The DroneHunter counter unmanned aircraft system (C-UAS) is an artificial intelligence (AI)-based kinetic, non-lethal interceptor drone developed by Fortem Technologies, an airspace security and defence solutions provider based in the US.
The multi-rotor C-UAS is designed to detect, monitor and capture dangerous and malicious drones at a safe distance over restricted airspace or no-fly zones. It alerts authorised personnel about potential aerial threats in real time.
The unmanned aircraft was unveiled in February 2018. In March 2021, Fortem demonstrated the integration of DroneHunter UAS with the US Army’s Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control system (FAAD C2), which collects, processes and distributes real-time target tracking and cuing information to short-range air defence weapons. It also provides command and control functions for the Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) system-of-systems (SoS).
Fortem entered a strategic alliance with Toshiba to integrate its DroneHunter UAS and SkyDome System with Toshiba’s commercial drone RF detection and radar technology to improve the delivery of their solutions to customers, in April 2021.
The DroneHunter® F700 version won the Robotics Product of the Year award in 2020.
Design and features
The DroneHunter C-UAS features custom-built design for speed and agility. It boasts high-strength, lightweight airframe with weather-hardened construction. The drone is made of non-commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components that comply with the US Department of Defense (DoD) standards.
The unmanned aircraft integrates spider-like legs and can carry customisable payloads and countermeasures under its belly.
The UAV can operate autonomously using waypoint navigation or can be flown remotely from its ground control station. It can tether and return upon detecting and capturing a malicious drone. The multi-rotor unmanned aircraft can also safely discard to a predefined safe zone upon completion of a mission.
Sensors aboard DroneHunter
DroneHunter is equipped with an autonomous guidance system and Fortem Netgun to detect, identify, capture, and tow away hostile drones within a secured geo-fenced perimeter with no collateral damage. Netgun provides electronic tether release for secondary target acquisition and drop zones.
The UAV integrates Fortem TrueView radar for autonomous detection, classification and monitoring of dangerous and malicious unmanned aerial vehicles in all terrain and weather conditions such as smog, smoke, clouds and fog. The radar has ±2° azimuth and elevation accuracy and offers long distance detection for small drones.
The drone also features integrated inertial navigation system/global positioning system (INS/GPS) for high accuracy. The onboard optical cameras and optional 4K camera capture real-time video, while the autopilot and navigation system enables autonomous operation.
DroneHunter’s navigation modes
The multi-functional DroneHunter C-UAS can be operated in different modes, namely pursue, warning, defence, attack, and autonomous tow away.
The unmanned aircraft observes offending drones more closely in the pursue mode, while it warns away malicious drones with police-like lights in the warning mode. In the defence mode, the drone assumes a defensive posture and fires Fortem NetGun against fast incoming group 1 and small group 2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
DroneHunter hunts, locks onto, and captures offending UAVs in the attack mode. In the autonomous tow-away mode, the UAV uses net tether to tow-away low-flying dangerous drones autonomously to a designated location for forensics and safe payload disposal.
Command and control of DroneHunter C-UAS
The DroneHunter interceptor drone is remotely controlled using AI-based software SkyDome® Manager, which allows the operator to command and control the C-UAS. It also enables DroneHunter to autonomously shift from one mode to another and provides manual intervention override options.
The drone transmits imagery and telemetry videos to the SkyDome® Manager in real time to alert authorised personnel.
Propulsion and performance
The DroneHunter autonomous interceptor is powered by brushless high torque motors and propellers. The UAV has a range of 5km and can be configured to offer extended range. It can operate in temperatures ranging from -10°C to 55°C.