Defend Facilities, Missions Against UAS Threats > Eglin Air Force Base > Article View
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio —
Small, inexpensive, and increasingly abundant, small unmanned aircraft systems pose a great threat to military operations and installations around the world.
As the primary command of counter-sUAS efforts for the Air Force, a team of seven experts from the Air Force Materiel Command’s Air, Space, and Cyber Operations Directorate facilitates research and development efforts related to sUAS defensive technology. The team also leads the program office’s fielding and acquisition efforts for the surge capabilities needed to mitigate the growing threat.
“Small unmanned aircraft systems continue to evolve and threaten the safety and missions of Air Force personnel at home and abroad,” said Katherine Clarke, chief engineer, C-sUAS. “They can be difficult to detect, and the increased commercial availability of systems as well as kits to create a small UAS has increased their use everywhere. The use of small UAS systems by criminal organizations, terrorists, states -nations such as Russia and China and other isolated actors to obtain information is a proven threat that can harm our people and facilities.
Unmanned aircraft are classified into five groups based on speed, operating altitude, and weight. The Department of Defense defines sUAS as those belonging to groups one through three. Often referred to as drones, these are readily available for purchase in stores and are used recreationally by the public.
“Nowadays it’s really easy for someone to buy a small plane or drone for personal use, and hobbyists often buy small UAS kits that they can build and customize for whatever purpose they want. ‘they desire,’ Clarke said. “Our concerns are not so much the UAS themselves as the potential threat they pose when operating on or near our installation airspace.”
In recent years, there have been numerous reports from military airports and airfields of sUAS disrupting flight operations when flying through congested airspace. The use of mounted cameras can lead to real-time intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance when flying over military installations or training areas.
Additionally, Clarke said, there are reports of sUAS being weaponized and used by adversaries to perform various missions, including delivering payloads.
“These are just a few of the national threats our small unmanned aircraft systems concern our teams, but there are many more. Our teams are working to find technical solutions to mitigate sUAS threats. for our facilities and our people, but we also rely on our Air Force personnel and communities to help identify suspicious sUAS activity – much the same way we ask for help in reporting any potential threats,” , said Clarke.
Raising awareness of a sUAS incident on an Air Force installation follows the same general process used to provide an oral or written account of any other suspicious activity around or on a base. Personnel may contact the Air Force installation’s Law Enforcement Office, Security Force Base Defense Operations Center, or if these options are not available, they may contact the local civilian law enforcement agency to make a report.
Knowing what to look for when writing a report is key, Clarke said.
“It is easy to misidentify satellites, manned aircraft and small meteors as a small UAS. However, a key identifying feature is the distinct, high-pitched hum emitted by the small UAS rotors as they cut through the air. This noise is usually located a few hundred meters from its location. Individuals may also see static or flashing lights, which all drones should have for navigation and collision avoidance needs,” Clarke said.
Clarke and his team have created a guide to identifying and reporting sUAS that provides detailed information to help staff better understand platforms and reporting requirements. The guide is available at sUAS Identification Guide.
As she and her team continue to develop and field technology to counter sUAS threats, support from personnel all around is key to success.
“We all have a role to play in protecting our facilities from adversary threats. Knowing about sUAS platforms and reporting methods is critical to the success of our collaboration,” said Clarke.
For more information on Counter-SUAS and the role of AFMC, individuals may contact Katherine Clarke. The Short Guide to Unmanned Aircraft Systems can be accessed at sUAS Identification Guide.