The New World of Counter-Drone Technology

Home / Articles / External Non-Government


January 28, 2019 | Originally published by Date Line: January 28 on

Attempts to prevent unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from surveillance, terrorist, or military attacks involve methods ranging from electronic jamming, to nets, to bullets, and even to birds of prey.

Only a little more than a quarter century ago, UAVs were largely just a curiosity, with little support from the operational military. That began to change with the First Gulf War in 1991 and the successful use of the Pioneer UAV, which by today”s standards, was a primitive and limited-use surveillance aircraft. The need to defend against UAVs rarely was even a consideration.

With the Second Gulf War a decade later, UAVs came into their own. Today, they are an essential part of U.S. military missions and operations and are in high demand by nearly every military and law-enforcement agency on the planet. Unlike most critical military equipment, however, UAVs also have gone commercial, equally sought by everyone from oil companies to ranchers, to news media outlets, to environmentalists, forestry services, and fish and wildlife observers. 

Darker forces are at work, too. UAVs also are on the shopping list of criminals ranging from drug cartels, to human smugglers, to corporate spies. This has made counter-UAV technologies and systems a top (and increasingly classified) priority for the military, Department of Homeland Security, major law enforcement agencies, and the contractors producing them. Seeking to maintain a time and technology advantage over threat users, those groups essentially have stopped making public statements about Counter-UAV (C-UAV). 

This new topic of C-UAV is divided into two primary areas: detection and tracking systems; and interdiction. The former includes radar, radio frequency (RF), electro-optical (EO), infrared (IR), acoustic, and combined sensors. Interdiction includes jamming RF and GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System, which includes a Global Positioning System (GPS) and a Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS)), spoofing, lasers, physical nets to entangle the target, projectiles, electromagnetic pulse (EMP), water projectors, “suicide” drones, and combinations of those.