DARPA looking to develop drone destroying, personnel protection system

DARPA’s Mobile Force Protection system should sense, identify and protect personnel from swarming drone attacks

Looking to protect military personnel from a swarming drone attack is the goal behind a new system that the researchers from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are set to develop.

The three-phase program, called Mobile Force Protection will in the next few years potentially develop a prototype system that could sense an attack, identify the attacker and then use a number of techniques, from communications jamming to capturing mid-flight any attacking drones. DARPA says it will offer $3 million for each phase 1 developer.

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“The MFP program must develop and integrate affordable technologies into a prototype system that has the capability to complete an engagement sequence within a compressed timeline while mitigating collateral damage. DARPA seeks a flexible framework to leverage existing systems and matured technologies as well as integrate new technologies,” DARPA stated. “To remain relevant, an MFP system will need to be able to evolve rapidly and flexibly integrate new approaches and technologies. DARPA’s goal is to transition the prototype system to a broad number of potential Government and civilian users. System affordability and adaptability to host platforms (ground and maritime) will be major system design drivers and allow for the deployment of an effective deterrent and defensive capability to protect the full range of potential DoD, Homeland, and private sector assets.”

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DARPA said that most counter-unmanned aircraft system systems currently under development are focused on today’s threat, which relies on radio frequency (RF)-based remote control or global position system (GPS)-based navigation. However, the next evolution of unmanned aircraft will not require GPS nor active communications to accomplish their missions. These vehicles will be capable of navigating by visual means or other methods, performing synchronized actions that allow large groups to coordinate an attack against one or more moving targets and be used as intelligence assets or as weapons carrying platforms.

DARPA said it also has specific technologies it will not develop under the MFP program, including:

  • High power directed energy systems designed to destroy the threats

  • High caliber guns with uncontrolled projectile trajectories that result in high energy fragments
  • Systems that do not appropriately protect the civilian population from undesired effects during the neutralization phase
  • Systems with size, weight and power requirements beyond that of tactical vehicles and vessels

The program places heavy emphasis on system demonstration events starting with an initial features at the end of Phase 1, progressively increasing in system functionality and culminating in full capability demonstration on a moving vehicle or vessel by the end of Phase 3.

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