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December 2017

Three military trends you need to know


The nature of the threat posed by terrorism and criminal organisations is changing. In recent years, military forces, border agencies, airports and transport police have had to rapidly develop new ways of thwarting those with malicious intentions. Here Graham Mackrell, managing director of Harmonic Drive UK, outlines the top three trends in the military sector.

On a recent trip to DSEI, the major defence and security event, I came across a variety of new innovations designed to tackle attacks and security breaches in ways that would have been considered science fiction until only a few years ago.

The three areas of military technology that really stood out for me were: quadcopter anti-drone weapon systems, intelligent radar, and actuators capable of operating in the most extreme environments with absolute precision.


The popularity of quadcopter drones in recent years has led to a significant rise in the number of incidents involving drones reported to UK Police. Complaints of snooping, burglary, near-misses over airports and smuggling contraband into prisons increased twelvefold from 2014 to 2016.

Authorities are now enlisting the help of net-capture anti-drone devices. The system tracks the flight of a drone and fires a projectile, which deploys a net before impact. It then releases a parachute, which safely brings down the drone to avoid collateral damage to the surrounding infrastructure and allows authorities to forensically analyse it.

This threat also extends to more sophisticated drone attacks, which has prompted the advancement of Anti-UAV Defence Systems (AUDS). This typically takes the form of a counter drone system, which eliminates the threat from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as remotely operated ones, tracking and classifying the UAV before disrupting or disabling it.


Gathering intelligence on a moving threat can make all the difference for military personnel and their ability to stop it. Adding a camera into the radiofrequency radar system allows the surveillance unit to deliver enhanced visual identification and tracking.

Combined with intelligent software and precision engineering, the radar setup can automatically position and track the target many kilometres away, providing an early-warning notification.

Precise actuation

Whether it's a pan and tilt antenna being used in the sub-zero conditions of the Arctic or a remote-controlled weapon station mounted on an armoured personnel carrier in the heat of the desert, being able to operate precisely in extreme conditions is a must.

These conditions are driving precision engineering companies, such as Harmonic Drive UK, to develop motion control components that can allow precise movements in even the harshest conditions.

For example, Harmonic Drive UK's AlopexDrive® is an actuator designed with a transmission accuracy between 0.5–2.0 arcminutes, a torque output between 9–647 Nm and a temperature range of -46 to +63°C. These characteristics make the actuator perfectly suited for military and defence applications in any environment.

The methods used by criminals and terrorists are changing and authorities need to adapt. Making use of the latest technological advancements is one way of doing this.  

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