Is That Our “DOT”?

Is That Our “DOT”?

Remote ID for business drones will get quite a lot of press today, however few discuss ID for navy drones. That might be as a result of most folk assume the DOD solved its model of Remote ID or “Identification Friend or Foe” (IFF) in World War II. But I believe we’ve been letting the DOD off the hook currently as a result of, sure, it solved IFF for manned plane and huge drones way back, however what about smaller drones? Swarming drones? Attritable drones? Just like civil drones with out Remote ID, small navy drones with out Remote ID look the identical on radar scopes—simply “dots” with no ID. That makes it robust to inform which dot is pleasant and which isn’t so pleasant.

Before delving into IFF choices for smaller navy drones, strap into your harness as a result of a little bit of historical past is so as.


IFF has been round for a very long time. As you’d think about, something with the phrase “foe” in it’s a British invention. The Brits invented IFF quickly after inventing radar within the late Nineteen Thirties. The Royal Air Force first used an IFF variant with the even-more-British identify of “pip-squeak” through the Battle of Britain. However, probably the most extensively used IFF system was the Mark III that pioneered methods nonetheless used as we speak.

Mark III IFF transponders on Allied plane responded to “interrogations from a radio transmitter co-located with an Allied radar. The interrogation transmitter synchronized with the radar so that each time the radar despatched out a pulse, the interrogator despatched out a radio sign. Radar operators may calculate the place of an plane when the radar pulse bounced off the plane’s pores and skin and returned to the supply. They may inform if the plane was a good friend when the interrogator sign elicited a radio response from the Mark III transponder on the plane. The coded IFF response confirmed on the radar display alongside the radar observe, permitting Allied controllers to establish all of the pleasant plane in vary. Radar blips with the right IFF response had been friendlies, and blips with out IFF had been both “bogies” (unknown plane) or “bandits” (enemy plane). Both navy and civil authorities use a variant of this technique world wide as we speak.

In an early IFF exploit, World War II’s De Havilland Mosquito evening fighter introduced chaos to the Luftwaffe by mimicking its transponders.

Of course, something involving electronics in wartime was instantly topic to digital countermeasures. To maintain their IFF transponder codes out of enemy arms, the Allies fitted explosives to the transponders so aircrew may destroy them earlier than crashing. Despite the explosives, the Luftwaffe ultimately recovered sufficient tools to crack the code on Mark III transponders and started monitoring Allied plane utilizing their very own transponders. Fortunately, this was late within the warfare and the Allies merely switched to the U.S. Navy Mark IV transponder. The RAF was extra profitable in exploiting Luftwaffe IFF. RAF Mosquito evening fighters routinely carried tools that might mimic the Luftwaffe FuG 25a Erstling transponders, permitting them to residence in on German evening fighters, inflicting chaos within the skies over Germany.

The cat and mouse sport of creating higher IFF transponders because the enemy cracked the earlier system continued via the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War and even coalition operations over the Balkans and Southwest Asia, culminating within the Mark XII IFF system utilized by most U.S. and Allied air forces as we speak. Mark XII is a fancy system able to working a number of “modes” or varieties of operation listed within the desk above to permit operations in each navy and civil airspace:

During the Nineteen Nineties many Allied air forces started utilizing civilian Mode S responses as a part of their IFF system. Mode S permits plane to return drastically elevated quantities of information, together with the plane’s place, in response to a question. A continuously broadcasting model of Mode S, the automated dependent broadcast system (ADS-B) grew to become obligatory equipage for the DOD in January 2020. Military Mode V is solely a cryptographically encoded model of Mode S information that may both reply to question solely or broadcast like ADS-B.

Managing the cryptographic keys and guaranteeing that navy transponders operate completely in any surroundings, wherever on earth, and with any appropriate Allied navy service, is an enormous job. The DOD makes use of the Air Traffic Control Radar Beacon System Identification Friend or Foe (AIMS) program workplace to carefully take a look at Mode V transponders. Unfortunately, till final month the testing program was so rigorous that solely a handful of comparatively giant Mode V transponders handed, the smallest of which weighs seven kilos and is roughly the scale of a loaf of bread. Seven kilos isn’t a lot to a B-52, F-15 and even an unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk. Seven kilos is an amazing weight for a small UAS. Seven kilos of gas would have gotten the primary UAS throughout 60% of the Atlantic.


