InDro Robotics Aerial Armor, QinetiQ and NAV CANADA are working with the Ottawa International Airport Authority on what the group describes as a pioneering drone detection pilot program at Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, YOW.
“As an airport operator, we felt it was vitally important that we test systems to detect drones operating on flight paths, near the airport and in other restricted zones to help ensure the safety of air crews and passengers,” said Michael Beaudette, VP of Security, Emergency Management and Customer Transportation at Ottawa International, in a press release published by InDro about the drone detection program.
InDro explains there are two types of technologies being demonstrated in YOW’s drone detection pilot program, including radio frequency (RF) detection and micro Doppler radar. RF drone detection is provided by InDro and Aerial Armor, with the installation of a station on the roof of the passenger terminal building that can detect drones operating on 2.4 and 5.8 ghz within a 15-kilometre radius.
“Our system interrogates each device to gain more information to pin down GPS point X, Y and Z – Z being important as we want to know how high the device is flying,” said Philip Reece, CEO of InDro. “We can also determine the make and size of the device, which helps determine what kind of threat it may pose. For example, a small, slow moving drone that’s far away is less of a threat than a large drone on an airport flight path.”
The system includes a user interface from Aerial Armor that provides real-time and consolidated historical reports including drone ID numbers in most cases. “In March of this year, the InDro system detected 1,626 flights within the 15-kilometre zone, including 64 flights that occurred at night,” said Beaudette. “The totals were up significantly over January, as the weather got warmer and people decided to take their drones out for a fly.”
The second technology being demonstrated as part of the program is a micro Doppler radar solution called Obsidian from British firm QinetiQ. Obsidian uses millimetric wave radar – nine to 12 ghz – to detect the movement of the small spinning propellers on a drone flying anywhere within two kilometers of the airport.
“Our solution is the product of QinetiQ’s decades in the defence sector, and our involvement with radar since the World War II,” said Paul Romano of QinetiQ. “The most serious threats to safety are not likely to be conventional drones that respond to electronic interrogation. Radar can detect and track drones that, for whatever reason, can’t be detected by RF or don’t want to be. Ultimately, it’s all about identifying all potential threats so that appropriate action can be taken to keep aircraft safe.”
As part of the project, Ottawa International has been working with partners like NAV CANADA, Transport Canada, airlines, emergency services and law enforcement to develop proactive measures and appropriate response protocols and responsibilities.
“The vast majority of drone operators aren’t out there trying to disrupt aviation nor threaten aircraft,” said Mark Laroche, President and CEO, Ottawa International Airport Authority. “But we need to know where they are and if they do pose a threat, be ready to take the appropriate action that we as an airport can take to ensure safety. What we are seeing and reporting to Transport Canada is a very disturbing trend that requires a quick response to reverse the number of drone operators flying in restricted areas.”
(Photo: Ottawa International Airport Authority)