Utah-based Fortem Technologies, which launched in 2016 and now counts Boeing’s HorizonX among its investors, last week demonstrated its counter drone technology for legislators at the Utah State Capitol building in Salt Lake City.
The company’s countermeasure combines its SkyDome platform – which provides situational awareness – with the DroneHunter, a menacing DJI M600 drone specially adapted to be every rogue drone’s worst nightmare.
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The DJI M600, but not as you’ve seen it before
Fortem’s DroneHunter is an adapted DJI M600. Instead of carrying a sophisticated Zenmuse camera, thermal optics or a payload for mapping and 3D surveys, it’s a pure predator. When connected to the SkyDome system, the DroneHunter can autonomously track and engage rogue drones.
It then fires out a net to intercept them and drag them to safety.
This kind of countermeasure is has been seen before of course. Several companies offer net-related counter drone technologies. The thinking is that capturing a rogue drone and taking it to a secure location is a much better option than shooting it down or jamming its radio or GPS signal.
A damaged drone has to crash somewhere; while jamming, spoofing and electromagnetic methods could damage or interfere with other equipment or infrastructure.
A net removes that uncertainty from the situation and retains the original threat for forensic analysis.
According to Fortem, the DroneHunter has flown over 7,500 missions and has over 3,000 successful kills. They also claim the system has an 85 percent successful ‘kill’ rate.
Following the events at Gatwick in London at the end of 2018, we can expect 2019 to be the year that counter drone companies fight it out to win security contracts around the world. However, it’s still not clear that any of these measures are sufficiently future-proof or capable of dealing with sophisticated attacks rather than accidental incursions.