Backpack-CUAV-CerbAir
CerbAir’s CUAV systems are available in a range of shapes and sizes, including backpack configurations which can be highly mobile, as this picture illustrates.

Electronic warfare is central to the approach taken by French Counter-Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle (CUAV) specialists CerbAir.

CerbAir CUAV systems

The firm, based just outside Paris, has two reasons to celebrate: It recently won $6.1 million of funding for further investment in products and capabilities, and in late January CerbAir was shortlisted to provide CUAV systems to help protect the 2024 Olympic Games in the French Capital.

The company provides an array of CUAV systems focused on detecting the Radio Frequency (RF) emissions of a UAV using its Hydra Electronic Support Measure (ESM): “We are a young company and we have had to be very focused on our efforts,” says Lucas Le Bell, CerbAir’s co-founder and chief executive officer: “We decided to focus on RF detection.”

RF detection

Detecting UAV RF emissions helps to identify the aircraft, and determine its position and locate the person on the ground controlling it. UAVs depend on RF wavebands, typically 2.4 gigahertz/GHz and 5.8GHz, for control of the UAV. The aircraft will also receive GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Signal) transmissions typically across wavebands of 1.1GHz to 1.6GHz and also use RF to share imagery via the aircraft’s data links.

Information obtained from the Hydra regarding a UAV and its location can be displayed on a laptop or computer screen, with the aircraft’s location superimposed on a map and/or satellite pictures. The company says that its CUAV systems can be used in fixed, mobile, portable and embarked configurations, with the aircraft being engaged using an electronic countermeasure.

CerbAir Clients and Customers

In a short time, CerbAir has built up a client base ranging from businesses seeking to protect their interests from consumer UAVs which might be used for industrial espionage to armed forces seeking to deal with the menace of UAVs on the battlefield.

“We address the whole spectrum of customers,” says Mr. Le Bell: “For example, the army might deal with a swarm of autonomous drone attacks, other customers might only want to deter drones from looking at their facilities.”

With this in mind, the firm has taken a modular approach to its CUAV systems ensuring that they can be scaled up or down according to the needs of the customer.

Armed Forces

Organisations already using the firm’s products include the French armed forces and the country’s national police force, along with the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana (Colombian Air Force) which use CerbAir’s technology to protect their airbases against UAV attacks mounted by insurgents. Several other undisclosed clients exist in the public and private sectors.

Mr. Le Bell and his team are seeing a deepening interest in CUAV technology in the Middle East and Africa amidst fears of guerrilla organisations increasing their use of uninhabited aircraft to deliver explosives: “Drones are becoming the missiles of the poor,” he states.

Moreover, the firm anticipates innovations on the nefarious use of UAVs: Some insurgent groups have been innovative in adapting UAVs to use RF transmissions beyond the standard frequencies mentioned above towards lower frequencies of 433 megahertz/MHz to 435MHz, 860MHz and 915MHz in a bid to outflank CUAV jamming.

However, Mr. Le Bell says that the firm keeps the threat databases used by the Hydra ESM bang up-to-date ensuring that these threats can be anticipated and countered as soon as they appear.

by Dr. Thomas Withington