US Navy deploys drone-repelling defense system across its fleet

US Navy drone repelling system

In response to the rising and broadening threat of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) used as offensive weapons by enemy forces, the US Navy is adapting a drone-repelling system initially developed for ground vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan for use on its ships.

Anti-UAV tech developed for Iraq and Iran takes to the seas

Produced by defense group Northrop Grumman, the Drone Restricted Access Using Known Electromagnetic Warfare system – DRAKE for short ­– is being distributed to US Navy ships for repelling protection against possible UAV attacks. The units emit a range of both high- and low-frequency signals that disrupt the communication operations of approaching aerial craft. That essentially cuts the drones off from whomever is at the controls, depriving them of commands to continue toward the targeting US vessel. It can also scramble the brains of autonomous vehicles.

“It projects basically like an umbrella, so when the drone flies in, this will just cut off the signal,” said USS Kansas City Gunner’s Mate Kyle Mendenhall in a report on DRAKE produced by US Naval Institute News. “Whenever we have a drone that gets a little bit too close, or flies somewhere that it shouldn’t be… the DRAKE will basically keep it from coming close to the ship. So it projects basically like an umbrella. When the drone flies in, this will just cut off the signal.”

The drone-repelling system was adopted by the US Navy after it proved effective warding off approaching enemy UAV in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they were mounted on Humvees. Now contained in backpacks carried by trained sea crew, the tech can either be operated on batteries or plugged into the host ship’s power supply, and deployed anywhere aerial vehicles may be approaching. 

Drone-repelling system’s array of jamming frequencies will block any craft’s communication tech

The wide array of frequencies DRAKE emits means it can emanate waves capable of scrambling the communication equipment of virtually any drone. They are also adaptable to certain variables particular to different operating theaters, providing ships protection despite changing technical or geographical factors. The result, thankfully, is always the same.

“It has pre-programmed frequencies that are common-used frequencies amongst drones and it has the ability to just stop the signal from going,” Mendenhall said. “It won’t necessarily knock them out of the sky, but what it will do – like I said – is as soon as they hit that wall, they can’t go any further.”

Though DRAKE is not frequently called upon to use its drone-repelling capabilities, it remains in constant use on US Navy ships carrying them nevertheless. That’s because the units feature a UAV detection function alerting crew to nearing craft, giving them the time and information necessary to activate the jamming capabilities, and deploy those in the right direction the threat is coming from. 

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