Drone tracking system enables early detection of unmanned aircraft

Supplementary content information

  • ‘Drone tracking’ system enables early detection of unmanned aerial vehicles
  • Grand Prize winner at major European satellite navigation competition
  • The system could be used for airfield surveillance and to monitor drone use at public events or for e-commerce

A team of EPSRC-supported researchers from the University Defence Research Collaboration in Signal Processing at the University of Strathclyde have developed an award-winning ‘silent lookout’ Passive Bistatic Radar (PBR) system that uses low-cost sensors and satellite navigation technology for the early detection and tracking of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

The system can monitor sensitive areas such as restricted air spaces around airfields or prisons and works by exploiting sources of electromagnetic energy to accomplish radar tasks such as target detection, parameter estimation and recognition.

The team won the UK and Overall awards at the 2016 European Satellite Navigation Competition, the world’s leading innovation platform for forward-thinking applications in its field.

In addition to its potential deployment at major public events, the system could also be used to support drone deliveries for e-commerce.

The team’s cutting-edge civilian UAV tracking system addresses growing concerns over public safety, security and privacy. With more and more civilian and commercial UAVs, such as quadcopter drones, taking to the skies, authorities are concerned they pose a significant risk to safety and security.

While collision and crash avoidance is of paramount concern, the ‘silent lookout’ system could also play an important role at public events, such as football matches or concert venues, with the system deployed as a perimeter around the stadium, allowing the sensors to create a ‘detection arc’ at a distance that would allow authorities enough time to take appropriate action.

Dr Carmine Clemente, who led the research, Domenico Gaglione and Christos Ilioudis from the Sensor Signal Processing and Security Labs at the Centre for Signal and Image processing, developed the idea with support from the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications. The team intend to form a spin-out company to commercialise the idea.

Along with their €10,000 prize, they are set to receive an extensive package including cash, marketing support and consulting services, technical support and more to accelerate their idea further towards commercialisation.

Dr Clemente acknowledges the value of innovation platforms such as the European Satellite Navigation Competition. He says: “It is incredible to have won first place, especially seeing the calibre of entries. The competition was an exciting opportunity for us to accelerate our idea to a market-ready application.”