National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA deploys its first counter-unmanned aircraft system

November 19, 2018

You are here

Federal Aviation Administration No-Drone Zone sign.
Federal Aviation Administration No-Drone Zone sign.

More and more often, it’s not a bird or a plane, but unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) seen flying overhead in our nation’s airspace. The increasing prevalence of UAS, often referred to as drones, pose a potential threat to national security sites across the country.

To mitigate any malicious aerial intruders at NNSA’s sites, the Office of Defense Nuclear Security has deployed its first counter-UAS platform at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The new system has the capability to detect, identify, track and intercept unsanctioned and suspicious drones.

“We needed a system to counter threats ranging from on-site disruption by protestors to intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance of NNSA sites, plants, and labs,” said Lewis Monroe III, Director of Security Operations and Programmatic Planning.

 

“We needed a system to counter threats ranging from on-site disruption by protestors to intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance of NNSA sites, plants, and labs,”

Lewis Monroe III
Director of Security Operations and Programmatic Planning.

NNSA worked in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for designation of Los Alamos Lab’s No-Drone Zone, the legally recognized area of the laboratory where unauthorized UAS activity is prohibited. NNSA’s other Category 1 facilities have also received FAA No-Drone Zone designation.

Los Alamos safeguards and security professionals completed operational testing of the system using authorities granted by the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. It is the first of four counter-UAS deployments for NNSA Category 1 sites that house strategic special nuclear material. Additional programs will be launched next year at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas; the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and the Nevada National Security Site near Las Vegas, Nevada.

Counter-unmanned aircraft system at Los Alamos National Laboratory to enforce the federally designated No-Drone Zone.
Counter-unmanned aircraft system at Los Alamos National Laboratory to enforce the federally designated No-Drone Zone.

The commercial counter-UAS platform was selected from systems and components that were tested and evaluated by NNSA’s Center for Security Technology, Analysis, Response and Testing. Sandia National Laboratories conducted the initial testing and evaluation of a number of platforms at the Nevada National Security Site and provided leadership with data and analysis to choose the proper platform as an enterprise solution at all four NNSA Category 1 nuclear facilities.