Up till coalition forces began to take care of adversary UAS over the Arabian Gulf, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, the DOD didn’t assume it had an issue as a result of its smaller UAS had been short-ranged and solely operated close to pleasant forces. Lack of IFF on coalition small UAS grew to become an apparent downside when U.S. Navy ships had issues telling their very own RQ-20A Pumas from Iranian Revolutionary Guard Ababil UAS over the Arabian Gulf. NATO international locations had hassle differentiating Italian MQ-1s from Turkish TB2s from Russian Orlan-10s over Libya. Homemade Islamic State fixed-wing UAS over Syria and Iraq appeared identical to coalition RQ-11 Raven UAS till it was too late to have interaction them.

To their credit score, the U.S. Army and Navy moved rapidly to discover a method to put Mode V transponders on among the smallest UAS utilized by U.S. forces. The Army and Navy arrange a joint program workplace to discover a Mode V “microtransponder.” The effort yielded two AIMS-certified Mode V transponders which might be MUCH smaller than a loaf of bread

Sagetech Avionics (see Law-Tech Connect from this subject) was first to develop an AIMS-certified Mode V transponder. Sagetech was a little bit of a conventional alternative given its expertise working with the U.S. Navy’s MQ-27 ScanEagle. Its MX-12B transponder weighs a bit of greater than 6.7 ounces (190 grams) and is simply 3.4″ H x 2.5″ W x 1.0″ D. The accomplishment is a formidable 93% discount in measurement, weight and energy (SWaP) in comparison with typical Mode V transponders.

A really fascinating alternative represents a type of few instances business UAS know-how is superior to navy tech. uAvionix is a startup that focuses on retrofit avionics to assist normal aviation plane adjust to the FAA’s 2020 ADS-B mandate. Luckily, uAvionix didn’t overlook unmanned methods and developed a quarter-sized pingRX ADS-B micro receiver for very small UAS (assume DJI Phantom 4s). PingRX receivers are a legend in civilian UAS circles for less than weighing 0.17 ounces (5 grams). Over time, uAvionix started to develop FAA-certified avionics for civil aviation, with the most recent iteration being the ping200X Mode S ADS-B microtransponder for UAS weighing only one.9 ounces (54 grams) and three.25 x 1.8 x .5, making it the world’s smallest Mode V transponder.

The tight measurement constraints of the civilian small UAS transponder market clearly paid off for uAvionix’s Mode V microtransponder. As famous above, the corporate’s smallest AIMS-certified Mode V transponder is astoundingly small. Expressed in fighter pilot lingo, it weighs lower than a shot of whiskey and is smaller than a deck of playing cards, but it nonetheless manages to output 250 watts. Very spectacular!

The U.S. Army and Navy are already shifting out with Mode V necessities for his or her smaller UAS. Indeed, rumor has it Mode V will probably be a requirement for the Army Future Tactical UAS program. However, what concerning the U.S. Air Force?

The U.S. Air Force was not fascinated about Mode V microtransponders when the Army and Navy began a joint program as a result of the USAF had comparatively few small UAS on the time. That angle is altering because the Air Force embraces low-cost attritable and swarming UAS. I’ll write extra about what the USAF plans for these UAS in my subsequent column, however the USAF now realizes a returning formation of attritable UAS or a swarm of UAS over a goal space will in all probability sow chaos as coalition air defenses attempt to type their very own drones from enemy plane, as neither broadcasts IFF. Indeed, a part of the USAF technique for low value/swarming drones is to confuse enemy air defenses and drive them to have interaction low-cost USAF drones with costly missiles. Without Mode V transponders, these pleasant drones will in all probability trigger equal confusion to pleasant air protection forces.

That was quite a lot of background to get to the good things—which is, I predict a vivid future for Mode V microtransponders. True, the primary prospects will probably be smaller navy drone applications, however I assure there isn’t a navy manned plane or bigger drone designer who would select a 7-pound transponder over a 2- or 7-ounce one. Who KNEW that every one these infinite debates over civil drone Remote ID would spur the innovation of vastly improved transponders for the DOD’s model of drone Remote ID?!