You are here: Home / Research / Comparing bird flights to micro-drones

Comparing bird flights to micro-drones

using UCL’s NedRAD radar system

The boom in use of commercial small drones has been well documented in the news. These platforms can be used for filming or simply a hobby but also have potential misuses. The threat of small micro-Drones to civil aviation and security of urban areas is now significant. It has been deemed a priority problem to tackle by the CAA, NATS, Home Office and MET police and hence represents an important engineering challenge.

Currently there are no effective sensors widely deployed that can effectively detect these non-traditional targets. In order for radar sensors to tackle this problem they will be required to be very sensitive to these small, low flying and slow targets. The disadvantage of increased sensitivity is that many possible false alarms will be generated from naturally occurring bird targets, which would render the system ineffective. Dr. Matthew Ritchie, Dr. Francesco Fioranelli, Børge Torvik and Prof. Hugh Griffiths from UCL Electronic and Electrical Engineering recently organised an experimental campaign to measure both birds signatures and micro-drone signatures to understand the differences between these targets. To do this they visited a falconry centre in Kent where they were able to measure Owls, Eagles, Falcons and even a Hooded Vulture. Each bird was measured flying from perch to perch being co-ordinated by one of the trained falconer. Once the birds were safely away a popular commercially available quadcopter drone was then flown in order to make a direct comparison of the amplitude of the reflection, the Doppler signatures and the flight patterns observed by the NetRAD radar system, developed at UCL. The initial results look very promising and further experimentation is already planned.