Numerica Corp., a Colorado-based company, recently debuted a new 3D-radar solution for counter-drone efforts and other short-range air defense missions.
Numerica’s Spyglass, a small form factor radar, was designed to detect and track small, autonomous unmanned aircraft, said Nate Knight, vice president of air-and-missile defense at the company.
The platform is optimized for what the company calls short-range air defense, and can be used for detecting and tracking small UAS and other ground and air targets, Knight said in an interview.
Unlike many of the radars already fielded by the Defense Department that are now being retrofitted to address capability gaps, Numerica’s Spyglass design focuses on a “very close-range mission area where drones can be a real threat,” Knight said. “We think by doing that, we’re going to be able to provide better protection against these kinds of objects than you would get from a system that’s optimized for longer ranges.”
Because the capability is focused on solving a short-range problem, it is able to leverage higher frequencies than other radar systems, Knight said.
“The benefit of doing that is we’re able to more precisely measure the movement of very slow and small objects,” he explained. “Drones — in particular quadcopter type drones — can hover and remain relatively still for long periods of time while they’re still doing their mission, and the more accurately you can measure those sort of small movements, the more likely you are to be able to detect those objects and discriminate them from ground clutter.”
Longer-range systems also commonly have a blind spot informally known as a “donut hole,” Knight said.
That is a region very close to the radar where it is unable to detect anything “because essentially the radar kind of overpowers itself,” he said.
“It’s not able to listen for returns from targets within this kind of blind zone.”
The Spyglass radar addresses this issue and can detect targets right in front of it, he said.
The technology is capable of being integrated into mobile ground-based platforms or at fixed-site locations, Knight said.
“Our kind of primary initial deployments we’re looking at are for fixed-site protection,” he said. “But because of the small size and weight, it’s pretty easily integrated into ground vehicles” as well.