A Chinese company recently conducted a test flight for its newly developed airborne swarm carrier, which is an unmanned aerial mother ship that can carry multiple smaller drones and release them in the air for missions like reconnaissance and attack.
According to a report in Global Times, this approach could revolutionize future warfare, and when the mother ship, now limited in size, becomes larger, it has the potential of turning into a strategic platform from a tactical one, analysts say.
Developed by Chinese company Zhongtian Feilong, the unmanned swarm carrier system — which carried nine smaller drones in its aircraft bay — successfully went through a test flight at an airport on March 20.
So how, exactly do you stop a threatening drone mother ship?
The answer might be a new 3D-radar solution by Numerica Corp., a Colorado based company that says its “Spyglass” system is designed for counter drone and short range air defense missions, National Defense reported.
The platform is optimized for what the company calls short-range air defense, and can be used for detecting and tracking small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and other ground and air targets, said Nate Knight, vice president of air-and-missile defense.
Unlike many of the radars already fielded by the Defense Department that are now being retrofitted to address capability gaps, Spyglass focuses on a “very close-range mission area where drones can be a real threat,” Knight told National Defense.
“We think by doing that, we’re going to be able to provide better protection against these kinds of objects than you would get from a system that’s optimized for longer ranges.”
Because the capability is focused on solving a short-range problem, it is able to leverage higher frequencies than other radar systems.
“The benefit of doing that is we’re able to more precisely measure the movement of very slow and small objects,” he told National Defense.
“Drones — in particular quadcopter type drones — can hover and remain relatively still for long periods of time while they’re still doing their mission, and the more accurately you can measure those sort of small movements, the more likely you are to be able to detect those objects and discriminate them from ground clutter.”
Longer-range systems also commonly have a blind spot informally known as a “donut hole,” Knight said.
That is a region very close to the radar where it is unable to detect anything “because essentially the radar kind of overpowers itself,” he said.
“It’s not able to listen for returns from targets within this kind of blind zone.”
The Spyglass radar addresses this issue and can detect targets right in front of it, he said.
The technology is also capable of being integrated into mobile ground-based platforms or at fixed-site locations, Knight told National Defense.
“The rapidly-growing autonomous drone threat presented an opportunity to turn our attention to building a new radar from the ground up that would leverage our decades of experience solving critical air and missile defense problems and applying our proven radar processing and tracking technologies in new ways,” Knight said.
According to ArmyRecognition.com, Spyglass will offer advantages including:
- Superior precision: Spyglass utilizes Ku-Band Phased Array technology to provide high-precision measurements, improving targeting and classification performance at longer ranges and providing critical time for decision making and threat mitigation.
- See farther + react faster: Advanced signal processing algorithms and autonomy extend the detection range of the 3D radar allowing users to see farther and faster.
- Close the gap: Traditional pulse-doppler radar designs leave users blind up close, Spyglass’ simultaneous transmit-and-receive design ensures threats are not missed at close ranges.
- Deploy anywhere: With a rugged, solid-state design, low power consumption and low transmit power, Spyglass is built to be deployed anywhere needed.
- Any mission covered: With embedded C2 and AI software, Spyglass is designed to enable broad-area autonomous sensor networks. Software-defined operating modes enable rapid customization to specific mission requirements.