Air Defense: Iron Dome Evolves Into Drone Dome

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July 27, 2017: The same Israeli firm (Rafael) that developed the Iron Dome system (for effectively and economically destroying rockets and shells from mortar and artillery) is now offering a version optimized to detect and shoot down UAVs. Called Drone Dome it is a lot cheaper because it does not use $90,000 Tamir guided missiles to intercept rockets or shells headed for residential areas or military targets. Instead Drone Dome uses a high powered laser that can destroy or disable most UAVs 2,000 meters or more distant. Drone Dome uses a radar that can detect most small UAVs at ranges of up to 30 kilometers at altitudes of 10 meters (30 feet) to 10,000 meters.

Drone Dome is not a radical development but part of a trend. Since 2010 Israeli firms have developed a growing number of AUD (Anti UAV Defense) systems largely because Israel is a nation that is most often threatened by hostile use of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) particularly small commercial ones increasingly used by Islamic terrorists and criminal gangs.

Iron Dome entered service in 2005 and continues to be the main defense against rocket and mortar attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The manufacturer developed a version (Iron Beam) that used a laser but because the laser was only effective out to about 2,000 meters it was not useful against longer range rockets and actually more expensive than Iron Dome because the Tamir missile can knock down rockets fired from over 50 kilometers away and thus one Iron Dome battery can cover a much larger area than the Iron Beam system.

What makes Drone Dome different is its heavy use of electronic sensors to detect and jam the control signals used by UAVs, leaving the laser as a last resort. Several AUD systems are already in service and effective because they are good at detecting UAV electronically and either jamming those control signals or taking over the control signals and capturing (by making it land) the UAV. Troops in Iraq and Syria were asking for AUD systems that used lasers and better UAV detection systems as well those with jammers to disable UAVs. There is a need for AUDS that can detect and destroy UAVs that do not use control signals and basically go on pre-programmed missions. This can be to take photos or deliver a small explosive. Usually it is to take photos and return. Drone Dome is one of several AUD systems equipped to detect and locate UAVs operating in pre-programmed mode and destroy or disable them quietly with a vehicle mounted laser.

AUDs like Drone Dome use one radar system and one or more sensor systems for detecting UAV control signals or visual images (that pattern recognition software can quickly identify what it is). In addition they have two or more truck mounted lasers which, because short range (usually about 2,000 meters for a 5 KW laser) means you have to deploy multiple lasers to cover an area.

AUDs equipped with lasers can be effective keeping UAVs away from high value targets (like nuclear power plants) or prisons (where criminals have been using UAVs to smuggle in drugs, cell phones and other contraband). AUDs can also be effective at detection the use of UAVs to smuggle drugs and other high-value items across borders.

 

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