The Evolving Role of Drones in the Connected Battlespace

by Brian Murphy / March 31, 2021

While watching the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies a few years back, I remember my youngest son asking why they were showing fake pictures of snowboarders above the stadium. He thought they were similar to the digitally enhanced fireworks displays sometimes shown on NFL broadcasts. The announcer then mentioned they were not computer-generated images but rather a drone swarm technology exhibiting Intel's Shooting Star platform. While the Pyeongchang show was extremely cool and entertaining for my family, I also remember potential threats if an adversary used the swarm technology. Maybe the geographical proximity of the event to North Korea highlighted the idea. Still, it did make me think about the real threats posed by the rapid proliferation of commercially available technology that enemy forces could readily use.

Advancing Drone Technology

The rapid pace of drone capability adoption forces the military to implement new strategies and tactics to address drone technology that is becoming easier for enemies to obtain and deploy. Military modernization used to be driven by a capabilities-based model, but as the drone example portends, the new modernization strategy is more tied to a threat-based model. As such, the defense industry needs to be ready to deliver associated defeat capabilities with greater assurance, more efficiency, and reduced cost of implementation to meet the demands that cheaper technology brings to the battlespace.

In the case of military drones, the intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition needs of the market are projected to witness significant growth. The military drone market is driven by battle damage management, combat operations, and delivery and transportation services. Growing demand to provide real-time images is propelling growth in battle damage management applications. Advanced defense technologies, such as artificial intelligence and multi-sensor data fusion for UAV navigation, cloud computing-based services for military UAVs, and technological advancements in drone payloads will likely support additional market growth. Product innovations such as smaller short-range surveillance drones, mid-air refueling drones, and anti-UAV defense systems are other key trends to watch in the military drone market.

Multi-Domain Operations Support

While the past paradigms of joint service military education focused on the coordination and awareness of land, sea, air, and space domains, the new paradigm must reconsider the sector approach. Leveraging capabilities that provide cross-domain effects or provide effects across multiple domains simultaneously is a new requirement for battlefield success. Data interoperability leveraging open standards is critical to distribute sensor data collected by drones and other remote sensors across domains.

The military must create complex problems for the enemy while defending against the new tactics made available by advancing and prevalent drone technology. Adversaries are already finding ways to use commercially-available drones for both surveillance and as a delivery device for IEDs, and the U.S. military must continue to find new ways to counter these threats. Anti-drone systems with the ability to disable enemy drones but not friendlies are one such solution.

Ready to Meet the Demand

Benchmark is ready to meet the challenges required of successful multi-domain operations by enabling technology solutions to new mission requirements. Our mission is to be our customers' trusted partner in rapidly-evolving markets such as defense drones. That means we offer customers the capabilities and know-how to address any new challenge or requirement that arises. While Benchmark is a $2.1B electronics engineering and manufacturing leader serving many defense prime contractors, we also qualify as an OTA Non-Traditional Defense Contractor. We're ready to support the developmental advancements required of today's most advanced nano and microelectronics implementation needs.

Benchmark's rich pedigree of delivering and supporting Connected Battlespace solutions that meet the imperatives of successful multi-domain operations (i.e., EW/anti-jam, wireless secure connectivity, point to multi-point communications). Specific to drone technology advancements, Benchmark is an industry leader in size, weight, and power (SWaP) optimization for electromagnetic spectrum and RF solutions needed for multi-domain operations integration and overmatch. We have a successful history in providing border surveillance solutions, including disruptive wireless solutions such as self-landing solutions for unmanned and manned aircraft and ranging capabilities for low power location assistance and sensor data transmission.

To find out how we can help your next program battlefield-ready, contact us today.

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about the author

Brian Murphy

Brian Murphy is a Business Development Executive in the Aerospace & Defense sector at Benchmark. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and served as a Mission Systems and Space Programs Acquisitions Officer. Brian has held numerous leadership positions running technology product launches and new venture start-up campaigns in the telecommunications, industrial infrastructure, and defense industries. Brian hails from Indiana and is an avid Air Force football fan, a once-upon-a-time marathon runner, and a very high handicap golfer. He holds a BS in Management from the U.S. Air Force Academy and an MBA from Xavier University.

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