DroneClash Preps for Second Annual Counter-Drone Competition

The second-annual DroneClash counter-drone competition is scheduled for March 16. Source: DroneClash

January 25, 2019      

The deadline is fast approaching for teams looking to enter DroneClash, the counter-drone competition held in the Netherlands.

The second edition of the event, titled “Robot Wars in 3D“, will be held on March 16, 2019, in Katwijk, the Netherlands. The application deadline for teams looking to compete is Thursday, Jan. 31. The competition said seven international early-bird teams are already preparing for battle.

DroneClash 2018 winners counter-drone competition

Laced Horns, made up of researchers from the University of Twente’s Robotics and Mechatronics Lab, and Clear Flight Solutions, were winners of the 2018 DroneClash competition. Source: DroneClash

Teams have a chance to win a share of the €50,000 prize money ($56,840), with the winning team able to nab €30,000 ($30,104).

The counter-drone competition sees teams battling in a specially constructed arena within a Katwijk aircraft hangar, where fighter drones attempt to bring down a “queen” drone from the opposing team using “whatever means possible,” with one restriction – no jamming.

However, before the drones can attack the queen, “they must navigate the Hallway of Doom, Death and Destruction, where the Dutch police will employ counter-drone measures in an attempt to snare or slow the drones, some of which can reach speeds close to 200 kph, DroneClash organizers said.

Fun event, serious research

The competition is an initiative of the Delft University of Technology’s Micro Aerial Vehicle Laboratory (MAV Lab), with sponsorship by the Dutch Ministry of Defence and the Dutch Police. A counter-drone coalition meeting is scheduled to occur on the same day as DroneClash, with invitations to police organizations by the Dutch police.

While the event is aimed to be fun, organizers said they have a serious aim of stimulating research in counter-drone technology. “For society to enjoy the benefits of drones – whether it be for medical purposes, logistics, or leisure – it’s also vital to be able to maintain drone-free areas,” organizers said in a statement. “The authorities have to be able to bring down malevolent drones.”

“As developers, we believe that drones can offer enormous benefits to society such as emergency medical care, more efficient logistics and better environmental surveillance,” said Bart Remes, project manager of the MAV Lab at Technical University of Delft. “We believe that DroneClash is a uniquely fun way of stimulating counter-drone technology and we invite teams from all over the world to sign up for this year’s competition.”

Learning from Gatwick incident

The drone incident at London’s Gatwick Airport over the holidays have demonstrated the importance of a strong policy and effective counter-drone technology, organizers added. On multiple occasions between Dec. 19-21, 2018, the airport was shut down after drones were seen flying near the airport. The closures impacted an estimated 1,000 flight and delayed 140,000 passengers who were attempting to fly home for Christmas. DroneClash organizers said the British army and the reported use of an Israeli system called Drone Dome were able to detect and jam the drone signals, bringing the drone disruption to a halt.

As a way to promote this year’s DroneClash, organizers have created a spoof video, in which a drone circles a tower at “Katwick Airport,” before a close-up revealing the drone carrying a banner advertising DroneClash (see below)

Animal inspiration?

At last year’s inaugural DroneClash event, countermeasures that were thought to be strong before the event (stroboscopes, smoke and net cannons) were deemed harmless as attacking drones were too fast. This year, organizers are looking a possibly looking at nature for inspiration.

“Post-Gatwick, discussion about counter-drone technology has repeatedly referred to the Dutch Police’s (past) trial of bald eagles as drone interceptors,” organizers said. “With their excellent long-range vision (which enables them to spot rabbits at a distance of 5 km), their acrobatic swooping skills and their razor-sharp talons, bald eagles proved to be a promising solution.”

“The need for a technical and scalable solution remains. It most likely needs to combine clever software with easy-to-use hardware,” organizers continued. “As with most tricky engineering and science problems, collaboration is key … hence DroneClash.”

Sponsors of the counter-drone competition said the event was a great way to spawn innovations in counter-drone technology. “DroneClash 2018 demonstrated some ingenious ideas on how tackle the problem of drones,” said Mark Wiebes of the Dutch Police. “By sponsoring DroneClash again in 2019, we hope to accelerate counter-drone tech.”