The same qualities that make drones fantastic tools for capturing amazing aerial footage can also make them a genuine threat that’s difficult to intercept when misused. But a clever new design for an anti-drone countermeasure uses a second drone that sacrifices itself mid-flight to disable its target.
As the capabilities of drones have improved dramatically over the past decade, so have the tools designed to disable drones when they pose a threat. Multiple approaches have been taken, including devices that can interrupt the wireless signals between a drone and a pilot and force the offending flier to either land or crash. Even lasers have been proven effective, as the Navy recently demonstrated using Lockheed Martin’s Layered Laser Defence weapon that can destroy a target mid-flight. But those approaches rely on hardware that can be very expensive.
A more cost-effective solution is simply launching nets at a drone to tangle up its spinning rotors and knock it out of the sky, but even this comes with its own challenges. Ground-launched nets require a drone to be flying low enough to the ground to be in range, while nets launched from another drone in the air require a large and expensive craft that’s strong enough to carry a powered launcher beneath it. Both of those approaches also require propellants to actually launch the net, such as explosives or compressed gas, which need to be replaced or replenished after every launch.
Created using the same chassis, motors, and propellers that are used to build fast and highly manoeuvrable racing drones, Zaitsevsky’s Interceptor Drone benefits from a high power-to-weight ratio, allowing it to quickly intercept another flying target. Depending on its payload, said target will probably be moving at considerably slower speeds.
Cameras onboard the Interceptor Drone provide a real-time view of the target to a pilot on the ground, allowing them to assess whether or not the drone in question poses a genuine threat. If it does, the Interceptor Drone is then piloted and positioned beneath its target, at which point its four motors and propellers rapidly accelerate and detach from the drone, flying upwards while dragging a deployed kevlar net that spreads out and disables the other craft by tangling its own rotors.
The use of the high-powered drone racing motors allows the Interceptor Drone to launch a larger net than other airborne launch systems can accommodate, and as the motors detach from the craft, a parachute is deployed which delivers it safely to the ground and leaves it ready to be quickly reset. Although it’s not an autonomous solution to drone interception — a skilled drone racing pilot is needed for the Interceptor Drone to accurately do its job — as anti-drone technologies go, this drone is incredibly compact and lightweight and can be transported in a small box, allowing a vehicle to carry multiple units and deal with multiple targets.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.