Electro Optic Systems Holdings Limited (EOS) announced the successful qualification of its directed energy (DE) drone defense system. The system uses a powerful laser as the directed energy source and has successfully disabled Group 1 drones at an effective rate of 20 drones/minute at ranges beyond 1,000 meters, establishing a new benchmark for neutralizing swarm drone attacks. This level of performance, for the first time, meets all current customer requirements for defense against emerging threats from swarms of lightweight drones.
The DE system has been developed as a key element of the EOS TitanisTM drone defense system, designed to disable drones in Group 1, 2 and 3 and to neutralize sensors on all drones at very long range.
The US Department of Defense classification for Uninhabited Aerial Systems (“UAS” or “drones”) is tabled below for the five drone categories (“Groups”) currently in use.
|UAS Group||Weight (kg)||Ceiling (ft)||Speed (kts)||Example||Defence|
|Group 1||<9||<1,200||<100||Black Widow, Raven, WASP||DE, kinetic|
|Group 2||9-25||<3,500||<250||ScanEagle, Skylark, DH3, Aladin, Strix||DE, kinetic|
|Group 3||25-600||<20,000||<250||Shadow, Bayraktar||DE, surface- to-air-missile|
|Group 4||>600||<20,000||Any||Predator, Sky Warrior, Fire Scout||Surface-to- air-missile|
|Group 5||>600||>20,000||Any||Global Hawk, Reaper||Surface-to- air-missile|
Drones from Groups 1,2 and 3 pose an immediate concern for tactical maneuver, operations or defending assets. These drones are now having a major impact on military operations and there are no deployed defenses against them. Groups 4 and 5 represent strategic applications that can be countered by existing air defense systems.
Titanis is a proven, integrated defense capability against all drones, providing a seamless integration of command and control, radar detection, tracking, target selection and real-time allocation of a kinetic weapon, DE or surface-to-air missile to neutralize each drone.
Previously, Titanis used kinetic weapons, such as guns and cannons, to engage Group 1 and 2 drones, leveraging the precision and responsiveness of EOS weapon systems to engage airborne maneuvering targets. Titanis performance has been honed over four years of regular testing with real drones and live ammunition so it can reliably disable a wide range of small drones using kinetic weapons. However kinetic defense against drones has limitations including:
- Use of kinetics is constrained by collateral damage considerations associated with rounds which can fly beyond the target;
- Kinetic weapons can each neutralize 5-6 drones per minute, but drone swarm numbers can reach 20 drones per minute;
- Kinetic weapons are not effective against drones attacking or operating directly overhead; and
- Kinetic weapons, unless specifically designed for Counter UAS (CUAS) roles, cannot neutralize Group 3 drones, which cannot be cost-effectively engaged with current surface-to-air missiles (SAM).
EOS’ DE capability was developed to overcome all these limitations and to operate alongside kinetic defenses to provide a complete defense system against drones from Groups 1-3 as required by current customers.
The system operated over a wide variety of atmospheric conditions, neutralizing a large number of drones under realistic but safe test conditions. The drones were disabled or destroyed at a rate of up to 20 drones per minute, including the time required to switch targets, establish target tracking, lock the laser beam onto and bring down each drone. The system uses only reduced power for Group 1 drones.
No other drone defense system has claimed comparable results. After the trials, the DE system was relocated to another site and quickly restored to full operation, in a further demonstration of a robust capability not normally associated with powerful lasers.
The next step in the qualification of the Titanis DE system for CUAS operations will be the establishment of its effect against Group 2 and 3 drones. Group 2 drones present similar challenges to Group 1.
Group 3 drones are substantially larger and operate higher and faster than Groups 1 and 2. An example of a Group 3 UAS is the Bayraktar drone which has been successfully deployed by Ukraine in high profile operations recently. Safety protocols at the testing facility and its associated airspace limited this qualification to Group 1 drones. No changes are required to the EOS DE system for engaging Group 2 and 3 drones, but a larger and more remote test area must be used for the longer-range and higher-power engagements to be used for qualification. Testing will be extended to Group 2 and 3 drones at a different location in Q3 2022.
At the completion of the recent DE qualification trials the Chief Executive of EOS Defense Systems, Grant Sanderson, said:
“The introduction of the DE capability provides the Titanis drone defense system with multiple options for dealing with each type of drone threat. EOS DE systems have already demonstrated the ability to disable or degrade a drone’s sensors to prevent intelligence gathering or precision engagement with lethal force by drones. These latest results show that large numbers of drones can be directly neutralized by EOS defensive systems.
The test and qualification procedures used by EOS are provided by current and prospective customers to ensure the developed capability will meet their operational requirements. Those procedures include up-to-date profiles of successful drone attacks against military assets and critical infrastructure so these can be prevented or mitigated in future.
During 2022, a vast amount of military equipment has been destroyed in Ukraine by drones of the type that the Titanis DE drone defense system was developed to protect against. Countering the threat caused by drones is now global issue, and there is a strong demand for drone defense from customers with current weapon system delivery contracts with EOS.
For EOS customers, no CUAS system has demonstrated superior operational flexibility, maturity, and affordability to Titanis. Two major end-users that are existing EOS customers are co-funding trials and qualification efforts.”
About Electro Optic Systems
Electro Optic Systems (EOS) is a world-leader in the fields of space domain awareness, satellite communications and remote weapon stations. Headquartered in Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, the company has two manufacturing facilities in Australia and one in Huntsville, Alabama.
EOS operates in two divisions: Defence Systems and Space Systems
- EOS Defence Systems specializes in technology for weapon systems optimization and integration, as well as ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and C4 systems for land warfare. Its key products are next-generation remote weapon systems, vehicle turrets, counter-UAS and C4 systems.
- EOS Space Systems includes all EOS space and communications businesses, and operates as three entities – SpaceLink, EM Solutions and Space Technologies. SpaceLink is developing a constellation of Medium Earth Orbit satellites to create the communications superhighway for the space economy. EM Solutions provides global satellite communications services and systems. Space Technologies specializes in applying EOS-developed optical sensors to detect, track, classify and characterize objects in space and remains integral to research and development across the group.