The U.S. Army has awarded a $65 million contract to the research and development corporation to develop a system that can detect and defeat small, slow and low-flying drones.
(TNS) -- WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Army has awarded a $65 million contract to SRC Inc., an independent, not-for-profit, research and development corporation chartered by the state of New York, to develop a system that can detect and defeat one of the newest threats on the battlefield -- small, slow and low-flying drones.
SRC said it will immediately hire at least 50 engineers at its headquarters in Central New York as a result of the contract and other new business.
The company, the former Syracuse Research Corporation, also plans to hire an additional 300 employees nationwide over the next three years as a result of anticipated growth in several technology areas.
SRC has offices in five buildings in Central New York and across the nation, employing 1,100 people including 700 in the Syracuse area.
The Army selected SRC to develop and produce in Central New York up to 15 sets of counter-drone systems, which it considers an urgent operational need, according to the Pentagon.
The low-flying small drones, including off-the-shelf quadcopters and other recreational drones, are the hardest to detect and can evade radar.
In a January 2015 incident, a White House radar system failed to detect a small recreational drone that crashed into a tree on the South Lawn. The security breach alarmed the Secret Service and raised questions about the safety of the president.
SRC has focused on the evolving drone industry and its technology for its future growth. In 2014 the company established Gryphon Sensors, a wholly-owned subsidiary, to develop sensors that will allow drones to fly safely in civilian airspace.
Gryphon Sensors is trying to tap into what is expected to be a multibillion dollar market as demand surges for ways to detect, track and identify errant or hostile drones near airports and other infrastructure.
Now the Army is turning to SRC for similar solutions on the battlefield.
"We are proud to partner with the Army to provide critical technology that will defend against evolving threats like small drones," said Paul Tremont, president and CEO of SRC. "This contract is a great example of the innovative solutions that our employees create."
An unclassified Army report in October on small drones noted the increasing threat posed by such unmanned aerial systems (UAS), with more than 600 types now in use in more than 80 countries.
"The proliferation of UAS has created an airspace environment in which target identification is an issue," the report said. "Distinguishing friendly from other UAS may be possible through technical means, but difficulties from proliferation of similar systems is systemic and unlikely to decline in the near- to mid-term."
The Army report said Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed rebels have increasingly relied on small drones in the conflict in Ukraine.
"Both sides are using unarmed reconnaissance drones to inform their forces about the opponent's movements and positions," the report said. "One UAS capability in particular has emerged as a substantial enabler: target acquisition for artillery."
The Islamic State has also used small, off-the-shelf drones in its battles with the Iraqi army and the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.
SRC said it will partner on some of the work with DRS Technologies, headquartered in Arlington, Va., to develop and deliver the new system by Jan. 30, 2018.
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