Honeywell Aerospace, a leading global provider of integrated avionics, engines, systems and service solutions for aircraft manufacturers and airlines has filed a patent application for a system that will deploy UAVs to protect airliners from shoulder-fired missile attacks on civilian aircraft. Honeywell said its system will thwart such attacks during aircraft takeoff or landing by using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as decoys and chaff and flare dispensers.
The concept is revealed in a patent application re-filed by Honeywell's law department last month.
The patent proposal dismisses systems, currently being developed, that would seek to install directed infrared countermeasure systems or chaff and flare dispensers on some 10,000 airliners in service globally. It says these systems would be too costly and impractical.
"This formation drone aircraft, which carries various missile detection and diversion equipment, is controlled by a wireless data link that is coupled directly into the airliner's flight control system," the application states.
"When the formation drone determines that a missile is being viewed by a missile sensor head, the formation drone lays down a predetermined pattern of exploding flares to divert the missile away from the airliner, attempts to spoof the missile using laser countermeasures or sacrifices itself to protect the airliner."
Under normal circumstances, when there is no attack, the UAV would escort the airliner up to an altitude of 18,000ft. At which point control of the UAV would transfer from the airliner's flight control system to the airport's air traffic control system.