AUS&R Demo Day Product Review: D-Fend Solutions EnforceAir Counter-Drone (C-sUAS) Takeover System

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A unique view of a drone cyber takeover

On a sunny September day, as part of the iHLS AUS&R Broadcast Edition demo day, D-Fend solutions demonstrates the advantages of its EnforceAir counter-drone solution in a field demonstration, as one of the leading providers of acquisition technologies for counter-drone assets.

We knew that EnforceAir, the company’s flagship offering, automatically performs radio frequency (RF) cyber takeover of rogue drones for safe landings and safe results in sensitive environments. But we weren’t sure exactly how it worked.

The light weight and compactness of the D-Fend Solutions system was impressive. While two company experts easily carried the system, which weighs approximately 120 pounds/54 kilograms, the system could be set up by one person.

Given the scope and capabilities of the technology, we expected system setup to be complex, cumbersome and time-consuming. However, the D-Fend staff set up the tripod, software defined radio (SDR) system, and antenna fairing in minutes.

While we’ve seen the stationary deployment of the system, EnforceAir can also be attached to vehicles or ships, stealthily if needed, or equipped with different types of antennas – including a long-range directional antenna for airports. Switching between these deployment options to maximize operational flexibility is quick and easy.

What was particularly noticeable about the demo was what we didn’t see. EnforceAir does not depend on radars or optics for detection, or kinetics or jamming for mitigation. While these proven traditional technologies play their part in layered protection, as stand-alone solutions in sensitive environments they may be inadequate. They are not always able to detect or identify drones, can impede communications, sometimes mitigate only temporarily, and these traditional solutions can risk collateral damage during mitigation.

counter drone

Focus on the real threat – dangerous drones

We could feel the anticipation building when we saw two drones ready to take off as part of the demonstration. These were potentially dangerous drones, which is an important distinction. According to the company, counter-drone vendors have been known to make claims about the number of drones they can take down without mentioning the fact that many of these drones are less of a serious risk due to their small size and short range. D-Fend Solutions’ air defense, electronic warfare and cybersecurity experts target the drones most likely to pose a potential threat. These are drones that can fly long distances, carry heavy loads, and are readily available to the public.

Taking on the Absorption

Now for the action… both drones triggered alerts when they entered EnforceAir’s designated and protected area and were instantly and automatically detected and tracked – they appeared in the EnforceAir Graphical User Interface (GUI). The GPS coordinates of the unauthorized drones are identified, indicating the current locations of the drones and the respective locations of the operators at the time of take-off. This information may be passed on to law enforcement during an illegal drone intrusion, either for immediate apprehension or to ensure that future incidents do not reoccur.

D-Fend Solutions states that it takes privacy and regulatory compliance concerns seriously. Its system does not capture, use, share or store any type of personal data. EnforceAir is designed to focus strictly on detection and mitigation and does not use a surveillance approach.

The system operated in automatic mode, so when the drones entered the designated safe zone and without anyone pressing any button on the system GUI, the drone pilots lost control of the drones, which were disconnected from their controllers. The drones were then taken over and automatically reprogrammed in seconds to fly a safe route and land in a pre-determined safe zone. The pilots continued to move their controllers and try to regain control, but to no avail and the takeover was complete. Imagine the frustration and helplessness a bad actor or reckless user would feel during a real-life situation!

EnforceAir can operate in manual mode. Everything will be pretty much the same, except the surveillance EnforceAir operator will press “Mitigate” and then the drone will be sent on the safe route.

The demo illustrates how the simplicity of the graphical user interface, plus full ingest capabilities, can give an operator in one of the many vertical security deployment environments D-Fend Solutions serves a sense of total control. The EnforceAir also has a “Fend-Off” option to send the drone back to its pilot take-off position or have it hover in place if desired instead of a full dive and landing.

Proven and fit for the future

Everything around us continued as usual during the demo, with no interruption to surrounding communications, traffic, commerce, etc. The ability to identify friend or foe allows friendly drones to operate as normal. Continuity is preserved.

The demonstration of EnforceAir’s capabilities was very impressive. It’s easy to see why the system was selected by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) as the best-in-class anti-drone radio frequency system. EnforceAir has been successfully deployed and used by dozens of Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DoJ) units and agencies, as well as major international airports.

After the demo, we asked D-Fend Solution’s operator experts how they stay ahead of drone threats. They told us that the system includes continuous software updates to combat the ever-evolving drone market. Based on what we’ve seen, D-Fend Solutions will be a formidable player in the anti-drone arena for a long time to come.

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