Suppressing Drone Warfare – SkyMines

Since the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Tom Kaneko has become concerned with the growing militarism in the world. Specifically, the emergence of drone warfare, enabled by cheap drone technology, is particularly alarming: it lowers the cost and risk of armed conflict to would-be belligerents. It makes war ‘easier’ for those who choose it.

In Ukraine, drones are lethal.  They are used to terrorise civilian cities, knock out tanks, act as spotters for artillery, search for targets, and even drop bomblets themselves.  Military drones are becoming more autonomous whether we like it or not.  Existing counter measures are far too expensive – often being an order of magnitude more expensive than the drones themselves.  Radio-jamming measures have limitations, and drone engineers are already finding ways around them.

Seeking Inexpensive Counter-UAV Capabilities

Tom Kaneko seeks to address the drone problem with an engineering solution.  He recognises:

  • that all drones makes an identifiable sound during powered flight,
  • that electronic counter-measures will become redundant with time, as drones adapt and become more autonomous,
  • that a counter measure must be at least cheaper than their target, and require minimal oversight
  • that optical and radar tracking hardware (such as those that guide missile) is power hungry and expensive

With these insights and limitations, he has developed a concept for a drone glider, equipped with microphones, that can track, and intercept drones using only their sound.  It requires only inexpensive electronic hardware made cheap by the smartphone revolution.

Tom Kaneko has entered two proposals into the Defence and Security Accelerator’s (DASA) OpenCall competitions.  One is the airBorne Acoustic Tracking (BAT) prototype proposal, and the next iteration: the SkyMines/DroneMines concept.

airBorne Acoustic Tracker (BAT)

airBorne Acoustic Tracker (BAT) Concept - Overview

The BAT glider would autonomously patrol a given area of sky, to detect and locate acoustic objects, including UAVs.  This information is transmitted to a ground station.

With his experience in computer programming, sound engineering, and making things, Tom Kaneko seeks to develop these concepts into real capabilities.

SkyMines

The SkyMines/DroneMines concept is the next iteration of the BAT glider, where the glider becomes a self-homing acoustic “mine” against UAV threats.  Given they are inexpensive (about £500 or less), these gliders are considered to be expendable, and interception means crashing, and tangling with a target.  It can be carried out without need of explosives.

Seeking Funding for Development

With his experience in computer programming, sound engineering, and making things, Tom Kaneko seeks to develop these concepts into real capabilities. DASA have approved the research and development proposal as fundable, and there is an active effort to find the funds to push it forward.  Tom Kaneko expects the demand for this counter-drone capability to only grow in the near future.