As the sale of small-unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, increases in the United States, so does their threat to domestic security and public safety. In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration recorded hundreds of close calls between drones and aircraft.
In response to potential threats caused by drone use, the MITRE Corporation, a non-profit organization based in Bedford, MA, has launched the Countering Unauthorized Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-UAS) Challenge, the latest round in an ongoing challenge series, which began in 2011.
MITRE recently announced the eight finalists who will compete in its C-UAS live flight competition this August. The finalists include:
- DroneTracker system from DeDrone, Inc., Kassel, Germany, and San Francisco
- MESMER system from Department 13 International, Columbia, Maryland
- ICARUS system from Lockheed Martin, Bethesda, Maryland
- KNOX system, from MyDefence Communication ApS, Sundby, Denmark
- Skywall 100 system from Open Works Engineering, Riding Mill, England
- Dronebuster system from Radio Hill Technologies, Portland, Oregon
- DroneBlocker system from TrustComs, Versailles, France
- DroneRANGER system from Van Cleve & Associates, Alexandria, Virginia.
“Incidents of UAS flying within restricted airspace are growing rapidly, and represent a safety hazard for traditional aviation,” MITRE’s Public Affairs Lead Betsy Yates told Homeland Security Today.
The goal of this current challenge is to explore a wide range of ideas for ensuring the safe use of the increasingly popular technology.
The first phase required competitors to submit a 15 or more page document, which included an overview of the system and a description of sensor technology used. The finalists were chosen from a panel of more than 35 MITRE domain and technical experts.
The event emphasized detection and identification of suspicious small drones (i.e. those under 5 lbs.) and interdicting those that present a safety or security threat.
Live flight testing will be held Aug. 8-12 at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, beginning the second phase of the competition. The site will provide an urban area environment for competitors.
Each participant will be put through the same scenarios with the same threat. Challengers must be able to detect and track one or more target aircraft, drones that must be detected and acted upon, within the pre-defined area.
“In the wrong hands, UAS can become a security hazard,” Yates said. “They’re small enough that they can be transported inconspicuously in backpacks and launched from anywhere, but the combination of payload capabilities, range, GPS-enabled accuracy, and ability to control them from a safe distance could enable their use with little threat of detection.”
MITRE is offering a total prize package of $100,000. The best end-to-end system will win $60,000; $20,000 will be awarded to the best detection system and another $20,000 to the best interdiction system. It is possible for one team to win in all three categories.
“The MITRE C-UAS Challenge will help the entire community understand our ability to identify when these devices are threats and to safely interdict them – which will be useful for near-term operational considerations as well as future development activities,” said Yates.