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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

As our skies increasingly fill up with swarming drones we need ways to monitor and manage our airspaces.

 

Amid the rise of drones, or small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), DARPA, the Pentagon’s research arm, is developing technology to provide persistent, wide-area surveillance of all UAS operating below 1,000 feet in a large city.

The program, known as Aerial Dragnet, is a new effort by the the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to track and counter small unmanned drones used in crowded urban areas. Though the program is targeted to aid US military forces’ ability to “detect and identify such craft,” the agency indicated last week that the technology will be used in the US.

“While Aerial Dragnet’s focus is on protecting military troops operating in urban settings overseas, the system could ultimately find civilian application to help protect US metropolitan areas from UAS enabled terrorist threats,” DARPA said in its announcement of the program.

 

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On September 26, DARPA will hold a “Proposers Day” at the DARPA Conference Center in Arlington, Virginia, to facilitate discussion, information, and solicitation development among researchers interested in the program.

DARPA says Aerial Dragnet will basically be modelled on the air-traffic control system used in the US to track and monitor thousands of airplane flights each day.

“Commercial websites currently exist that display in real time the tracks of relatively high and fast aircraft – from small general aviation planes to large airliners – all overlaid on geographical maps as they fly around the country and the world,” said Jeff Krolik, a DARPA program manager.

“We want a similar capability for identifying and tracking slower, low-flying unmanned aerial systems, particularly in urban environments.”

Understanding that UAS technology is increasingly affordable and widely available, and that “several systems are being developed for tracking small UAS,” DARPA said urban environments are unique and deserve novel approaches that could offer non-line-of-sight tracking and advanced identification techniques.

 

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For Aerial Dragnet, DARPA “envisions a network of surveillance nodes, each providing coverage of a neighborhood-sized urban area, perhaps mounted on tethered or long-endurance UAS. Using sensor technologies that can look over and between buildings, the surveillance nodes would maintain UAS tracks even when the craft disappear from sight around corners or behind objects.”

The system would produce consistent updates of a low-level airspace’s common operational picture, known as COP to DARPA. The data would then be “disseminated electronically to authorized users via secure data links.”

For the program, DARPA is seeking experts in sensors, signal processing, and networked autonomy.

 

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, CNBC, Discovery, RT, and Viacom, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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