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Thales developing counter-UAV technology

Thales is embarking on the development of counter-unmanned air vehicle systems by adopting sensor technology it has already developed to prevent malicious systems from flying near critical infrastructure.

The technology centres on detecting, identifying and jamming unwelcome UAVs, and Thales is both developing a system in-house and participating in a French national research agency (ANR) 18-month development programme, Angelas. The latter is being co-ordinated by French aerospace laboratory Onera, and incorporates six industrial and academic organisations, including Thales.

Angelas aims to develop technology that utilises a range of sensors – including optics, radar, acoustics and goniometry – to detect and identify systems, which will then be classified before a decision is made on whether to neutralise them, while “always taking the legal aspect into consideration”.

“Most of the time we’ll need a political decision on what we can and can’t do,” Pierrick Lerey, strategy and marketing director for Thales UAS and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities, says. “We’re the only European company that can provide a global system for this.”

Thales considers itself to have a “short-term solution” to the problem of unsolicited UAVs, in addition to its Angelas participation, utilising a range of sensor technologies it has already developed that can work alongside existing air defence systems – including modifications to existing radar – as well as developing dedicated sensors for the requirement.

A range of engagement options are being considered by the company, including kinetic effects, electromagnetic pulsing, jamming and hijacking.

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There is also a requirement for a counter-UAV system for the French government, in which Thales says it is participating.

In May, a consortium of three British companies announced it had developed a counter-unmanned air vehicle defence system – the Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS) – that is capable of detecting, tracking and disrupting UAV use within 4.3nm (8km). The system is being touted to government agencies that would want to avoid the malicious use of UAVs in situations where VIPs are present, or at large public events.

AUDS consists of a Blighter Surveillance Systems Ku-band electronic scanning radar, Chess Dynamics electro-optical and thermal imaging cameras and tracking software and an Enterprise Control Systems directional radio frequency inhibitor/jammer. Together the systems detect, track and jam UAVs within a 180˚ field of view, causing a UAV deemed a threat to land in a controlled manner.

This, the consortium says, was demonstrated to the French defence ministry, under what is believed to be the same tender that Thales is involved in.

During the test, the AUDS system showed it was capable of identifying unwanted UAVs and jamming one of several onboard radio frequencies – including GPS, the controls and telemetry channels – against "blind" and "semi-blind" targets, the consortium says.

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