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The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 9 April that the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), the MoD’s innovation hub, is to seek robust, cost-effective next-generation solutions for countering the threats posed by hostile unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

The armed forces are seeking new defensive capabilities which draw upon autonomous decision-making mechanisms and networked sensing systems capable of detecting, tracking, identifying and defeating hostile UAS over complex and varied environments.

As the security threats from hostile drones are evolving at pace, it’s critical that our armed forces benefit from the very latest technology to stay ahead [….] This competition will draw on the brightest and best of our defence industry to find innovative solutions that will ensure we are protected in the years to come,” stated Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

The competition is the latest stage in the Defence Science and Technology Lab’s (Dstl) ongoing research programme into countering UAS, which has been running for ten years. This programme has included the extensive research, testing and evaluation of the counter-UAS technology currently deployed by the MoD, including the landmark series of ‘Bristow’ trials with industry in 2013, 2015 and 2018.

Hostile UAS is a challenging threat in many different ways and requires cutting-edge technology and well-thought-out system approaches to counter it effectively. Through this competition we are looking to inspire and develop a range of solutions to mitigate the threat posed by UAS now and in the future [….] Among the technologies we’re looking for, we’d be interested in those which can detect and track multiple threats simultaneously, with minimal human oversight, and against a broad spectrum of UAS types [….] We’re also interested in counter-unmanned air systems which can overcome the challenges posed by line of sight blockages, collateral, and ones which can link systems together to improve understanding of the local ‘drone air picture,’” added Dstl Principal Engineer, David Lugton.

Today’s call is focused on tackling the challenges of current and future UAS capabilities, in particular:

• Next-generation counter-UAS technology – new solutions to provide robust, cost-effective sensing and defeat options;

• Flexible counter-UAS technology – programmes capable of bringing counter-UAS technologies together and linking with other surveillance systems and cooperative drone awareness systems;

• Countering future UAS – developing capability to detect and mitigate threats from UAS acting autonomously, in swarms and in highly congested airspace.

Phase 1, which will deliver proof of concept of the proposals, will be worth approximately £800,000 and is scheduled to take place from July 2019 to March 2020. Total funding for the competition is expected to be at least £2 million, split over multiple phases.

The MoD is seeking next-generation solutions to the proliferating issue of hostile UAS. (Image Crown copyright)

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