Honeywell has applied for a patent to use drones as anti-missile escorts for airlines as they approach and takeoff from major airports. Interestingly, the patent application filed on 14 August uses a drawing of a Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk as the notional aircraft.
The idea is to use the UAV to detect the missile launch and dispense flares that should divert the heat-seeking missile’s attention.
This is apparently Honeywell’s alternative to the more direct method of installing directed infrared countermeasure turrets on the airliners.
According to the patent application, here’s how the idea works:
“This formation drone aircraft, which carries various missile detectionand diversion equipment, is controlled by a wireless data link that is coupleddirectly into the airliner’s flight control system.
When the formation drone determines that a missile is being viewed by amissile sensor head, the formation drone lays down a predetermined pattern ofexploding flares to divert the missile away from the airliner, attempts tospoof the missile using laser countermeasures, or sacrifices itself to protectthe airliner.”