Defending against the unmanned aircraft threat

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Anyone looking for a symbol of our brave new world could easily pick a drone. The remote craft, also referred to as unmanned aircraft systems got their start with work like that done at UAH some 15 years ago. The first unmanned aircraft there was called the BASSETT. It was a large, noisy, gas-powered model helicopter.

“We got into it after 9-11 because everyone was looking at security and how to protect infrastructure throughout the nation, and the military infrastructure,” said Gary Maddux with the UAH Systems Mgt. and Production Center.

UAH is still working with drones, but they’ve come a long way in the past decade and a half.  The original purposes have become just “some” of the things for which you can use drones.

“Well, the anticipated outcome from the industry is very, very large. The main reason is because if you can think it, a UAV can probably do it,” said Taylor Abingdon from Avion Solutions.

Like researchers at UAH, Huntsville’s Avion Solutions is working to expand the list of things unmanned aircraft can do.  The U.S. Military certainly has plenty of uses for them.  At one test site nearly every work day you can see a Shadow in operation.  This large unmanned aircraft is a prime way to save American lives by doing reconnaissance missions.

Of course when the enemy does the same thing, that becomes a problem. Boeing is working on a solution for that. A laser than can essentially bring a drone down. “You could lock on the target. It’s a dime size beam at a mile, and you can shoot down this quad copter in 11 seconds,” said John Matlock from Boeing.

The U.S. Army has certainly realized the drone threat is serious and growing. That’s one reason the air defense stinger missiles will get new proximity fuses. It allows them to explode near a drone, and bring it down.

“It definitely will save lives. you know, especially for those small threats. The Stinger proximity fuse will be able to go after those threats,” said CW5 Julian Evans, at the CMDS office.

Drones are definitely a part of our world that isn’t going anywhere. Figuring out how to use them and defeat them is something that happens every day at Redstone Arsenal and across north Alabama.