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Defence Innovation Prize 2020 winners revealed

EDA today announced the two winners of the 2020 EDA Defence Innovation Prize. Launched in March, this year’s contest looked for the most innovative ideas, technologies and solutions for the countering of swarms of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), in particular to protect land facilities and platforms. After a thorough assessment of all applications received, the jury decided to announce two winners, each of whom is rewarded with €30,000. 


The first of the two winning projects is called SWADAR (SWarm ADvanced Detection And TRacking) and was proposed by the Centro Italiano Ricerche Aerospaziali (CIRA) based in Capua, Italy.  

SWADAR proposes a technological solution for drone-swarm tracking to provide the operational picture of swarm attacks. It uses a defensive team of drones, which tracks the hostile swarm from different perspectives. Defensive drones are equipped with proximal sensors to achieve the required resolution and sensitivity. A coordination mechanism and an ad-hoc network ensure the cooperation of the defensive team to maintain optimal performance for tracking. A fusion of the drones’ views is also performed to provide the operator with the common operational picture and to assess swarming metrics, which are key indicators to establish the most effective counter-actions and to possibly automate the decision-making of mitigations. Moreover, the tracking solution is extended with the automated recognition of the swarm-attack scenario and with the learning of new swarming behaviours. This guarantees the adaptability of the system in face of evolving attacks. 

Full-Duplex Radio Technology for Enhanced Defence Capabilities Against Drone Swarms 

The second winning project is called ‘Full-Duplex Radio Technology for Enhanced Defence Capabilities Against Drone Swarms’ and was presented by Rantelon, an Estonian small to medium-sized company, in cooperation with Tampere University, Finland. 

The core innovation of reaching full duplex capability should allow to simultaneously recon drones via their Radio Frequency (RF) signals and to neutralise them, e.g. via jamming, contributing to an enhanced situational awareness, improved neutralisation performance, multifunction capabilities, and minimised collateral damage.  The proposed solution would bring detection and countermeasures, such as jamming and spoofing, to a higher level because it will allow the execution of both tasks simultaneously, what is not possible currently. Considering that the technological concept is already verified and experimental proofs-of-concept have been reported, it is possible to assume that this very relevant technology can be translated in enhanced security and defence capabilities by 2030.  The technology has a high potential to create excellent dual-use synergies and to capture the attention of key players in the defence field to form valuable partnerships with non-traditional defence R&T communities and innovators for both defence and civil applications. The idea was considered by the jury as coherent and very likely to be feasible as proposed, given that the higher demand of power can be solved and expanded frequencies can be addressed.  

Strategic importance of counter-UAV capabilities 

“The fact that this year’s contest was focused on innovations related to countering UAVs reflects the strategic importance of drones and the threat they represent for modern air defence systems, especially when used in large swarms coordinated by Artificial Intelligence supported platforms”, said EDA Deputy Chief Executive Olli Ruutu when symbolically handing over the prize to the two winners at EDA’s virtual Annual Conference 2020 which opened today (see other news). Counter-UAV capabilities are therefore not only part of the revised European Defence Capability Development Priorities adopted in 2018, but also of the six focus areas for potential future cooperation identified in the recent first Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), Mr Ruutu stressed. 

About the winners 

CIRA (Italian Aerospace Research Centre) is a company mainly in public ownership created in 1984. The Centre was founded with the aim of performing and promoting research and technological development in the fields of space and aeronautics and enabling Italian enterprises to compete on the international markets. CIRA has the biggest research facilities in the field of aerospace in Italy, with cutting-edge testing facilities and state-of-the-art laboratories. 

Rantelon is an Estonian company specialised in developing and producing radio frequency (RF) electronics, including low level components and integrated systems, for a range of applications. The company provides solutions from civilian cellular and public safety networks to various signals intelligence and effector capabilities for the defence sector. 

Tampere University participated the winning project with assistant professor Taneli Riihonen’s team in the Unit of Electrical Engineering. They are currently pursuing research on full-duplex counter-drone and radio shield technologies with support from the Finnish Scientific Advisory Board for Defence and the Academy of Finland. 

About the EDA Defence Innovation Prize 

The award, organised by EDA since 2018, aims to stimulate defence technological innovation in Europe, in particular by reaching out to non-defence R&T communities and innovators set to play an ever-bigger role in developing and producing Europe’s future defence capabilities. It is also meant to provide non-traditional defence stakeholders (civil industries, SMEs, research organisations, universities, etc.) with an opportunity to showcase their know-how in domains relevant for defence, maximize dual-use synergies and engage in partnerships with the defence sector.