Protecting the Homeland from “Hostile” Drones

By Erin L. Felix

The U.S. government has a long history of supporting the development and deployment of unmanned aerial systems/unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). While the government’s interest has traditionally been centered on offensive military applications, such as surveillance and weapon delivery, the growing wave of hobbyist and commercial UAS usage has spawned a new focus: countering UAS-based threats posed by hostile groups and individuals. This increased emphasis on advancing counter-drone capabilities can be seen across multiple agencies, including the FBI, the Department of Defense, as well as state and local law enforcement. The Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-UAS) application provides business opportunities for companies that develop C-UAS technology continue to grow in the government market. 

One of the next federal C-UAS programs to watch is the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Technical Assessment of Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems Technologies in Cities, or TACTIC, program. Under TACTIC, the DHS will review, select, and assess currently available technology solutions that are capable of detecting, identifying, and tracking small unmanned aerial systems that are perceived as threats to people or critical infrastructure.

TACTIC consists of two parts. The first part will allow technology developers to test their existing C-UAS systems under urban conditions and make changes as needed. The second part will be an assessment to quantify C-UAS system performance. Both assessments will be performed in an “operationally relevant environment,” under what DHS describes as “urban clutter conditions.”

While the opportunity to participate in this initial TACTIC exercise is now closed to new bidders, DHS plans to share with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies the information it learns about viable C-UAS technological solutions that are currently available to the government. These agencies, in turn, will likely leverage this information in further studies, exercises, and C-UAS procurements of their own. Indeed, DHS itself expects to conduct additional tests and exercises in the future, as well as to develop a predictive capability for C-UAS performance in various terrains. Companies who are currently in or are interested in entering this market would be well served to stay tuned as TACTIC and its progeny unfold.

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