The Rafael Drone Dome system combines an all-weather 360 degree radar array, a radio frequency sensor and an electro-optical and infrared sensor, enhancing the chance of detecting threats. Image: Rafael

The Israeli Defense company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd has introduced a new counter-drone system called Drone Dome that can be mounted on light trucks, Land Rovers or other vehicles. The system can either jam the drone or destroy it with a laser.  It has a range greater than three kilometers.

Rafael is the main developer of the highly successful Iron Dome missile defense system.  That system has had a success rate exceeding 90% and is responsible for destroying some 2,000 missiles fired mainly from the Gaza Strip by Hamas and others.

The proliferation of drones, either for military surveillance, targeting or as armed platforms, is a growing problem worldwide while, at the same time, commercial and recreational use is expanding. In the US in 2019 around two million drones were registered by the FAA.  The overall global market was $4.9 billion this year, and it is expected to triple in size in the next decade. The biggest global producer is China, dominated by DJI.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that 48% of commercial drones are used for real estate photography, 29% for industrial and utility inspections and 17% for crop inspections. State and local governments are also using drones for everything from search and rescue operations to supplying emergency services. In 2017 in Rwanda 5,500 units of blood were delivered by drone – and drones today are supplying around 35% of Rwanda’s blood transfusion service supply nationally, especially deliveries to rural areas. Last April in the US, a drone delivered a kidney to a woman who had waited eight years for a life-saving implant.  The New York Times said it was “like an Uber for organs.”

While drones are here to stay, their exploitation for military use by governments and by terrorist groups is expanding. Iran recently used 25 drones as part of an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields and Iran is also supplying drones to its proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria and to Hamas in the Gaza strip.  Drones were used by ISIS and other Islamist factions in Syria in numerous attacks on Russia’s Khmeimim  air base. Those attacks featured both homemade and Chinese drones packed with explosives using swarming tactics to neutralize Russian air defenses.

Drones vary a lot in their sophistication, ranging from very simple drones where navigation is made possible by a camera on the drone, to better quality drones that can fly to GPS coordinates but require remote pilot control, to autonomous drones that can use scene matching and artificial intelligence in carrying out their mission. Because drones are small, often made out of plastic and emit little or no heat that could be picked up by infrared sensors, identifying them and intercepting them is not an easy or simple task.

Drones can be detected by small radars optimized to pick up small radar signatures, by intercepting drone electronic communications, or by optical sensors.

The Rafael Drone Dome system combines an all-weather 360 degree radar array, a radio frequency sensor and an electro-optical and infrared sensor, enhancing the chance of detecting threats. Once identified, the drone can be electronically jammed, taking out both any video feed and commands sent to the drone by a remote pilot. Or the drone can be destroyed by a laser that burns through the drone’s structure and destroys its electronics.

Rafael says the Drone Dome can handle multiple threats in real time, neutralizing the swarming drone threat.

A special feature of the Rafael system is its ability to safely detect and neutralize threats even in high air traffic areas, making the counter-drone system a practical alternative in urban areas and around both military and civil airports.

Because of Rafael’s considerable success in missile defense, its new Drone Dome system is bound to gain a lot of attention globally.

Also read: China takes lead in military drone market

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