Illegal drone flights have put this week in check the tracks of Gatwick Airport in London. His unauthorized flight caused the closure on Thursday and part of Friday. The authorities could not control or repel them. Can an airport be secured against remote manned machines? The Spanish company Indra says yes. It has developed a solution specifically prepared to protect an airport or any other civil or military space against several drones that fly without authorization, putting the security at risk, according to the company.
It is an intelligent shield, called ARMS (Anti RPAS Multisensor System), able to detect the presence of these aircraft miles away, long before they pose a risk, identify the model of the aircraft concerned and neutralize it if it invades the area to be protected.
Indra's ARMS solution can be used in a targeted manner to take a single drone out of play, in a surgical intervention, or a whole swarm of aircraft, applying more aggressive measures. In case the invasion occurs simultaneously from different points, the system is also prepared to activate a complete defense, generating a protection dome.
The project has already been sold to the Vietnamese Army and other clients, and several entities from different countries, both civilians – airport managers, mainly – and the military have been interested in them, the same sources reported.
Indra has long ago detected the concern that exists between airport operators and many other sensitive infrastructures, industrial plants and even official buildings. From this need, developed this smart shield, which is combined with the technologies of air traffic management for conventional aircraft (ATM) and for unmanned aircraft (UTM) own Spanish firm.
Detection, identification, neutralization
The Indra system has a radar with a range of several kilometers, which is adapted according to the specific needs of each airport or facility, to ensure the necessary coverage. This system guarantees the detection of any object in the air, regardless of whether it is day or night or if fog or rain makes visibility difficult.
To confirm the radar alert, the infrared cameras deployed automatically go to the indicated point to confirm that it is indeed a drone. By comparing the image with the database, it is possible to determine what type of drone it is, which helps Indra's ARMS system to define which is the most effective strategy to counteract it.
The system also listens to and studies how the drone is communicating, what kind of data link it is using, how often, how it receives information to orient itself, and can even determine from where it is being controlled and therefore where the pilot is. As if it were a military objective, the system observes the drone and collects all possible information before taking action and counteracting it.
The information collected by all these sensors is received at a control center. The operator displays the alert on some screens and checks the information provided by the system. This information is also integrated with the UTM (Unmanned traffic management) systems. The latter are responsible for monitoring and integrating the legal drone traffic information with that provided by the ARMS sensors. All information is available to ATM systems to enable the safe management of manned aircraft and the agile restoration of the airport service.
On a digitized plane, the area to be monitored has been previously determined, which is broader, and which must be protected and which, in case of being flown over, will generate a response from the system. An answer that can be carried out in a supervised way or even automatically if the risk justifies it.
To achieve this, the ARMS system uses a frequency inhibitor in different bands with which the signal from the aircraft geolocation equipment interferes and the communications link that allows the pilot to control it remotely. The objective of the system is to make it land in a chosen area without causing damage.
The degree of intelligence of the Indra system is so high that it can even apply techniques of spoofing, with which it impersonates the positioning signal of the drone to deceive it and assume its command and be able to make it land in the place that we want. It is also endowed with continuous learning capacity, incorporating advanced algorithms that make the system have the intelligence necessary to gain accuracy the more it is used.
Drones are increasingly popular, cheap to acquire and easy to pilot, which can make these devices extremely dangerous in the hands of unscrupulous people. In addition to posing a danger to an airport, drones can also be used to invade privacy, compromise the safety of a nuclear plant, attack the energy distribution system of a city, or seriously jeopardize the safety of a massive sporting event .
Currently, the use of small drones to perform photographic or measurement work is becoming quite common. In the coming years, the use of these aircraft will grow exponentially as the regulations regulate and facilitate their use and will be used in new sectors, such as logistics and transport. Industrial plants, critical infrastructures, airports and official buildings should be prepared to protect themselves and ensure that these aircraft do not invade their space, since they could be used to attack or monitor them.