US Air Force expands counter UAS research with addition of DDS sense and detect know-how

The US Air Force Research Lab (ARFL) is due to absorb the technologies acquired by the Defense Digital Service (DDS) to sense and detect small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS), according to a report by Fedscoop and UAS Vision.

According to the article, DDS’ drone-sensing capabilities will be transferred to ARFL’s counter sUAS programme known as Negation of Improvised Non-State Joint Aerial (NINJA), including DDS’ high-fidelity long-range sensor and user interface for integrating sensors by 20 September 2021.

The transition comes after the two organisations signed a memorandum of understanding in April to collaborate on counter-sUAS work.

DDS was developed as a testbed for innovative technologies at the Department of Defense (DoD). New systems are tested there before being transferred to a more permanent home — as will happen in this case with AFRL. DDS hopes that moving its counter-sUAS sensor capabilities to the Air Force will allow the program to “thrive and evolve” with continued development, procurement strategy and temporary sustainment of the products until a program of record is identified, according to the spokesperson.

Katie Olson, acting director of DDS said: “One of DDS’s superpowers is the ability to rapidly build, buy and deploy the best in technology that can be scaled to meet the needs of the DOD and the broader defense community.

“Since adding CUAS as a portfolio in early 2020, our technical experts have been able to rapidly test and deliver best-in-class capabilities that support the warfighter’s need for real-time detection and tracking of CUAS threats for mitigation. Transitioning these capabilities to AFRL enables their evolution and growth and allows them to continue to support and modernize the DOD defensive posture.”

During the early days of the pandemic, DDS was noted for using its sUAS detection capabilities in helping secure the Navy’s COVID-19 floating hospitals off the coasts of New York and Los Angeles.

DDS, led by its Rogue Squadron team, will continue to work in the counter-sUAS space with a focus on rapid response while maintaining the partnership with AFRL for any sensing and detection needs.

The Air Force’s NINJA programme is “a fielded, affordable, and software-adaptable system capable of taking control of or disabling” inexpensive, commercially available drones. The Air Force is looking to move NINJA into a programme of record in the near future.

Air Force Research Lab earlier this year issued a request for proposals for a USD490 million contract looking for businesses that can help prototype counter-sUAS technology.

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