The Past, Present And Future Of Anti-Drone Tech

Barely a week goes by without drone operators making news for the wrong reasons. Collisions with manned aircraft, unauthorized flights above sporting events and contraband deliveries into prisons litter the headlines.

As the use cases for drones continue to expand exponentially for good actors and bad actors alike, we are starting to see the inevitable rise of a counter-drone industry — one that offers ways to identify and mitigate the threats posed by drones to protect sensitive infrastructure.

A Necessary Evil?

Nobody in the drone industry wants to see drones falling from the sky. But many law enforcement groups and event managers argue that the capability is increasingly necessary, a point that highlights how far technology has come in a few short years.

The latest drones, including consumer models, are highly sophisticated platforms that require very little input from the pilot. Most novices can pick up a drone from industry leader DJI and be comfortable behind the controls in a matter of minutes. A growing number of increasingly capable drones in our skies poses obvious challenges.

The most serious risks have arguably yet to be realized. These include espionage and weaponization. Last August, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau released a memo accusing Chinese manufacturer DJI of spying on critical infrastructure in the United States. The ease of use and accessibility of the latest drone models opens the door to those who would use drones for malicious purposes. Flying a drone over a sensitive location is more than possible — just ask the folks over at the White House or Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.

It would be irresponsible to ignore the need for counter-drone technology. So what are the options? The counter-drone market is full of competing methods for handling rogue UAVs. These range from the unsophisticated to the highly technical and from kinetic options to infosec solutions.

For example, one Dutch company, Guard From Above, made headlines by using trained eagles to bring down drones. Other kinetic methods include the OpenWorks Engineering Skywall system, which engages and captures a wayward drone in a net before landing it safely using a parachute.

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