Projected on a giant screen, the video is intended for an audience of military personnel from several European countries, NATO officials and defense contractors, all gathered this week at the Vredepeel military base in the Netherlands.

These drones are "small, fast and finding the parade is complex," says the former commander of the Dutch Air Force, Willem Koedam, an expert with NATO in "C-UAS", the acronym for anti-drone defense.

Complex but not impossible. No less than 57 companies made the trip to present their products, which are supposed to counter almost all threats, from the commercially purchased drone to the Iranian Shahed 136 used by the Russian military in Ukraine.

"The best way to +kill+ a Shahed is a jet," in other words a drone of comparable size, says Ludwig Fruhauf, boss of DDTS, a German company specializing in anti-drone defense.

Its jet can fly at more than 500 km/h when a Shahed barely exceeds 180 km/h. And most importantly, it costs much less than a standard rocket used by conventional air defense, he said.

But the threat also comes from much smaller drones.

They can kill. But also cause major damage to critical infrastructure such as thermal power plants or pumping stations, says Matt Roper, one of the heads of the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI), which brings together the Alliance's technology and cybersecurity experts.

Capture a drone with a net

And the best way to eliminate a drone does not necessarily involve its destruction. In some cases, when neutralizing it could endanger your own forces or infrastructure, it's best to capture or divert it.

A drone is intercepted by a net during a NATO anti-drone defense exercise in Vredepeel, Netherlands, September 20, 2023 © Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP

Argus Interception, another German company, has developed with others a system of "net fishing" of a hostile drone. It is still necessary to locate it, either using radars, cameras or monitoring stations of the communication frequencies used to guide the drone.

Once the intruder is located, an interceptor drone takes off. Automatically guided by the ground station, it approaches the enemy before unleashing a shot that deploys a net on the enemy drone. Once captured, it can be transported to safety. "This is particularly effective for airport protection," said Christian Schöning, head of Argus Interception.

For Captain Ionut-Vlad Cozmuta of the Romanian Air Force, however, this is not necessarily the solution to respond to the threat of Russian drones.

A drone intercepted by a net during a NATO anti-drone defense exercise in Vredepeel, Netherlands, September 20, 2023 © Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP

Drone debris, similar to those used by the Russian military, has been found several times in recent weeks on Romanian territory.

Make him "lose his mind"

Bucharest is therefore seeking to ensure better protection of its territory against possible drone attacks, and the full-scale exercise taking place this week at the Dutch base of Vredepeel has been closely followed by Captain Kozmuta.

"We are developing our anti-drone capabilities and we are here to gather the necessary information," he told AFP. And, from this point of view, "jamming could be a solution".

Here, there is no question of capturing the drone but rather of making it "lose its head". The jamming disrupts communications with its operator and it then returns to its base automatically, for lack of clear information about its destination.

Better, another technology allows you to take control of it and guide it where you want.

It is still necessary that all these systems can dialogue with each other and NATO also sought this week to find a common standard, which is done with the Sapient system, developed in Great Britain.

A drone flies through the air during a NATO-organized anti-drone defense exercise in Vredepeel, Netherlands, September 20, 2023 © Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP

This will bring "enormous benefits" to the Alliance, Dutch General Hans Folmer, one of the senior officials of the NCI at NATO, told reporters.

No Ukrainian servicemen were present this week during these anti-drone defense exercises.

But NATO is in constant "dialogue" with Ukraine on these subjects, says Claudio Palestini, scientific advisor to the Alliance. Ukrainians are "constantly innovating on the ground", which makes it easier to define needs.

© 2023 AFP