Israel’s Skylock pioneers defending against drones

Given the rising threats of terror groups using drones, it’s clear that this kind of technology will be in need rapidly across a variety of sectors.

“DroneLock, drones defending against drones”  (photo credit: SKYLOCK)
“DroneLock, drones defending against drones”
(photo credit: SKYLOCK)
Drones increasingly pose a threat to countries, including critical infrastructure such as energy facilities or airports. They have also been used to target political leaders and conduct surveillance, sometimes by criminal organizations or terrorists. To counter these threats, Israeli companies have been pioneering various technologies to detect and stop drones.
Skylock, a leader in the design of anti-drone technology and a part of Avnon Group, is one of the Israeli companies that have new technology to stop the rise of complex drone threats.
The company began several years ago to predict a rising drone threat. “We anticipated that in a few years we would see the drone threat increasing,” Asaf Lebovitz, Skylock’s vice president of sales, told The Jerusalem Post.
These threats exist in all spheres now, but they are increasingly impacting civilian areas. This also includes terrorist groups such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are increasingly using drones. Hamas and Hezbollah also use drones, and ISIS uses them as well.
Technology is needed not just to stop one quadcopter from flying into an airport’s area, but to stop a kind of “drone swarm,” or multiple drones. Having 100 drones swarm in for an attack is a situation that Skylock thinks could materialize in coming years.
There is also a need to manage airspace so that drones that are delivering a pizza don’t run into helicopters, for example.
Skylock has developed a portfolio of systems that can detect the drones and then neutralize them. Detection is most important. You can use radar to find the drones and then to make sure that you are not actually detecting birds.
Using the latest technology means identifying that the drone is emitting a signal and then being able to optically confirm the drone and what payload it might be carrying. For instance, is the drone a civilian quadcopter that someone is using by mistake in a restricted area, or is it carrying a grenade?
The company says its technology not only identifies where the drone is, but it can also send law enforcement to find the operator. The technology enables the operator to use a jammer to stop the drones or even hack into them and fly them to a safe area. This can be done from one kilometer to up to 15 km. The systems are tailor-made to address the threat according to what the customer wants.
The difference in ranges is important because while some airports or critical infrastructure need to detect a drone at a long distance, others may not have the budget or the need for such range.
Skylock also makes a system that can use drones to attack other drones, as a kind of kill option if jamming or other means don’t work to stop the threat.
“The last one that is unique is the cyber solution: to take over the drone and decide in advance where to land it,” Lebovitz said. “Or we can land it on the spot.”
THE KEY today as countries’ internal security ministries, police and others seek solutions to counter drones is that they get the right security they need. That means not using a cannon to kill a fly, Lebovitz said. In short, you don’t necessarily need to use missiles to stop quadcopters.
The Skylock system is mobile and can be put on vehicles. That means if you have to secure a parade one day and then a presidential speech the next day in a new area, you can move your counter-drone technology from place to place. Sporting events can be secured this way as well.
The company says it has configured the system in Asia based on the individual country’s or customer’s request.
Like other Israeli companies attending IDEX, the defense confab in the UAE in February, Skylock will be there as part of the ISDEX pavilion of Israeli companies. ISDEX and Skylock are both part of the Avnon Group. About 70% of Skylock’s sales are currently to military clients.
Given the rising threats of terrorist groups using drones, it is clear that this kind of technology will be in need rapidly across a variety of sectors.
Skylock is one of many Israeli companies that make counter-drone technology. IAI’s Elta makes Drone Guard, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems makes Drone Dome, and Elbit Systems makes ReDrone. Each company has similar technology used in different ways or on different platforms.
This is part of the wider context of Israeli air defense that makes Israel the most well-defended airspace in the world. Israeli companies are also working on lasers and other weapons that can be used to stop drones.