QUANTICO, Virginia -- As the Marine Corps incorporates unmanned aircraft systems into its operating strategy, planners are already anticipating a future threat from enemies armed with commercially available drones that can harass troops or gather surveillance unnoticed.
During a presentation at the Modern Day Marine expo here Thursday, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command operator Master Sgt. Justin Olson said the command is on the hunt for a technology that can target and destroy this new skyborne threat.
"Our focus right now is not so much counter-UAS on a larger scale, but counter-small systems," Olson said. "Your micro, small handheld stuff, what will the enemy use."
According to a briefing slide describing MARSOC's requirements for such a system, the technology sought should detect and track small drones operating in the battlespace and characterize the threat they present. Then, they should present a range of options for eliminating or mitigating the threat by taking out the platform, the operator, or the data link or control station that allows it to fly.
"We're looking to counter anything you can buy off the shelf," sStaff Sgt. Nic Gagnon, a member of the MARSOC team developing the counter-drone requirement, told Military.com
UAS are classified into five groups by size; the smallest, Group 1, includes drones up to 55 pounds.
"You're not seeing anything that heavy that you can buy off Amazon," Gagnon said.
Drone technology is so emergent, and the requirement is so new, that it's not yet clear how MARSOC will deploy the counter-drone systems once acquired, or what size and shape they will take.
Lt. Col. Mike Castellano, the lead for MARSOC's capabilities development directorate, said Modern Day Marine provided the opportunity to discuss the requirement directly with the companies at the cusp of new technology development.
"We're asking industry, 'you build all these cool UAVs. How would you take out these UAVs if you wanted to?'" he said.
Earlier this year, the the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security committed to purchasing a small number of one system that may provide an answer to the drone threat. The two departments purchased 100 DroneDefender systems made by Battelle--a shoulder-fired weapons that "zaps" drones up to 400 meters away.