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William Glenn Hill of the Studebaker Group explains counter-drone technologies

The devices in this list represent merely a portion of the widespread efforts made to maintain order and keep the world a safer place

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Image: Dreamworld

The invention of the drone has had a profound impact on the world. With flight capability, direct control over a considerable range, and a relatively compact size, they’ve seen a wide use of applications, from simple observation to filmmaking and even the delivery of goods. From consumer-level use to defense and everything in-between, drones have an accessibility and establishment like never before, and the market for them is still very much growing.

All this being said, unfortunately, as with any new technology, for all the opportunities that it can be used for good, it can also be used for ill. Defense systems are needed in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the general public, but how exactly does one stop a drone in its tracks?

William Glenn Hill and the Studebaker Group are currently advising governments in Africa on drone problems and realize how problematic these topics can be. Here is a list of counter-drone technologies that have been developed to deter the misuse of drones and keep the world a safer place.

The Drone Gun

The drone gun has the appearance of a bazooka; it’s a shoulder-mounted cannon weighing in at 13 pounds, but instead of firing any projectiles it acts as a jammer. With an effective range of 1.25 miles, the drone gun can halt communications between a drone and its pilot, grounding it almost instantly: All one has to do is aim and fire.

READ MORE: The DroneDefender is a rifle that keeps pesky drone operators at bay

Although this device has a large effective range compared to some of the other technologies in this list, it doesn’t always guarantee the recovery of a downed drone, as more often than not, if a drone has its communications interrupted from a high enough altitude, it is extremely unlikely to withstand the resulting fall without sustaining major damage.

ATHENA

ATHENA takes a somewhat different approach to drone defense. Whereas other devices merely disable drones, ATHENA destroys them outright. This is accomplished with a 30-kilowatt laser blast from a laser weapon system mounted from a tall tower. The tower is equipped with advanced computer systems that can quickly identify and subsequently destroy drones, designed with the utmost safety and efficiency in mind.

While ATHENA is essentially incapable of drone recovery, future modifications to the laser’s power may go as high as 120 kilowatts. This will help in ensuring that no matter how large or well-armored a drone target is, it won’t be a match for ATHENA’s capabilities.

The Drone Catcher

Sometimes you need to fight fire with fire, and this is exactly what the drone catcher is designed to do. Instead of being a weapon system or a communications jammer, the drone catcher is a drone specifically engineered to capture other drones. Its guidance systems can lock onto a drone from up to 20 meters away, capturing them in a net and bringing them back virtually unharmed for analysis.

Currently, the drone catcher might well be the best method for preserving offending drones; what it lacks in firepower or speed it makes up for indelicacy. The drone catcher also works much better in congested areas which would make things difficult for other systems to function: It can go anywhere and do anything the enemy drone can do.

SkyWall

SkyWall is another shoulder-mounted weapon designed to take down drones. Similar to the drone catcher, it utilizes a net aimed at capturing a drone instead of destroying it outright. Although it is a heavy 22 pounds, it has an impressive 100-meter range, launching a net with compressed air at high speeds towards the targeted drone. Further impressive is the targeting system, which can lock on to drones and assist users aiming with predictive algorithms, unfazed even by drones moving at high speeds.

After a drone is successfully captured in the net, SkyWall utilizes a built-in parachute to keep it intact, allowing it to safely float to the ground for recovery. This feature is what helps SkyWall stand out as one of the better drone defense technologies that prioritize preservation.

SkyFence

Recently, there has been an increase in the usage of drones to deliver goods illegally to prisoners and it has been a seemingly difficult issue to combat against, says William Glenn Hill. Enter SkyFence, an advanced defense system designed with this specific situation in mind and providing a highly effective means of prevention. It’s best to think of it as a giant virtual box encapsulating a prison in its entirely, with drones being affected as soon as they enter it.

Firstly, drones are immediately disabled as they enter the field, thanks to a jamming signal. While this alone would be sufficient in preventing illegal drone deliveries, SkyFence goes a step beyond and reprograms the offending drones in question to fly back to their point of origin, with the intention of locating and identifying the pilot. With a chance for pilots to be apprehended by the authorities, SkyFence will make them think twice before they attempt to deliver goods illegally. 

William Glenn Hill says that while the invention of the drone has resulted in some exciting new prospects and increased quality of life, it’s reassuring to know that there are also some highly effective countermeasures in place in order to prevent misuse of the technology.

The devices in this list represent merely a portion of the widespread efforts made to maintain order and keep the world a safer place, and new innovations will continue to be made as time goes on. The bottom line is, as with any other new technology, drones are being properly managed so that society as a whole can spend more time focusing on their positive potential as opposed to getting caught up in worry over the new ways in which they might be able to do harm.

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