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Thanks to those pesky government regulations, you can’t just whip out a 12-gauge shotgun every time a quadcopter whizzes past your porch. So what’s a red-blooded American fiercely defending his privacy from a recreational drone assault to do?
While it might drain all the fun out of drone hunting, there is now a non-kinetic alternative to taking out unmanned aerial nuisances that won’t send dozens of tiny, potentially lethal metal pellets speeding through the air toward your neighbor’s pool party.
Developed by the Ohio-based applied science and technology group Battelle, the inaptly named “DroneDefender” system promises to render drones inoperable mid-flight “without compromising safety or risking collateral damage.”
The DroneDefender looks like a weapon Sigourney Weaver might use to do battle with an acid-spewing alien, but in reality it utilizes a harmless directed-energy pulse to disrupt the radio frequencies controlling a drone’s flight. “It basically makes the drone think that it’s gone out of range,” Battelle senior researcher Dan Stamm told Motherboard.
With the proper safety protocols enabled, you won’t even experience the evil pleasure that comes with watching another person’s drone hurdle inescapably toward the Earth. Ideally the drone will follow one of three default commands, according to Stamm: “It’ll either hover in position until the pilot can regain control link, it lands so the pilot can recover it physically, or it returns to its point of origin.”
Alas, the DroneDefender won’t likely find its way into the hands of average consumers anytime soon. The radio frequencies it controls—or more precisely, jams—are for the time being strictly regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. However, Battelle’s invention could provide law enforcement and other government authorities the ability to incapacitate drones without risking public safety.
Don’t be surprised if you see a Secret Service agent hauling one of these bad boys around the White House lawn pretty soon.
Dell Cameron was a reporter at the Daily Dot who covered security and politics. In 2015, he revealed the existence of an American hacker on the U.S. government's terrorist watchlist. He is a co-author of the Sabu Files, an award-nominated investigation into the FBI's use of cyber-informants. He became a staff writer at Gizmodo in 2017.