A Russian missile fell near Bydgoszcz, a balloon from Belarus flies 30 meters from a passenger plane at Chopin airport on May 13, a drone several meters in size, and two days later a drone 50 meters below the Wizz Air plane in Katowice-Berzovice – Everyone in Poland is talking about an anti-drone system.
PENSA: It was about tracking legal drones
On Tuesday, TVN24 published documents showing that in 2022, the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA), after a letter from the Operational Commander of the Armed Forces (DORSZ), began the process of purchasing five anti-drone systems, but stopped them. In February this year. A few hours later, I issued a statement.
“The message was published in fragments, presumably because if its context were presented in full it would not produce the intended impression on the recipient. It must therefore be clarified that the above message relates to the coordination and use of the capabilities of the Pansa-UTM system that enable the coordination of legal drone flights (Reported and Recorded).These activities were conducted and carried out by PANSA.The letter is not about procuring “anti-drone” systems, radars, or even more technical infrastructure dedicated to “knocking down” drones, intercepting or eliminating them in any way Another way It should be noted that there is currently no legal basis for PANSA for such activities.
He points out that the canceled public procurement actions are not related to activities related to protection against drones, but are only related to a component of cooperation with the PANSA-UTM system.
The army wants to cooperate
The Army says little about cooperation with PANSA.
The RSZ Operational Command cooperates with PANSA in the use of Polish airspace. Due to the differences in the needs and requirements of organizations regarding the use of anti-UAS systems, there are currently no plans for joint purchases. The RSZ Operational Command does not actively participate in the tests organized by PANSA. The Polish Armed Forces have the ability to detect and combat drones [bezzałogowe statki powietrzne – red.] – reports Lt. Col. Jacek Goreshevsky, spokesman for Dors.
Documents obtained by PB show that in January 2022, the leadership contemplated broader cooperation in the face of potential threats.
“The experience of PANSA in the development and practical application of the Pansa UTM system, combined with the knowledge of the Air Defense Headquarters of the Operational Command of the Polish Armed Forces in the field of combating drones, will make it possible, in my opinion, to create an environment capable of ensuring situational awareness and, if necessary, Take effective measures to prevent possible danger. (…) Guided by the concern for air safety of the Republic of Poland, I ask you to consider the possibility of joint actions aimed at organizing civil and military air traffic management of unmanned aerial vehicles, ”said the letter sent in January ( Jan) 31, 2022 by the Chief of Operations of the RSZ.
How did Pansa buy drones?
In the first half of February 2022, PANSA considered how many and what anti-drone systems it needed. The outbreak of war in Ukraine made the potential threat more real. The agency decided that the PansaUTM system that handles digital planning and real-time management of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) traffic in Warsaw airspace should be updated with radar subsystems for detecting and identifying UAVs, with a particular focus on non-cooperation. Drones, that is, unmanned aircraft that operators have not registered with PansaUTM. It is concerned with detection, identification and disruption of the operation of communication systems as well as the disruption and destruction of UAVs.
Without them [dronów – red.] imaging, we will see (so far) only potential digital UAV images that will be registered (check-in) at PansaUTM,” reads PANSA’s internal message.
The agency planned to purchase five 3D radars from the Gdynia-based Advanced Protection Systems (APS) company. They were to detect UAVs at low altitudes (0-200 metres) in order to protect PANSA’s critical infrastructure facilities and are being installed at airports in Warsaw, Rzeszów and Lublin and the agency’s backup center being built near Poznań. The image from these radars was to be transmitted to PANSA. The experimental use of the radars was to be carried out by the staff of the Poznań Center. The agency’s experts were aware that regulations do not permit the destruction of a drone, even if it poses a threat to health or life, poses a threat to protected facilities, interferes with the course of a mass event or creates reasonable suspicion thereof. It can be used as a means of terrorist attack. That’s why they planned experiments.
In the basic version, five radars were to cost 3.6 million PLN (according to the then exchange rate), and the option with jammers (devices to jam radio signals) 6.7 million PLN. An additional 15 radars were to cost PLN 10.9 million (without jammers) or PLN 20.1 million (with jammers). Because of the war in Ukraine, PANSA decided that the only possible course of action was to order from a single source on the basis of urgency.
As of April 2022, the head of the agency is no longer Janusz Janiszewski, addressee of the letter of the Operational Commander of the Armed Forces, but Anita Oleksiak, appointed by the Ministry of Infrastructure. On August 2, 2022, it ordered the appointment of a committee to prepare and conduct public procurement under open tender, but on February 3, 2023, it canceled the order.
