October 5, 2022 By Samantha Johnson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News
The Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program is holding a Counter Unmanned Aerial System Sandbox at CFB Suffield in an effort to gain more knowledge on how drones can be used, and how they can be stopped.
“We’re running this Counter UAS (drones) Sandbox to find ways to detect, track and defeat small commercial and hobbyist drones to enable our Canadian Forces to better protect themselves,” said Jared Giesbrecht, defence scientist with Defence Research and Development Canada.
Drone technology improves each year. As the capability of drones increases, Canadian Forces aims to continue to find solutions. The technologies being investigated include how far away can a drone be detected, stopped and tracked. There are drones on the market now that are smaller than 250g, below Transport Canada licencing requirements, but can travel long distances at high speeds and carry high-definition optics, meaning, from a defence perspective, they could be a problem.
A call for proposals was put out to companies, asking them to come to CFB Suffield to demonstrate their equipment.
“We are also trying to assess other portions of the equipment,” explained Giesbrecht. “How easy is it to deploy? How many people needed to deploy? The electrical requirements, everything that might affect how we use this equipment in the future. There is no one technology that we’ve found that is a silver bullet for counter drone work.”
The sandbox is a proactive measure for Canadian Forces to understand the technology, what the threat is, how drones can be used, and what the industry is able to provide in terms of counter measures. “Canadian Armed Forces needs to understand the threat and ability of the UAS on crude aircraft systems,” said Major Raymond Green with the Canadian Joint Operations Command.
The varying sizes of drones, how they perform, what effects they could have, and how to defeat them are all of interest.
Different companies are coming in to be the blue team, last week it was Hesoldt out of Germany and EOS, an Australian/American company. QinetiQ from Medicine Hat provided drones for the red team, flying them into blue team space to be defeated, either kinetically or non-kinetically. Kinetic approaches included being attacked by a blue team drone or being taken out by either bullets or missiles. Non-kinetic approaches included detecting, jamming and tracking.
Using different frequencies, such as outside those used for wi-fi (2.4 and 5.8 GHz), which are the most popular, was also part of the testing being done.
QinetiQ flew a $3,500, 800g drone (about six inches long with 10 inches between the rotors) with a 45-minute battery life. Under Transport Canada, unless a special licence is applied for, this drone can fly at 400 feet (121m). The operator took the drone to maximum height and flew it 540 metres from the red team base.
From there, the operator switched between 1x and 7x optics and then to a 28x live digital feed, which showed the site in detail.
“This shows a little bit of the story about why countering drones is so difficult,” said Giesbrecht.”They are small and maneuverable, and can fly low if they need to.”