Xpeller — Protection from Dangerous High Flyers, the Threat from the Air

In an interaction with SP’s Land Forces, HENSOLDT looks back at the successful launch of its Xpeller business globally and its plans for India market

Issue 5 - 2021
Andleeb Shadman,
Managing Director, Hensoldt

Monitoring the airspace is an important task. Even more so when dangers are becoming smaller and smaller: The use and circulation of small drones has increased substantially over recent years and months. While some regulatory frameworks exist, their implementation has proven difficult in practice. Airports especially are high-risk areas, as a collision between drones and airplanes – whether intentional or not – may result in accidents and even deadly crashes. Added to that the risk of drones employed as weapons by dropping explosives, biological or chemical substances, it becomes clear that airports and other critical infrastructures must be continuously monitored, secured and have access to means of intervention in cases where drones may enter their airspace.

SP’s Land Forces (SP’s): Can you please share with us more about HENSOLDT Xpeller System?

HENSOLDT: The name Xpeller is derived from the idea of expelling an intruder. HENSOLDT has developed a powerful modular system by adding radio detectors and countermeasures to some of its existing and proven technologies for monitoring airspace using radar and cameras. This system can locate and classify even small hobby drones at a range of several kilometres.

HENSOLDT technology enables sensitive sites, like airports, sports stadiums or industrial operations, to match solutions to their exact requirements, whilst avoiding the risks associated with a hard kill.

High-resolution cameras make it easier to determine whether there is a serious threat. If so, the threat can then be countered by choosing appropriate countermeasures.

Phil Musser
HENSOLDT’s Xpeller counter UAV system

The Xpeller approach towards countering the UAV threat is based on a multi sensor/effector layer and a three step workflow:

  • Detect the potential threat with the best possible probability of detection.
  • Identify the potential threat as an actual threat with the least possible false alarm rate.
  • Act on the threat by raising alarms, or engaging the threat with a counter measure.

Xpeller is highly efficient, modular and scalable counter UAV system designed for civil and military domains. The system allows combination of radar, electro-optical and RF signals, all integrated in operational software for an optimised detection of unauthorised drone threats. The resulting signal domination allows an optimised usage of countermeasures such as intercepting signals to defeat the drone threat successfully.

SP’s: What differentiates HENSOLDT Xpeller from the rest of the brands in the market?

HENSOLDT: The Counter UAV solution market has been consistently growing with increasing in threats due to terrorism and illicit activities across the world and rising incidences of security breaches by unidentified drones.

There are been numerous players in the market acting locally and globally offering variety of solutions.

The key differentiating factors for HENSOLDT solution are:

  • Mature and already in-service
  • Scalable and modular solution framework catering to different needs of customers
  • Man portable, Vehicle mounted and Fixed installations
  • Catalogue of sensors and effectors to pick and chose
  • Very high probability of intercept and very low false alarm rate
  • Limited Interference with friendly use of air-space and spectrum.
  • Complete solution available based on inhouse-products with no third-party interdependency.

SP’s: Are there any successful stories? What is the most recent one that is worth mentioning?

HENSOLDT: The recent deployment of Xpeller during the Dutch Day of Remembrance in Amsterdam in May 2020 is one of the most recent successful introduction of Xpeller as a service.

The system selected in this case consisted of two SMS-D, made up of a Spexer 360 radar, daylight and thermal cameras, in addition to one Spexer 500, two Skyscan 7x and one Jammer. On location, these various sensors where set up on two buildings approximately one kilometre apart to ensure the best radar and DF coverage. Coverage maps options in the CxEye software allows operators to optimise sensor placement quickly and efficiently. Using a comms link to join the different locations, Xpeller provided a common operating picture with fused radar, camera and DF information, and a live-stream of the operating picture was provided into the police headquarters.

The request had been made by the National Police as part of a task force including the Royal Netherlands Air Force and Army, only three weeks before the event. HENSOLDT’s Xpeller team responded with resources from Germany, South Africa, the UK and the Netherlands. Because of current COVID 19 restrictions, the equipment was shipped from different locations and set up the day ahead of the event with remote support from the all the involved entities. The successful deployment was closely monitored by representatives of the authorities involved.

Xpeller is highly efficient, modular and scalable counter UAV system designed for civil and military domains

Besides this, HENSOLDT also demonstrated its Xpeller counter-UAV system in 2018 at the Airbus airfield in Hamburg. During the demonstration, Xpeller detected UAVs approaching from a number of locations and was able to identify a variety of UAVs, including small recreational models, from a distance of several miles away.

Among our most recent successes is supporting the German Armed Forces in the protection of their forward operating bases in their operational areas.

The Xpeller modules are used as part of container-based drone defence systems within the GUARDION overall system of ESG Elektroniksystem- und Logistik-GmbH and its partners for a total of five drone defence systems. “The Spexer2000 3D radar is characterized by outstanding detection capabilities, especially against asymmetric threats. The Z:NightOwl M camera was specially developed for high ranges. With it, we support drone defence against so-called Class I drones, that is, unmanned aircraft weighing up to 25 kg.

SP’s: What are your plans for India Market?

HENSOLDT: India is the vast country with challenging security situations. There have been several instances related to drone threats in civil and military areas.

We are also cognizant about India’s uncompromising focus on Military self-reliance through “Make in India” policy. Our proposed approach is to offer complete Xpeller solution framework to Indian customers. Through a Joint development we could realise an Indigenous Counter UAV solution in the most practical and incremental way, for example in supporting Indian capabilities like Sensors or 3rd Party Hard Kill effectors with selected Xpeller modules.

Currently, we are working on a few projects in India with multiple Government agencies and successfully concluded field trials. We have been able to achieve a Jamming range of up to 10.4 Km for small drones. Our talks with Indian stakeholders are at mature level and Xpeller system for trials to Indian customers will be on field soon.