In 2018 one of the UK’s busiest airports was forced to cancel about a 1,000 flights because of drone sightings. The mystery at Gatwick was never solved but the event underlined the huge threats posed by small drones.
Civilian drones are easy to buy, use and fly in urban and remote areas. Anti-air systems are expensive and suited to larger militaries and different threats.
Enter the Chimera. This French-made piece of mobile kit is designed to detect errant drones within a one kilometre radius and jam their signal.
It can be worn simply across the shoulder allowing the wearer to continue other tasks in the field while it scans the skies. The anti-drone technology by Cerbair was on display on the opening day of Idex on Sunday with a price tag of 100,000 euro.
“These types of threats can come from anywhere and not from regular troops,” said the company’s sales manager, Yann Berger.
“Drones are more a guerrilla tool using home-made technology. But Chimera is easy to set up and can protect us in a better way.”
Chimera scans the skies using an antennae for any radio frequencies that could suggest a drone was sending back data to its base. When one is detected, the operator gets an audio and visual alert on the system.
The hostile drone can then be neutralised by jamming its signal to the operator and forcing it to the ground.
“It cuts the communication between drone and pilot so the drone does not reach its target,” he said.
The system is effective in combatting 95 per cent of the threat from commercial drones, which Nato terms "class 1" or micro drones.
“These types of drones can become a real threat and do a lot of harm. So our technology can confront both domestic and military threats. If police have to make an area safe for VIPs somebody could fly a drone through the area … so it will detect this no matter what.”
France uses the technology to protect VIPs but Mr Berger refused to be drawn on other countries that use Chimera beyond saying they have "partners in Asia". At Idex, he is confident of sales but also said the defence exhibition is important to showcase the technology and illustrate what’s possible with a relatively small piece of kit.
“This threat is increasing, very much,” said Mr Berger, who used to be an officer in the French military.
“I served in Iraq and through the years we have seen that threat increasing very much because it is a cheap way of bringing terror without a lot of knowledge or money.
"Anything man made and used in malignant way is a threat – that is very much on the rise.”