Technology Editor Last updated: October 20th, 2023
Drone Tracking and Recovery Systems
UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and drones may need to be tracked for a variety of reasons; as part of counter-drone defense, to provide airspace awareness for unmanned traffic management (UTM), or in order to recover them in case of a crash or other incident.
uAvionix’ ping200X – Certified UAV Mode S Transponder with ADS-B OUT
Drones that communicate with operators via radio-frequency (RF) signals can be tracked with RF detectors. These detectors analyse the signals and may compare them to a database to identify common drone models. However, drones that are operating completely autonomously may not emit detectable RF signals.
Radar systems, which detect reflections of waves emitted by the system, can be used to track drones that do not emit their own RF signals. Traditional radars used for manned aviation can track large drones with a significant radar cross-section, but in order to track smaller aircraft, specially-designed high-resolution radars are required.
Multi-layered drone detection and tracking systems are available, combining RF and radar detection methods as well as visual tracking via high-resolution EO/IR sensors.
Sagetech’s MXS Mode S ADS-B Drone Transponder
A number of technologies are currently in use for tracking drones within manned airspace as part of UTM systems. One of the most widely-used is ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance—broadcast).
ADS-B Out is used by drones to broadcast information that can be used for tracking, such as GPS location, identification, velocity and altitude. ADS-B In receivers can be used by UTM operators as well as other drones to pick up this information, enhancing visibility and safety.
Location & Recovery
Tracking of UAVs for recovery is usually achieved by attaching a compact, lightweight RF transmitter to the drone. The signals emitted by the transmitter can be picked up by a handheld receiver with a tracking antenna, allowing users to quickly locate the downed UAV.