DARPA Wants New Tech to Neutralize Pesky Drones

The Pentagon's research arm just tapped three firms to develop technology to neutralize small pesky drones that could harm U.S. military ships and vehicles.

An example of such a threat isn't hard to find.

Earlier this month, a small commercial drone unintentionally touched down on Britain's biggest warship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, and nobody noticed. A photographer who was taking pictures in the area was forced to bring down his DJI Phantom drone on the vessel due to a high gust of wind.

What's more, militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, had weaponized such models of commercial drones to drop bombs on Iraqi security forces in Mosul.

Recognizing the potential threats from such devices, the Defense Department recently authorized local bases to shoot down any kinds of remotely piloted aircraft deemed a threat.

Now, in a bid to develop technology that could better protect ground and maritime convoys from small unmanned aircraft, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, provided seed money to teams led by Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville, Ala. and Saab Defense and Security USA LLC and SRC Inc., both of Syracuse, N.Y., as part of its Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program.

"The three teams we've assembled have innovative ideas for a versatile, layered defense system that could protect convoys on the move from multiple small unmanned aircraft systems in real time," Jean-Charles Ledé, a program manager in DARPA's Tactical Technology Office (TTO), said in a release.

"Each team will now work to integrate novel ideas for advanced sensors and neutralization approaches into a common framework emphasizing safety for civilian bystanders, ease of operation, and low size, weight, power, and cost," he added. "Our goal is a technology demonstration system that could fit onto currently deployed tactical ground vehicles and maritime vessels -- getting advanced and upgradeable capabilities quickly to the warfighters who need them."

The agency picked the U.S. Army's Maneuver Aviation and Fires Integration Application (MAFIA) as the common framework for the technology -- which is already used in several defense acquisition programs, according to the release.

DARPA is working on the program with each of the military services, as well as the Coast Guard and the Homeland Security Department, the release states.

While the initial phase calls for demonstrating system functionality, the final phase is designed to test the technology on a moving vehicle or vessel, according to DARPA.

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