The military has turned to a directed energy frequency jammer mounted on an assault rifle-type frame to deal with the growing threat of small drones to military bases and troops in the field.
Officials of Battelle, the non-profit research and development organization based in Columbus, Ohio, said Monday the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security had signed off on buying 100 of its “DroneDefender,” billed as the “safe” solution to warding off intruding unmanned aerial vehicles.
Battelle officials at the Navy League’s 2016 Sea-Air-Space Exposition at National Harbor in Maryland outside Washington, D.C., said they could not discuss the unit cost or the total cost of the sales to the departments.
“It’s a portable solution to stop portable drones,” said Rich Granger, a Battelle business development director for Mission and Defense Technologies.
The DroneDefender has two triggers — a “command and control” trigger to sever the link between the pilot and the UAV, and a second trigger to jam GPS links to the drone.
The device can intercept drones out to 400 meters. Once the drones are disabled, they are programmed to hover safely to the ground, said Kim Stambler, a Batelle business development and sales leader.
Stambler said the Pentagon bought the DroneDefender for use in the U.S. and overseas.
Commercial sales of anti-drone technology are prohibited by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration, but Battelle has fielded inquiries from movie studios looking for ways to stop paparazzi drones from hovering over the homes and parties of the stars, Stambler said.
Stambler said the Battelle device weighed about 15 pounds and was powered by a 10-pound backpack and the company is working on an improvement that would have the battery mounted on the frame itself.
Earlier this year, Col. Steve Sliwa, director of the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, told Military.com’s Matt Cox about the military’s growing concerns over vulnerability to small UAVs.
“It’s a tough mission set because of the size and the altitude of these devices — you can buy them off the Internet, you can buy them in a store,” Sliwa said. “They are not really that expensive. The ones that could threaten an installation, they are a little more expensive, but we are not talking about big dollars here.”
The defenses against drones will have to keep pace with the booming market for them. A Business Insider report projected that revenues from drone sales, which were $8 billion last year, will expand to $12 billion by 2021.