– Anti-drone systems are not the domain of PANSA, but they are compliant with EASA guidelines [Europejska Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Lotniczego – red.] Based on EU regulations, at airports’ discretion – shows lack of interest in anti-drone system Rusłana Krzemińska, PANSA spokeswoman.
– We do not manage the airspace but what is on the ground. The head of Gdańsk Airport, Tomasz Kluskowski, believes that everything that happens in the air is the prerogative of PANSA.
PANSA also claims that there is no way to fund the anti-drone system.
– The system cannot be funded from airspace user fees, which are the source of funding for the NPS [budżet PAŻP – red.]No liabilities for these expenditures have been incurred from other sources. There was also no public procurement procedure for such systems, says Rossana Krzyminska.
In other words: Airspace users, that is, airlines, cannot pay for the anti-drone system, but they can fund … awards to PANSA employees. In December 2022, the agency paid a total of PLN 15.5 million in this form, 93 percent of with nearly 2,000 employees, and in March this year bonuses of a similar amount. Meanwhile, according to estimates by the PB source, given the war in Ukraine and the restriction of access to airspace over Poland, the agency’s revenues could be PLN 120-200 million less than the PLN 1.043 billion planned for 2022.
– If PANSA buys drones in an open tender, the procedure will take at least a year. If you buy it on the spot, you will get the first five sets of the month. The range of these radars is 4-10 km. Enemy drones that have recently appeared over airports will be detected. These systems can see drones the size of a human hand and can distinguish between a drone and a bird, an industry insider says.
Who uses APS systems
APS representatives do not want to comment on the failed PANSA order.
– According to our internal policy and the confidentiality agreements to which we are a party, we cannot comment or refer in detail to issues related to cooperation with contractors or potential contractors – says Bowie Haines, Head of the Legal Department at APS.
More and more entities in Poland and around the world are using the Polish company’s solution, such as SKYctrl – a comprehensive multi-layered system for detecting, tracking and neutralizing drones in the civil and military spheres. The receiver is, among other things, an army. “An anti-drone system produced by Poland, SKYctrl, is already in the equipment of the Polish Army. It has been adapted to work with a layered air defense system. These devices will complement the protection of Polish airspace,” the Minister of National Defense, Mariusz Puszczak, announced on Twitter in April. .
SKYctrl systems are also used to protect Ukrainian forces, critical infrastructure and borders.
– Said one of the Ukrainian servicemen using our systems: “This is the best system that I and other units have seen and used. It can track and neutralize all three classes of non-kinetic drones. Its range meets specifications and is even better, depending on the flight altitude of the drone,” according to a report. Bowie Hintz.
APS solutions are used in Europe (Norway, Estonia, Finland and the Czech Republic), the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) and Asia (South Korea, Singapore and India). The recipients are the regular forces, the military, and managers of critical infrastructure.
– In the context of protecting airports’ critical infrastructure, and above all the lives and health of flight personnel and passengers, it should be noted that our systems have been actively protecting the airspace over Stavanger Airport in Norway for several years – according to the APS representative.
What MEPs have learned
On May 18, deputies of the Infrastructure Subcommittee tried to find out how the government is protecting the country from the Ministry of Infrastructure, the Office of Civil Aviation (ULC), PANSA and the State Aircraft Accidents Investigation Commission from a possible attack using drones. Piotr Samson, head of the Civil Aviation Authority, stated that anti-drone systems are being tested at two airports. However, the system has not been implemented on any of them, because – as the head of the CAA explained – the bureau must make sure that it will not interfere with the ILS system that enables take-off and landing. He did not disclose more “due to the geopolitical situation”. He added that civil aviation control in Poland meets all international standards, and the civil radar system is based on secondary radars that detect an object with a transponder, and military devices can help in the event of objects that the transceiver is not turned on, and the ULC is in constant contact with the military .
– 180,000 registered in the past two years. Drone users, another 180 logged in daily. Soon the drone will be like a mobile phone. Therefore, it is necessary to coordinate all services. We have made a proposal to amend the Aviation Law, which will make the system safer, said Piotr Samson.
– Four meetings remain until the end of the parliament’s membership term, and the next meeting will be held in November. Dariusz Joński commented if the regulations are not discussed within two weeks, they will not be adopted for the following months.