At the DSEI 2019 exhibition, Leonardo announced that it has been selected by the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) to support the next stage of their research and development programme. The study will explore the current threat posed by hostile drones and how this is likely to evolve in future, as well as evaluating a range of technologies that could form a future RAF counter-drone capability.
The programme is expected to last three years and will commence in early 2020.
The threat of rogue drones has been well-publicised in recent months, with small, affordable aircraft widely-available on the open market.
Drone technology is evolving rapidly, creating a challenge for organisations which need to secure themselves against the misuse of such aircraft. The RAF’s research programme will inform how the Air Force will respond to current and future threats and keep pace with technology over time, examining how operators will be able to detect, track, identify and defeat rogue drones.
Leonardo’s pedigree in counter-drone technology was a key factor in its selection. In 2018 and 2019, following drone sightings at Gatwick and Heathrow airports, elements of the company’s counter-drone technology were deployed by the RAF to allow airport operations to resume.
The company offers its scalable and modular systems to military and civil customers in the UK and internationally and has already been contracted for C-UAS equipment for the Italian Army and Air Force.
The RAF’s research programme will draw on this experience and build on previous collaborative C-UAS research to understand and meet the threat of rogue drones.
In the long-run, the research and development programme will help understand and inform requirements for a core RAF counter-drone capability, which would then be used to protect RAF Bases.