DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Although not as abundant as drones, countermeasures against the unmanned systems are certainly prevalent at the 2021 Dubai Airshow, which is taking place Nov. 14-18.
Two counter-drone systems showcased at the event reflect the United Arab Emirates’ interest in such technology: U.S.-based Fortem Technologies displayed its SkyDome, which is already operational in the Gulf country; and Emirati company International Golden Group showed off the Israeli system Skylock, which underwent testing in the UAE.
Fortem revealed at the show it had integrated a new drogue net to the SkyDome that allows the system to now neutralize UAV threats classified as Group 2 and Group 3. That means the system can now target drones that weigh less than 1,320 pounds, per a 2015 Pentagon report on unmanned aircraft systems. The SkyDome could previously only neutralize drones around 20 pounds or less.
Fortem CEO Timothy Bean claimed the counter-drone system is “100% autonomous, and the company is working on countering drone swarms.”
He added that Boeing, Toshiba and Mubadala are invested in the company, and that the UAE ordered the system.
SkyDome works via radar guidance and physical tracking. The system features TrueView radar systems, an electronic management system and a drone hunter — basically a UAV with two integrated boxes from which nets launch when a threat is detected.
“The drone performs missions against insurgent terrorist drones flying in and hitting bases. Smaller threats are caught with the net and sent to forensic examination to find out who built it and for what purposes, and how to defeat it in the future,” Gary Watson, the vice president for solutions at Fortem, told Defense News.
He added that larger drones are caught with the drogue net, which releases a parachute and brings down the threat.
“We have had a lot of U.S. and foreign government testing, and we’ve been extensively certified for operations by governments. We did a major test with two Japanese agencies [and with the] U.S. We just did a big demonstration in the Netherlands; they are testing it at the airport. And [there is] a lot of testing I can’t talk about as well. All of them successful, and greatly exceeds the requirements that government places us for kill,” Watson said.
What about Skylock?
Close by, the International Golden Group was showing off Skylock’s counter-drone system. Skylock is owned by Israeli company Avnon.
The platform can be used to protect critical assets as well as secure military and police facilities.
Emirati company officials told Defense News that the system was tested twice in the country and that each was a success. “The testing within UAE environment was conducted by UAE armed forces for radio frequency detection and jamming. These tests were successful, and the armed forces showed interest in the system,” an Emirati official said.
The officials confirmed that the UAE has not yet signed a contract for the system.
Agnes Helou was a Middle East correspondent for Defense News. Her interests include missile defense, cybersecurity, the interoperability of weapons systems and strategic issues in the Middle East and Gulf region.