Manu Srivastava is Vice President of Business Development at WhiteFox Defense Technologies Inc
How can counter-UAS procurers ensure they are getting the best possible system available within their budget?
It’s like buying a car. First you need to understand what the requirements really are – is it size or speed? Every system has strong and weak points and it’s very important for customers to know exactly what they want. It must be a realistic requirement in terms of mechanics and budgeting. And that’s where the challenge lies. A customer with a budget of USD 1 million will want a fully integrated system which costs USD 3 million, so cutting corners is the only option to fulfil USD 1 million budget requirements. That’s a lose-lose situation for all and a reason for customer dissatisfaction at the end. Within this emerging industry, there has been a growing partnership among the end users and manufacturers to continually align with needs versus cost.
I guess an essential part of this is understanding where the main threat is, understanding not every drone will be easily tracked and dealt with?
In the past many systems were at the proof-of-concept stage where it was very hard to do a realistic demonstration and there were differences between the proof-of-concept and the industrial version. That time has gone now. I think most companies can demonstrate realistic capabilities, especially when it comes to defence.
But the challenge is that commercial drones will keep evolving, keep changing protocols, so C-UAS units must keep ahead of these changes or be prepared to develop new solutions as soon as possible. Our drone detection and mitigation system DroneFox NS (DFNS) is extensible; it is built on a platform where additions – new technology, requirements, and protocols – are very easy , especially compared to our earlier models. The DFNS is revolutionizing the C-UAS industry with state-of-the-art extensible technology.
Apart from adaptability what do you see are your competitive advantages?
First, range. Depending on the RF environment we can average 20 km detection range. If you’re in an urban environment surrounded by buildings, we’ve still seen five to eight kilometres. It gives you time to make sure it is a rogue drone and time to ensure you employ the best mitigation procedure. That’s a big issue because there are many drones in the skies that are “good” drones and there for a reason. So, DroneFox NS creates a unique ID number for each drone it detects that lasts for the life of the drone. If it is seen months or a year later our system will recognise it and highlight when and where it was last seen.
Our systems knows exactly where the drone is, where the pilot is and what our history is with the drone. It will tell you where the drone started, where it ended and the path it took. Historical data is crucial here because if a path is followed on a regular basis there’s likely something suspicious about that drone. So, you can mitigate that issue before anything happens. Without that data it’s very difficult to say that drone is good or bad.
WhiteFox mitigation technology and techniques, are also a significant advantage, based on minimal or no collateral damage. Which is why airports use the DroneFox NS C-UAS system.
What does the DFNS comprise?
Basically, an antenna, a chassis, and a connection to your computer. Installation for a static or mobile application takes around 15 to 20 minutes – which a huge plus point. It’s very user-friendly system.
And you can integrate with other systems?
Yes. That is something we do on a regular basis. We have developed an API that allows us to integrate our system with most other systems in short times and that’s something we’ve been working on with every partner, company, and entity.
And how reliable is it?
We conduct extensive testing before we deliver any system. Customers have defined requirements that must be met before any procurement. We have clearly defined metrics for reliability to ensure the system’s performance meets the requirements of the customer.
Who are your major customers?
Internationally, MOD/MOI, utility plants, Stadiums, Nuclear plants, Data centres, high profile events such as FIFA world cup and VIPs who do not want to be stalked. Our main customers are defence and public safety organizations.
Ukraine has shown the drone threat is constantly evolving. How future proof can any system be?
We are developing a universal signal detection (USD) system. The USD can detect and classify any unknown digital communications signal, including cell phones, drones, and other radio frequency transmissions. We have tested the technology in many different scenarios. Recently we tested the system at a customer site where it detected a signal from what looked like a bird with wings. However, the USD detected a faint signal from the disguised drone, and we alerted the security services. This real-life scenario demonstrates how the technology is advancing.
We’ve seen 4G/5G/LTE communication starting to be incorporated but it’s not something that’s common yet. We have major projects with international entities who want us to develop a solution very fast in this area because the technology’s evolving.
How is your business growing?
We have two parts to the business – the STRATUS Cloud-based subscription service and Platform-based DFNS.
With STRATUS we own the hardware, so users and partners access the service with a subscription fee. For the moment this is a US product; however, this can be expanded into other countries by addressing local requirements with servers and maintenance.
For DFNS there is a huge international demand. We don’t say we can detect all drones, no system can. But, with our library based extensible system we can continue to add drones. And what’s of concern in the USA is not of concern in Singapore. I think internationally the market is going to evolve way faster, especially after the Ukraine war, and many countries are very susceptible to attacks. They will not want to take any chances.
Everything goes through the ITAR approval process, but the process has eased yielding faster results.
How does your mitigation system work?
Mitigation is a challenge due to laws and regulations in many countries, such as USA. WhiteFox’s highly targeted, surgical, and safe takeover is often the preferred as other methods including jamming and GPS spoofing are not acceptable in urban and RF-rich environments. So, if you can take over a specific drone without the pilot knowing that it has been taken over and direct the drone to take specific action such as land in a safe zone, that’s often the best, but hardest, thing to do. Protocols evolve and systems require extensible technology to evolve with them. Additionally, a system that can escalate with the threat, such as DFNS, offers both safe means of take-over mitigation and the power to effect multiple simultaneous threats through smart jamming.
DFNS offers different forms of drone disruption– from jamming everything in case of swarm attacks to very low-risk surgical disconnection that focus on targeted drones only.
As we continue to evolve, and the technology continues to evolve we will continue to stay ahead of the ever-changing world of drones.
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