Response to Russia’s electronic warfare, anti-drone tech – UK firm unveils ‘laser taser’ to jam jammers

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A British company has introduced a new laser-controlled drone that can eliminate the radio connection, which is often scrambled and vulnerable to interception, detection and interference.

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Intended to circumvent counter-drone systems, the technology still appears to be in its infancy, but promises to open a whole new direction in the rapid evolution of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and UAV detection technology. .

Called Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC) by UK defense aerospace and technology company QinetiQ, the demonstration saw a ground operator controlling a UAV, sending control commands and receiving sensor and platform information. form via the Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC). ) – a two-way link in its ground control and communication system.

The laser control and communication system for drones from the British firm QinetQ

The ongoing war in Ukraine has laid bare the vulnerability of drones, particularly the Turkish TB-2 Bayraktar used by Ukraine, which have been shot down in large numbers, prompting a rethink of their continued employment by the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF ).

The Russian military, too, has long spearheaded efforts in counter-drone and electronic warfare (EW) since its 2015 intervention in Syria on behalf of President Basher al-Assad’s government.

Russia is also building an advanced laser system called Kalina at a Russian space facility designed to blind enemy satellites. The Krona space facility, located near Zelenchukskaya in Russia’s far south-west, is where construction of this system is taking place. This space facility is already known to house the massive RATAN-600 radio telescope.

“FSOC provides very high bandwidth, very low probability of detection communications, a small logistics footprint, and the potential to negate the significant investment adversaries may have made in denying RF spectrum,” a statement from the society.

Bayraktar-Drone
File Image: Bayraktar Drone Downed – Via Twitter

All drones are controlled by radio frequency (RF) communication, which can be jammed and interfere with RF jammers. “This was a successful demonstration of an integrated FSOC system as a means of operation in a contested RF environment where secure and covert operations are required,” the company statement added.

The project has been sanctioned by the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and is part of the Air Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C2ISR) Interoperability and Science and Technology Laboratory Interoperability Project Defense (DSTL).

The project aims to improve current and future UAVs with the digital interoperability and resilience of communication systems controlling aerial platforms and UAVs with the FSOC. The results of the project outputs are expected to impact the activities of UK Air, Land, Sea and Joint Commands.

Dave Dixon, QinetiQ Technical Lead for the project, remarked: “This innovative use of FSOC builds on previous Crewed-Uncrewed Teaming demonstrations which have provided UK and European firsts in live air traffic control. UAS.

It also showcases the talent and capabilities available in the UK and provides further evidence that teams made up of both humans and machines are an essential part of the future functioning of the military”.

Rob Scott, QinetiQ Program Manager, added: “To make this possible, we had to take a mission-driven approach to innovation and work closely with DSTL and its partners. We would also like to thank AVoptics for their support. and the rapid integration of its WOLF FSOC system into the demonstration”.

The demo was a live virtual event, using interoperable message standards to load a number of virtual platforms and the UAS live, using QinetiQ ACCSIOM swarm technology. The vast land and air space was provided by the military in the Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA).

Disadvantages of laser communications

It’s unclear if the system can be operated by a remotely located ground control station, but the photo released by the company suggests it requires “line of sight” to stay linked to the drone.

This limits the number of roles since the controller cannot be too remote. The control station, however, appears to be compact.

Additionally, it is also unclear if laser communication can work through smoke, polluted air, and other air quality issues. Being much more precise, denser and directed than radio communication – or lower wavelengths in terms of physics and engineering – they cannot pass through or around objects. Thus an obstacle in the line of sight is likely to block a large part of the laser.

That’s not to say that even if these issues are overcome, laser-controlled drones can still be shot down by nets, missiles, or anti-aircraft shells. But nonetheless, the technology offers a way to undo the massive advancements of EW advances by multiple countries and increase the overall survivability of drones.


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