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Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are aircraft that operate without the need for a human pilot, crew, or passengers on board. More commonly known as drones, they empower people to manage tasks remotely, and the concept has been around longer than you might think.

Throughout history, people have developed agile and innovative methods of remote flight. As early as 200 AD, Chinese soldiers used paper balloons attached to oil lamps to fly over their enemies at night to spook them. In 1917, British and American military forces experimented with radio-controlled aircrafts to complete training and missions.

Today’s UAS are more popular than ever, and experts predict the global drone market will reach $4.7 billion by 2028. This is driven by defence, commercial, public safety, agriculture, and logistics markets, where UAS has improved task efficiency. However, there has also been significant growth in consumer drones, where worldwide sales of hobbyist drones reached $775 million in 2019.

But UAS pose significant security risks. As the market matures, so does the need for counter-UAS technology. Let's explore the different technology avaliable and how solutions can work well together to create complete counter-UAS systems.

What is Counter-UAS?

Counter-UAS is a term for technology that detects, classifies, or mitigates drones and other unmanned aerial systems. Multiple industries use counter-UAS to manage airspace security and it's one of the most effective ways to monitor drones. 

Counter-UAS solutions fall into two categories: passive (simply looking or listening) and active (emitting a signal and analysing what comes back). Most businesses use a combination of solutions to suit their unique security requirements.

There are four main types of counter-UAS solutions:

  • Drone detection radar 
  • Radio frequency (RF) analysers
  • Acoustic sensors (microphones)
  • Optical sensors (cameras)

You can deploy these solutions in specific places across your environment to provide maximum security and visibility of your airspace. Some are portable, making them easy to move around and deploy exactly when and where you need them.

Protect yourself from airborne threats. Read our guide to the top 10  counter-drone technologies to detect and stop drones today.

Examples of Counter-UAS Technology

Counter UAS technology can look like a single solution for a specific need to end-to-end systems that fulfil a wide range of security uses. Your industry and airspace security requirements will determine what counter-UAS technology you need, and a counter-UAS solution expert can advise you on the best solution for you.

Importantly, different types of counter-UAS technology can integrate and work well together to create a complete system.

Drone Detection Radar

Drone detection radar identifies, classifies, and tracks drones that enter your airspace. Additionally, it provides context and situational awareness for every potential UAS it detects.

Most drone detection radars use micro-Doppler technology which detects motion generated by moving components like rotor blades. This extra insight helps you distinguish drones from other unknown flying objects like birds.

Insight like this empowers you and your team to establish if the threat is real. Other key components of drone detection radar technology include:

  • Intuitive software – providing 2D or 3D visualisation of drone position and height in real-time.
  • 24/7, day and night functionality – giving you visibility of UAS' at any time or weather condition.
  • UAS detection – identifying all types of UAS thanks to mico-Doppler technology that detects rotating blades. This means it doesn't need to learn a specific drone's signature in order to recognise it as such.

Importantly, drone detection radar can track and monitor hundreds of drones simultaneously, giving you complete visibility. It can also integrate with your existing security systems and Command and Control (C2) systems, making it one of the most deployable solutions on the market.

Lastly, advances in AI and machine learning are vastly improving software algorithms and improving the detection range and accuracy of radar systems.

Radio Frequency Analysers (RF)

Radio frequency analysers detect radio communication between a drone and its controller. They can also identify specific drone details, like make, model, MAC addresses, and multiple drones and controllers. Some specifications can also detect the location/position of the controller.

Want to learn more about the pros and cons of RF analysers? Learn more in our blog.


Sensors detect UAS in real-time and autonomously. You place them in strategic locations in your perimeter to give you complete visibility. They're a great alternative to manually monitoring the skies with your eyes and ears. 

There are two common types of sensor:

  • Acoustic sensors – use microphones to detect the sound of a drone and then calculate its direction.
  • Optical sensors – use cameras to collect light at a range of wavelengths to identify drones. They also analyse thermal radiation to detect drones at any time of day, even at night when visibility is poor.

Importantly, sensors work well when paired with radar technology. For example, a radar can provide an early warning of drone activity and cover a broad range. Then, it cues sensors, such as optical sensors, to verify the threat and identify the payload. This creates a complete counter-drone system that utilises the strengths of each technology.

Drone Counter Measures

Not all counter drone measures comply with country-specific regulations, but some exceptions are made depending on the industry, for example, military uses. Some of the more hostile measures aren't available for commercial use. Some examples of drone counter measures are:

  • Frequency jammers intercept radio signals that control drones
  • GPS spoofers  send alternative signals to the drone
  • Nets and net guns  physically trap the drone
  • Lasers shoot a concentrated beam of light to destroy the drone

Why is Counter-UAS Important Today?

Today's technology landscape is full of exciting innovations. From artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and augmented reality (AR) to self-driving cars, wireless headphones, and even bionic hands – technology will only become more sophisticated over time.

The UAS market is no different. Inventions like swarm technology enable us to create firework-like drone light show displays that wow audiences. But could be used for highly disruptive reasons like organised crime. Therefore, it’s never been more critical to establish robust counter-UAS measures – especially as there's no sure way of telling where innovation could lead us.

If counter UAS solutions are new territory for you and your security teams, take a look at our comprehensive breakdown of key counter drone technologies.