What to do with a misbehaving drone? Catch it with a net. Students at Michigan Tech University developed a drone that’s able to shoot netting up to 40 feet to snag smaller drones and deliver them to waiting humans on the ground. This option might be more preferable if those doing the catching wish to confiscate the offending drone in one piece.
Michigan Tech’s octocopter certainly isn’t the first to employ nets in order to catch unmanned vehicles. Tokyo Police have their own to enforce no-fly zones around the city, and similar drones were built by the South Korean military to fend off drones sent by North Korea. In those cases, the net-wielding drones seem more intent on seek-and-destroy rather than capture-and-deliver.
Developers say the drone can either be flown autonomously or by up to two individuals, and the net is cast quick enough so that even the fastest and most nimble drones can’t outrun it. Once the smaller drone is ensnared, gravity takes over and the net swings below the capturing one, allowing for retrieval.
Michigan Tech associate professor Mo Rastgaar and a team of three students developed the drone, and intend to file patents on their work. Rastgaar sees it as valuable to law enforcement, who may need to take more extreme measures to take down drones given that it now must be registered in order to fly. If criminal charges are to follow for flying an unlicensed drone, it’s probably best that it’s undamaged for proof.
“What makes this unique is that the net is attached to our catcher, so you can retrieve the rogue drone or drop it in a designated, secure area,” he says. “It’s like robotic falconry.”
No word on when Rastgaar’s capture drone will be available or its cost just yet, although it appears the capture drones are not intended for public use. Besides law enforcement, the capture drone is expected to find uses in anti-spying, anti-terrorism, and anti-smuggling operations.