There is no question that drones are controversial. From concerns over privacy and government intrusion to armed drones being built in backyards, what is seen as a hobby by some is viewed with suspicion from others. Earlier this year a Kentucky man was arrested after shooting a drone out of the sky when he claimed it hovered over his house and videotaped his daughters. Similar stories have come out of New Jersey and rural California, and companies have taken notice. One ammunition manufacturer even offered specialized shotgun shells to shoot the unmanned aerial vehicles, but another company has a different idea.
Battelle, a private nonprofit technology firm based in Ohio, recently announced the development of a device that uses targeted radio waves and other methods to knock drones out of the sky.
“This is just the kind of tool we need to safely counter a drone threat,” said Dan Stamm, senior researcher who led the project, in a press release. “The DroneDefender can help protect us from those who may wish to do us harm.”
The DroneDefender may look like a rifle ripped out of a science-fiction movie, but it actually operates without firing a single bullet. Instead, the “rifle” uses radio control frequency disruption technologies to take control of drones and force them to land. Obviously, this has the advantage of alleviating certain legal issues, as shooting the craft out of the sky with a conventional firearm is often illegal. Batelle stated that the weapon is easy to use and requires little more than pointing it at the drone and pulling the trigger. The company also stated that the final product will be inexpensive, although no price is currently listed.
“It can help us in numerous settings, from the White House lawn to bases and embassies overseas; from prisons and schools to historic sites,” said Alex Morrow, technical director on the project. “It easily and reliably neutralizes the threat.”
The rifle is available with a Picatinny rail mount and comes with a suite of jamming circuitry, software-defined radio, and two antennas. Its total weight is less than 10 pounds and has an operating range of 400 meters. Battelle is waiting for approval from the Federal Communications Commission before the device can be sold—or even used on American soil. The company did confirm that the DroneDefender was tested successfully in field trials.
You can see a video of the device being operated below: