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13 June, 2016 - 09:58 By Kate Sweeney

Drone detector chosen by US aviation chiefs

Cambridge cluster technology from Blighter Surveillance Systems is part of a world first drone detection system chosen to defend US airports.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has chosen the system for evaluation at US airports as part of its Pathfinder Programme.

Blighter is one of three UK companies – including Chess Dynamics and Enterprise Control Systems – that has co-developed the fully integrated detect-track-disrupt-defeat Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS). It is integrated and supported in North America by Liteye Systems Inc. 

This FAA research programme is designed to evaluate technologies that can be used to detect and identify unauthorised unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drone flights near airports. 

The FAA each month receives more than 100 reports from pilots and others who spot what appear to be unmanned aircraft flying too close to an airport or manned airplane. It has become a serious safety concern for the agency and a potential security issue for the Department of Homeland Security.

Mark Radford of Blighter, said, “We are delighted to have been selected for this strategic counter-UAS programme through Liteye. The FAA contacted our team following the success of AUDS at US government-sponsored counter UAV trials at the end of 2015. These trials confirmed that our production system was able to detect, track, disrupt and defeat a wide range of micro, mini and larger UACs or drones – even on unscripted sorties.”

The AUDS counter-UAV system can detect a drone six miles (10km) away using electronic scanning radar, track it using precision infrared and daylight cameras and specialist video tracking software before disrupting the flight using an inhibitor to block the radio signals that control it. The process typically takes eight-15 seconds.

The AUDS team has now carried out over 400 hours of ‘live’ testing in government related trials against more than 400 flown sorties of group 1 UAVs.

“AUDS is able to operate effectively in complex airport environments night and day whatever the weather and without disrupting other airport equipment,” added Radford. “Using AUDS, the operator can effectively take control of a drone and force a safe landing inside or outside the airport perimeter.

“The system can also assist airport authorities to track down the UAV pilots for prosecution by providing evidence (video footage or radar tracks) to the relevant authorities. We can also integrate ‘friendly assets’ into the AUDS platform – for example a ‘friendly’ drone – to extend the threat detection and situational awareness capabilities of the system and to help capture rogue drone pilots.”

The AUDS system is designed for countering drones or remotely piloted aircraft systems in remote border areas, at key infrastructure sites such as airports, air fields, nuclear power stations, oil refineries or for protecting political or sporting events in urban areas. It can be operated from fixed locations and from mobile platforms.

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