Countering the threat of rogue drones

U.S. Department of Homeland Security awards $1 million counter-UAS research contract to UND

Image courtesy of UND Aerospace.

The Department of Homeland Security is turning to the drone experts at UND to help answer a question: How can Border Protection, the Coast Guard and other agencies best protect our country against rogue drones?

To that end, the Department has awarded more than $1 million to the University of North Dakota to advance efforts to counter potential threats from unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Under the contract, the UND team, including the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and other partners, will research the current capabilities, limitations and constraints of existing UAS technologies to assess potential threats. Following this assessment, the University will lead counter-UAS demonstrations to evaluate the best methods of threat mitigation.

Sen. John Hoeven

Funding for the contract was made possible in part through the efforts of Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., a member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Committee. The upcoming research aligns well with Hoeven’s efforts to ensure the safe integration of UAS in the national airspace, the senator said.

“We’ve built North Dakota into a premiere location for unmanned research, development, training and operations, and UND has been a pivotal part of these efforts,” said Hoeven. “That’s why we made the case to DHS to use UND and our state’s expertise in developing these counter-UAS technologies. This is an important part of our efforts to ensure unmanned aircraft can be safely integrated into our airspace and unlock this technology’s potential, both for our economy and our national security.”

Andy Armacost

UND President Andy Armacost said the contract with DHS is yet another example of the critical role UND plays in the research and development of UAS technologies.

“Our efforts to advance beyond-visual-line-of-sight technologies for UAS are leading to new opportunities in the areas of national security and counter-UAS measures to address the threat of drones used for illegal purposes,” Armacost said.

UND’s Research Institute for Autonomous Systems and faculty from the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences will lead the research effort. Mark Askelson, executive director for RIAS, noted the important role of the Northern Plains UAS Test Site in enabling UND’s ability to meet the needs of federal partners such as DHS.

Askelson also serves as UND’s lead for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence – a group of research institutions, industry and government partners working to advance UAS integration in the national airspace.

Mark Askelson

“The University of North Dakota and Northern Plains UAS Test Site team brings together a tremendous set of capabilities to address the significant challenges associated with countering threats posed by unmanned/autonomous systems,” Askelson said. “That team, including RIAS, the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and private-sector partners, is excited to partner with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate to assess future UAS capabilities, potential threats and demonstrate means to counter those threats.

“This work aligns closely with previous and ongoing efforts at both UND and the NPUASTS, and is part of a broader strategy to increasingly use or capabilities to help solve important national security challenges. We are grateful to our leadership and to the DHS for this tremendous opportunity.”

Paul Snyder

This contract comes off the heels of a cooperative research and development agreement signed earlier this year between UND’s UAS program and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Paul Snyder, UAS program director, said this additional award, similarly tied to air domain awareness and counter-UAS activities, will continue to strengthen UND’s relationship with DHS and their ability to collaborate in the future.

“We are grateful for the UAS ecosystem in North Dakota,” Snyder said. “We have tremendous capabilities at UND – between our Colleges, the Research Institute for Autonomous Systems, and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, among others – to collaborate on multiple levels with entities such as DHS. With regard to UAS education, research and training, this research award is a clear win for UND students, faculty and the state.”