The NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) held an exercise to improve counter-drone technology in November at the Lieutenant General Best Barracks in Vredepeel, the Netherlands.
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NATO's Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (C-UAS) Technical Interoperability Exercise 2021 (TIE21) is a live testing event that is designed to ensure commercial systems from different NATO Nations can work together to counter the threats posed by drones.
Exercise C-UAS TIE21 is particularly timely, as it highlights how machine learning and artificial intelligence are used in the alliance after the recent approval of NATO's first Artificial Intelligence Strategy. NCI Agency experts contributed to the development of the strategy by offering their lessons learned from implementing artificial intelligence projects for NATO.
More than 20 industry participants deployed about 70 systems during the exercise, including sensors, counter-drone equipment known as "effectors", command and control systems and the example drones to serve as "threats". Through Exercise C-UAS TIE21, the agency aimed to increase technical interoperability standards between commercial systems used to counter drones, while enhancing NATO's ability to address the potential threats caused by the malicious use of drones.
One system deployed during the exercise was the NCI Agency's own prototype ARTEMIS, which uses machine learning algorithms to detect and classify drones.
ARTEMIS is a prototype system developed by the Agency's centre of technical expertise on countering unmanned aircraft systems, according to Major General Göksel Sevindik, the Chief of Staff at the NCI Agency.
"It is an essential tool to help the agency understand the technology being used in the market and to identify areas where NATO would benefit from developing standards around counter-UAS systems," he added.
The NCI Agency hosted the exercise with the support of NATO Headquarters through the Defence Against Terrorism Programme of Work and the C-UAS Joint Nucleus within the Netherlands Ministry of Defence.
Drones are used for a large variety of applications, from conventional military uses such as security surveillance purposes and search and rescue, to commercial, recreational and personal use.
According to Dr Cristian Coman, lead for counter-drone activities, joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, NCI Agency, malicious actors have made use of low-cost hobby drones in recent years, creating a potential security threat to allies.
"The misuse of small drones represents a significant and growing risk to operations and day-to-day defence activities for NATO and nations," Dr Coman concluded.