7 of the craziest ways to shoot drones out of the sky

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YouTube/SkyWall

Now that pretty much anyone with $1000 and some free time can pilot a sophisticated drone, people are starting to see them pop up everywhere – at parks, in cities, nearby airports.

But that raises issues because not everyone is a fan of a buzzing quadcopter flying overhead or outside your building. Some people are justifiably concerned about buzzing spy cameras flying outside their window. For places like airports, or government facilities, stopping drones is critical for security.

That’s why some investors believe “drone defense” could be a huge field in the future. Here are your current options for zapping drones out of the sky:


One startup, SkySafe, says it can identify drones by brand and model, and with the push of a button on your smartphone, take them out of the sky. The company says it can even identify where the drone’s operator is.

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BI Screenshot

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The company has raised $3 million in a round of venture capital funding led by Andreessen Horowitz.

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SkySafe

viaGIPHY

viaGIPHY


The startup says it can take control of the drone from an operator, by spoofing radio signals as if SkySafe is the legitimate controller. However, big drone makers like DJI or 3D Robotics are skeptical that their technology works. Here’s the full demo video:


OpenWorks Engineering, based in England, has a different approach to drone defense. It involves a bazooka.

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OpenWorks Engineering/YouTube

Basically, a shoulder-fired air-powered bazooka will fire an expanding net that can trap a drone and bring it to the ground. This approach doesn’t really need any fancy radio frequency tricks. The bazooka comes with a digital display scope that will help users aim and hit the drone, which could be tricky for novices.

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YouTube/SkyWall

After the drone is captured in the net, a parachute brings it down to earth without breaking the drone.

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OpenWorks Engineering/YouTube

OpenWorks Engineering hasn’t settled on a final price for the bazooka, but it’s expected to be in customer hands by the end of the year. Here’s the full demo video:


Drone defense doesn’t even need to be technology, exclusively. Dutch police, in collaboration with a company called Guard From Above, are training birds of prey, like eagles, to intercept drones in the sky.

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BI Screenshot

viaGIPHY

viaGIPHY


“There are situations in which drones are not allowed to fly. This has almost always to do with security,” a police officer involved in the project told National Geographic, citing an example in which a rescue helicopter could not land because of a drone. Watch the full video below:

More information about drone-hunting eagles is available at National Geographic.


Researchers at Michigan Technological University are working on drones that can catch other drones.

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MTU

It’s only a proof of concept right now, but researchers think it can be a fully autonomous system. It can capture a drone from as many as 40 feet away. Here’s the full demo video:


But consumer-oriented drone defense startups don’t have anything on actual defense companies, many of which have incredible ways to fight drones. Boeing, for instance, has demoed a laser-based system that can fit inside a suitcase.

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Boeing

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HEL MD, as its called, shoots a 10 kilowatt beam of focused light at light speed — until the drone bursts into flames. It has to be mounted on a big tactical military vehicle.

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Boeing

More information from Boeing.


Here’s the full video from Boeing:


The Department of Defense is looking into drone defense as well. Here’s Secretary of Defense Ash Carter getting a demo of a “cyber capability rifle.”


According to Popular Mechanics, the rifle is custom-built from a Raspberry Pi and Wi-Fi radio, and uses a vulnerability in the specific model of drone to turn off its power. Apparently, it only cost $150 in parts to build.

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U.S. Army

Source. More info available from the National Defense University Press.


A small startup called DroneDefender is making its own rifle. But it uses targeted radio waves, instead of a specific command delivered through Wi-Fi. It has a range of more than 1,300 feet.

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DroneDefender/YouTube

However, this drone-zapping gun is currently illegal in the United States, thanks to FCC regulation. Here’s more footage:


Droneshield has gotten attention for providing anti-drone services to Boston’s city government during the Boston Marathon. Its website advertises airports, prisons, and stadiums as locations that might want to use its technology.

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Droneshield

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Droneshield works by detecting the signature sound made by a drone’s propellers from long distances — but it can’t shoot them down in the sky, so law enforcement will need to fire a net gun themselves.

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DroneShield