An Australian anti-drone company that started up just five years ago has won a $700,000 contract to provide counterdrone technology to the defence department.
DroneShield develops and markets technology that protects against attacks by unmanned aerial devices via a range of products capable of detecting and shooting down enemy drones.
It announced on Tuesday that it had won the tender to provide its RfPatrol portable drone detection device to the Department of Defence.
DroneShield expects to deliver the initial purchase this calendar year, as well as an annual subscription.
“We are excited about our products protecting the Australian military and look forward to continuing our relationship with the Department of Defence,” CEO Oleg Vornik said in an ASX announcment.
DroneShield has notched significant success in the market since listing in 2016, with contracts in 70 countries around the world including Europe, Asia, the US, Central America and the Middle East, and major partnerships with global companies like UK communications giant BT and security provider Bosch.
Its products are used by prisons, airports and armies and have protected events, including the 2019 Olympics, as well as critical infrastructure and businesses.
“Counterdrone protection is a truly global issue,” Mr Vornik told Government News.
“We recognised that drones were getting better and there was going to be the need to protect critical infrastructure and military against people using them to conduct attacks in ways that existing safety systems were not designed to protect.
“Like every technology, drones were going to get better – you’re going to have better payloads, better navigation, longer distances, better batteries. And with all of that you’ll see all the bad things happening as well. So we invested in the development of our products.”
An emerging industry
Mr Vornik says the biggest challenge for the company comes from operating in a nascent and as yet unregulated industry.
“When someone like the Australian military looks to purchase counterdrone products it will probably be one of the first times they’ve purchased something like that,” he says.
“This means people can basically sell ‘snake oil’ to any customer who will listen to them.
“If you’re a military counterdrone buyer, the question is who should you buy from? There’s no established precedent. So militaries today often have to do their own evaluation to basically back themselves to buy a product. But I can see that changing.”
Mr Vornik says counterdrone systems will also need to keep up with evolving drone technology including different kinds of signaling and mobility.
“You’re going to see underwater drones, you’re going to see mobile phone-controlled drones, drones crawling on the ground, drones being propelled in different ways. Everything about them is going to change and we are going to have to keep up as it changes.”
Mr Vornik says there is also constant demand from customers, especially in the military, for smaller, tougher, lighter and longer-range devices.
Defence spokesperson said drones are a “ubiquitous and persistent threat” to Australian soldiers deployed on operations and drone detection capabilities were valuable in helping soldiers assess and respond to potential risks.
“DroneShield was selected as the preferred supplier as its detection capability will provide situational awareness of the presence of civilian and military drones, and early warning to enable countermeasures,” the spokesperson said.
DroneShield will be an exhibitor at the Pacific 2019 Maritime Expo in Sydney next week where it has also been shortlisted for an award for its portfolio of drone production products, as well as a Young Innovator Award for designer Lawrence Marychurch.
*story has been updated with comments from Defence
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