7 amazing anti-drone technologies designed to swat UAVs out of the sky

Drones are pretty darn awesome, but that’s not to say they can’t also be troublemakers. Whether it’s delivering contraband to individuals in prison, risking people’s safety by straying into flight paths, or breaching security by snapping photos and video where they’re not allowed, it’s easy to see why there would be demand for anti-drone technologies.

Fortunately for gadget lovers, some of these approaches are every bit as high-tech as the UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) they’re designed to bring down.

Here are seven of the most intriguing pieces of anti-drone technology in existence right now. And no, sadly you probably can’t buy most of them as a regular civilian with an eye on annoying your drone-owning next door neighbors.

DroneGun

With a name like “DroneGun,” there’s not too much apparent mystery about this solution — although it’s a bit more nuanced than its blunt force trauma name makes it sound.

Developed by Australian company DroneShield, this bazooka-looking creation works by jamming the signal between drone and drone pilot, thereby grounding unwanted UAVs. The anti-drone weapon tips the scale at 13 pounds, and is reportedly capable of warding off rogue quadcopters from up to 1.25 miles away.

ATHENA

Forget about puny handheld anti-drone weapons: defense giant Lockheed Martin wants to blast offending UAVs out of the sky by using a specially developed giant laser tower like we’re living in the future.

Called ATHENA (Advanced Test High Energy Asset), a 30-kilowatt version of the laser weapon has already been shown off in demos to the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, where it fried the heck out of five Outlaw drones.

The final version of ATHENA promises to fire anywhere up to a 120-kilowatt laser blast, should your drone problem be big enough.

DroneCatcher

As satisfying as frying drones in midair with a giant laser might be, there are, unfortunately, occasions on which it might not be appropriate. One example? When a drone is being used in restricted areas, and you want to be able to ground it without losing potentially incriminating evidence.

That’s where Dutch firm Delft Dynamics’ DroneCatcher comes into play. DroneCatcher is essentially an anti-drone drone, capable of locking onto an enemy UAV in the air and then catching it in a net from up to 20 meters away.

SkyWall 100

Like a ground-based version of DroneCatcher, SkyWall 100 is a net-launching bazooka that promises to bring down an enemy drone from 100 meters away.

Weighing 22 pounds, the shoulder-mounted cannon uses compressed air to fire its net. To keep the drone in one piece (for all the reasons we mentioned in the last entry), it then deploys a parachute to return its vanquished foe to terra firma.

Heck, it even helps out its operator by using predictive algorithms to help lock on to drones which may be moving at high speeds.

Sky Fence

Drones pose a real threat to prison security, since they’re capable of easily flying over walls and delivering contraband to folks behind bars. With that in mind, a prison in the U.K. this year installed 2,000-foot “drone shield,” designed to incapacitate law-defying quadcopters.

The Sky Fence system incorporates a number of signal disruptors, designed to jam the flight control signal of drones as they fly by. More impressively, it then makes the drone fly back to where it took off from, giving officers the chance to seize the offending pilot.

Eagle power

Remember that scene in Family Guy in which Peter’s new drone was plucked out of the air by an eagle? It may sound crazy, but that’s exactly the low-tech solution that Dutch cops showed off in early 2016, when they demonstrated how UAVs were no match for the sharp talons and eyesight of one of nature’s most awesome flying predators.

What could possibly go wrong, right? Unfortunately it turns out that the eagles didn’t always do what was expected of them during training sessions, leading to the retirement of this particular approach. We’re not sure whether to chalk this up as a win for nature or machine. We totally give them props for trying, though!

Drone malware

Hacking an enemy drone in midair, before it can do any damage, totally sounds like a set piece from one of the Mission: Impossible movies. In fact, it’s the real world concept behind Maldrone, a security vulnerability demonstrated by researcher Rahul Sasi. The malware can be used to remotely hijack drones, kill the on-board autopilot, and then take control remotely.

The process may not be quite so smooth or instantaneous as some of the other approaches on this list, but there’s certainly something poetic about bringing down a drone with its own vulnerabilities. Hey, it’s not like you’ve always got a net-shooting bazooka when you need one!

Features

Will high-res radar make tomorrow’s cars safer?

Modern cars have sensors designed to make driving safer. The problem? They don’t work well. A combination of radar, lidar, and cameras is a solution, but we aren’t there yet.
Emerging Tech

Eye-tracking tech lets you control a drone by looking where you want it to move

Put down your smartphones and other drone controllers. Researchers have invented a method to allow drone pilots to fly drones using a pair of eye-tracking glasses. What could be simpler?
Emerging Tech

From flying for fun to pro filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Emerging Tech

Removing ‘zombie cells’ in the brain could help battle the effects of dementia

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have demonstrated how the removal of so-called "zombie cells" can help reverse the effects of dementia-style cognitive decline in mice. Here's what they did.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s planet hunter satellite gets first hit in its search for another Earth

NASA's planet hunter satellite TESS has discovered a new Earth-like planet. At only 62 light-years distant, the new find is much closer than the Kepler Mission's 2015 exoplanet discovery -- that one was 155 light-years distant.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Click-to-brew beer, comfy headlamps, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

New mask-mounted head-up display gives Navy combat divers tactical advantage

Divers are often forced to work in low-light conditions where visibility is limited or all-but nonexistent. In order to help solve this problem, the Navy has developed a new head-up display known as Shadow Nav.
Emerging Tech

Roll over, SpotMini — here comes the ALMA robo-dog

If two robo-dogs met on the street, would one try to sniff the mechanical components at the rear of the other? We have no idea, but with at least two different rob-dogs now making real advances, we may soon find out.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese spacecraft just landed two rovers on an asteroid

Japan's space agency has succeeded in landing two rovers on the surface of an asteroid around 200 million miles from Earth. The deployment is part of a bold mission aimed at unlocking some of the mysteries of our solar system.
Emerging Tech

3D-printed gun advocate extradited to Texas to face sex-assault charges

Cody Wilson, the founder of Defense Distributed, has been arrested in Tawan. U.S. law enforcement have reported that they are working with Taiwanese authorities to have Wilson returned to the U.S. where he faces charges of sexual assault.
Emerging Tech

This mirror-wielding robot arm behaves in a freakily lifelike manner

Created by German-based artist Piet Schmidt, this robot arm project will come close to tricking you into thinking it's a real creature, based on its behavior. Check it out in action.
Emerging Tech

This app-controlled prosthetic tail may be the weirdest wearable device yet

San Diego Comic-Con may be almost a year away, but it’s never too early to start preparing your cosplay costume. This wearable animatronic tail, controlled via your smartphone, should help.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft and Shell build A.I. into gas stations to help spot smokers

Shell and Microsoft have created a system for gas stations that can spot someone who's smoking or about to smoke. The platform uses multiple cameras, local computing power, and Microsoft's cloud intelligence system to do the job.