Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. unveiled its new Drone Dome system, developed by the same company division that developed the Iron Dome and David's Sling missile interception systems, at this week's LAAD security exhibition in Brazil. Drone Dome is designed to counter a range of threats from multi-rotors, which are available in toy stores for a few hundreds shekels, but which haunt the nightmares of every agency responsible for the security of sensitive installations, military camps, and airports.
An extra pair of eyes
For a long time, defense sources have expressed concern that terrorist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip would make extensive use of multi-rotors and miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) - even of radio-guided model airplanes operated by remote control - against IDF forces and Israeli targets. These weapons can be armed and turned into flying precision bombs, and can also be used for gathering intelligence about bases, concentrations of forces, and in general. No army wants its enemy to have several more pairs of eyes in the sky.
One indication of how serious this threat is came when the Ministry of Defense border crossings unit revealed several attempts at smuggling multi-rotors into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Every so often, multi-rotors are discovered in containers loaded with toys, but the defense establishment fears that their real purpose is far from innocent.
Rafael refused this week to say much about its new Drone Dome system, which is still in the development stages, but did explain that it is designed to provide effective air defense against hostile multi-rotors and mini and micro-UAVs through the use of radar and electro-optic sensors, an observational system, and radio and GPS jamming. It is being described as capable of detecting and identifying, tracking, and neutralizing hostile multi-rotors and miniature UAVS. The company says that the system is designed primarily for defense against threats from terrorist organizations using these tools to collect intelligence or conduct attacks from the air. The system is also suitable for defending airports, where drones are liable to endanger low-flying airplanes. Last August, just such a drone posed a danger to a Brussels Airlines passenger jet about to land at Ben Gurion Airport with 170 passengers. When the plane was in the process of landing, a drone passed in front of it from right to left only 100 meters away from a collision and possible catastrophe.
According to Rafael, Drone Dome will provide 360-degree peripheral defense and respond rapidly to a variety of threats, while ensuring the safety of the airplanes authorized to fly in the airspace it is defending. Rafael adds that the system is capable of operating 24/7 in all weather conditions. As soon as a drone nears the area defined in advance as a protected zone, the system takes over, jams the radio waves on which is it broadcasting, and neutralizes it. The components on which the system is based are made by a number of Israeli companies, and Rafael says that all the components have been tested operationally, and are being used by armed forces and security organizations all over the world.
Even before Rafael, Magna BSP, a small and nimble Israeli defense company, introduced its own system for defending sensitive sites and airports against drones. "We expect orders, after the system was successfully tested at a series of sites in Israel and around the world. It is already working and being constantly upgraded and adapted to the emerging threats," Magna BSP CEO Haim Sibony says. "This market is red hot, and this threat is becoming more troublesome to the defense authorities. Up until now, enormous investments were made in in the most advanced means of providing good defense for sensitive facilities. Along came the drones and redefined the threat at a cost of just NIS 1,500-1,600 per drone. This is the new challenge, and we're focusing right now on the radio communications in order to provide a suitable answer."
Sibony says that the radar on which Magna BSP's system is based is capable of distinguishing between multi-rotors and miniature UAVs and birds. When such small objects are involved, even advanced radar can become confused and give out a false alarm.
While Rafael is keeping the development of its anti-drone system under wraps and releasing only general descriptions of its capabilities, such as "neutralizing the drone threat," Magna BSP is talking explicitly about the interception of a wayward drone invading forbidden airspace with a laser beam that simply burns it within seconds - in the air. And it is not only lasers. Sibony is talking about the future drone war, in which the drones of the defending side fight against those of the attacking side, and take them over "just like a hawk and a dove," as Sibony puts it. "We're there, dealing also with development of these drones."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on April 13, 2016
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