Ground pounders may soon be swatting those pesky drones from the battlefield’s airspace with the help of a new hand-held device.
The IXI Dronekiller is the first and only hand-held counter-drone technology employing the use of software defined radio, according to IXI Technology representatives at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition in Washington, D.C., this week.
“This is not a broadband jammer, like what you can buy online,” a company official told Defense News. “This is software defined radio, so we’re targeting whatever specific frequency drones are operating on.”
Each drone has a different type of frequency, for example the DJI Phantom — a common commercial-use drone — operates on the 2400 to 2483 MHZ frequency, or 2.4 GHZ band. Within that 2.4 band, an operator selects different channels to link between them and the drone itself.
"And the latest DJI Phantom drone has a channel hopping capability," the company official said. "And our device can also counter that."
"So what we're doing is not blocking a whole channel. We're inserting a bit of noise or additional data to break the link between the drone and operator,” he added.
The IXI Dronekiller will be able to target all Type I and Type II commercial drones, which are exactly the type you'd see non-state, and even some state, actors employ on battlefields like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Many terror groups are trying to use smaller drones for surveillance, or maybe adding a payload to it like a bomb and drop it,” the company official said.
In battlespaces like Syria, drone use has become increasingly common. Fighters from the Syriac Military Council — a Christian militia closely allied with Syrian Kurd fighters — even uncovered what they claimed was an Islamic State drone factory in July 2017.
But whatever an ISIS fighter is trying to gin up from spare parts isn’t going to be able to stop the IXI Dronkiller from knocking it down, according to IXI Technology.
"As long as we can identify the frequency a targeted drone is using, we can hit it," he said.
Thanks to a radio frequency sensor, the IXI Dronekiller can acquire “all drone signals” in roughly 3 seconds.
Even better for the warfighter, the gun is as simple as point-and-shoot, with a 30 degree cone of effect on whatever target is being aimed at. And a newer version of the device is even attachable to an assault rifle, similar to how one would attach an M203 grenade launcher.
"You point in that direction, and when the drone flies into the cone ... the cheaper drones would just crash. But the better ones will fly back to base,” he added. "It can also track the drone and follow it back to home and see who was actually flying it."
Oceanside Police Department in San Diego, California, as well as the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, already use a version of the device to knock commercial drones violating airspace regulations during events like the Golden Globes and Rose Bowl.
"Two weeks ago, we sent them to Camp Pendleton, [California], where the Marines were testing it,” the official said. “And this week at Ft. Bragg, [North Carolina], the Army is testing it."
The IXI Dronekiller’s specifications state that it has battery life allowing four hours of active mode use, a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, right or left hand operation, an environment-resistant frame, a weight of 7.5 pounds and a range of 1 kilometer.
Even better for the ground-pounder, the gun is easy to use, with user training topping out at less than a minute.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.