dechanet, product line manager, innovation solutions CUAV at Thales. The first is airport safety: protecting aircraft during approach, landing, and takeoff. The second is security: the protection of airport infrastructure. The aim is to secure Charles de Gaulle (and any future customers) from both the accidental intrusion of UAVs, as well as from an intentional attack (from a terrorist organization, for example). The Gamekeeper radar can provide surveillance of the entire external area of the airport, he said, including airport buildings and terminals. Hologarde is being tested in the airport, while Thales is also carrying out work on the radar at its Brétigny/Orge facilities, near Paris.
A key question in the project is how to neutralize threats when they emerge, with civil infrastructure like airports having restrictions that would not be seen in the military space. The Hologarde team is analyzing a number of potential approaches, Dechanet told AIN, including "hijacking" the drone’s navigation systems and forcing it to land. The company is also looking at the potential of using other UAVs as interceptors.
"We have to discuss all this because the real issue is regulation," Dechanet said. "It’s not only technical."
The success of such C-UAS systems is strongly linked to the broader area of unmanned traffic management (UTM), Dechanet said; this is also a major focus for Thales. There will eventually come a time when UTM and UAVs, in general, have advanced to the point that there will be regular commercial traffic in the lower airspace; effective UTM systems will enable operators to "deconflict" authorized drones from platforms that pose a potential concern.
"We know that developments in regulation will open the lower airspace layer," Dechanet said. "The risk will increase very quickly once the commercial traffic of UAVs is agreed."