DronesDetecting, Identifying Small Drones in Urban Environment

Published 15 September 2021

DHS has awarded $750K to a Texas company to develop a detection and tracking sensor system that can identify nefarious small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in an urban environment.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHSSmall Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program awarded $750,000 to Texas-based small business Cobalt Solutions Inc. to develop a detection and tracking sensor system that can identify nefarious small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in an urban environment.

“As advancements in drone technology provide unlimited opportunities for everyday recreational and commercial use, this also presents a potential attraction for bad actors” said Kathryn Coulter Mitchell, DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology. “With drones in urban environments becoming increasingly prevalent, it is vital to develop advanced UAV solutions that can efficiently monitor and differentiate between different types of activities to protect our public safety against potential threats.”

The DHS SBIR Program, administered by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), selected Cobalt Solutions Inc. for a Phase II award after they successfully demonstrated the feasibility of their 5G Passive Radar UAS Tracking and Targeting (5G-PRT) sensor system in Phase I. The proposed Phase II development of their Urban Canyon Detection Tracking and Identification of Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles solution could provide an affordable, passive and easily deployable system that leverages already available commercial 5G signals to detect and track small UAS in urban canyon environments.

“Cobalt’s technology increases the number of exploitable drone signatures for detection and tracking,” said Dr. Jeff Randorf, DHS S&T engineering advisor and SBIR topic manager. “As more 5G mmWave transceivers are deployed in city centers, the ability to detect and track drones in complex urban geometries becomes easier, while not contributing to an already crowded radio frequency spectrum.”

At the completion of the 24-month Phase II contract, SBIR awardees will have developed a prototype to demonstrate the advancement of technology, spearheading the potential for Phase III funding. Under Phase III, SBIR performers will seek to secure funding from private and/or non-SBIR government sources, with the eventual goal to commercialize and bring to market the technologies from phases I and II.

 “It is inevitable that as technology evolves, so do new threats,” said Dusty Lang, DHS SBIR director. “The SBIR Program is an innovative tool that provides critical early-stage funding to small businesses to develop technologies that can be utilized by industry and advance research and development in support of DHS technology needs.”

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