Darpa Seeks Counter-Drone 'Sensing, Neutralization' Systems

 - October 3, 2017, 9:55 PM
The objective of the Mobile Force Protection system is to develop an advanced, mobile counter-UAS system. (Image: Darpa)

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has requested proposals for novel technologies to sense and defeat small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) threatening moving convoys. Plans call for conducting a field demonstration by January.

Darpa issued a request for information (RFI) for the “sensing” and “neutralization” technologies on September 20 and accepted proposals through October 2. The technologies it seeks will either complement or serve as components of the advanced counter-UAS system companies are developing under the agency’s Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program.

A sensing technology must be able to detect “numerous” small UAS at a distance of 1 km (0.62 mile) or greater and fit on a tactical ground vehicle such as a Humvee as well as the U.S. Coast Guard’s Defender-class 25-foot boat, Darpa said. A neutralization system must disable or destroy numerous, self-guided UAS at a distance of 1 km or greater. Darpa describes self-guided UAS as rotary- or fixed-wing drones that do not rely on radio frequency control or GPS navigation for their operation.

“With this RFI, Darpa is not looking for end-to-end systems, but rather innovative technology components that could be combined with the MFP systems integrators’ fielded concepts,” the agency stated. “This RFI aims to help Darpa stay abreast of the latest technologies…and integrate some of the most promising ones into an eventual MFP technology demonstration system.”

The agency plans to select up to 20 teams proposing sensing and neutralization systems to attend a technology day on November 8 at its Arlington, Virginia, offices. Technologies must be sufficiently mature to participate in a field demonstration planned for January, Darpa said.

In August, Darpa announced the award of MFP Phase 1 contracts to Dynetics, of Huntsville, Alabama, and two companies based in Syracuse, New York—Saab Defense and Security USA and SRC. Initiated by an RFI last year, the program aims to develop an integrated system within three to four years capable of defeating self-guided UAS attacking a moving convoy. The Phase 1 goal is to show initial functionality of demonstrator systems; by Phase 3 plans call for a full-capability demonstration on a moving vehicle or vessel.

Darpa says it is working closely on the MFP program with the U.S. military services, the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate.

“The three teams we’ve assembled have innovative ideas for a versatile, layered defense system that could protect convoys on the move from multiple small unmanned aircraft systems in real time,” said Jean-Charles Ledé, a program manager in Darpa’s Tactical Technology Office. “Each team will now work to integrate novel ideas for advanced sensors and neutralization approaches into a common framework emphasizing safety for civilian bystanders, ease of operation and low size, weight, power and cost.”