CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — Recent attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have changed the 21st-century battlespace by employing airborne drones for reconnaissance and attacks.
Task Force Spartan personnel took action to counter the threat by familiarizing themselves with a counter-drone technology using inexpensive, airborne, commercially-available drones at Camp Buehring on April 6. If a recent familiarization course is any indication, video game enthusiasts may have been training for the fight against ISIS their entire lives.
Soldiers trained with DroneDefender, a point-and-shoot, electromagnetic, rifle-shaped weapon that disrupts communications between a remote-controlled drone and its operator. While the U.S. military works on a range of options to counter drone technology, the system provides a safer and more accurate alternative than other methods, such as shooting drones with a rifle.
“Pull the trigger and it falls out of the sky,” said Capt. Michael Torre, an electronic warfare officer for the 29th Infantry Division and a 20-year National Guard veteran, when discussing the DroneDefender. “It reminds me of playing ‘Duck Hunt.’ It’s like using a video game controller with a real-world application.”
DroneDefender can target the drone’s control signal. The drone controller can be a hand-held device operated by a person or a command module attached to the drone itself.
Staff Sgt. Richard Recupero, a cyberspace electromagnetic activities noncommissioned officer with the 29th Infantry Division, shared his expertise in disrupting drone operations when discussing enemy devices currently in the Middle East.
“Yes, it can affect drones used by ISIS,” Recupero said.
Drones are classified by weight and range from light commercial-off-the-shelf to heavier, military grade varieties. Counter-drone technologies can have a variety of effects besides dropping them from the sky.
“You know it’s working because the system is no longer responding appropriately to the operator, and (it’s) doing something the operator doesn’t expect it to do,” Torre said, describing multiple visual disruption indicators. “From the time I pulled the trigger, it was almost instantaneous.”
Operation Spartan Shield subordinate units such as the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, have also gone through the training as part of an effort to provide commanders with increased force protection options, according to Torre.
DroneDefender is not available for sale to the public.