As drones proliferate, next tech leap will be countermeasures

Check out the camera on the bottom of that quadcopter. Photo courtesy of
Check out the camera on the bottom of that quadcopter. Photo courtesy of

A recurring theme in the history of military arms is that a counter-measure emerges for every new technological development. Then a counter to the counter.

7/23 – Wall Street Journal – Next Step for Drones: Defending Against Them / Antidrone defense systems are a rising new business as military, aviation concerns mount.

Today’s illustration of evolving counter-measures is from the WSJ article. Small drones are starting to cause disruption, such as the presence of a couple of drones halted firefighting airplanes and helicopters at a fire near my home recently.

The article points out the German Chancellor’s political rally was recently disrupted by a drone.

They have been used a couple of times to smuggle contraband into prisons. As I was writing this post, saw that Authorities foil drone-delivery of porn, drugs and gun to Maryland prison.

The military threat of small drones, either for observation or potentially to carry a small explosive, are real and rising.

The WSJ article points out there are multiple companies working to develop systems to identify and disable small drones. Detection could use either sound sensors or radar. Challenge for radar detection is all such systems have been designed to filter out small returns such as from a bird. Now the engineering whizzes are working to change the algorithms to distinguish between flight pattern of a bird compared to a drone. Step to counter that would be to introduce random bounces and change in direction of a drone’s flight.

Systems to halt a drone involve either destroying it or disabling it. Major ethical, legal, and practical issues are involved in how to stop a drone and where. On the military side the decisions might be easier. For example it’s a simple decision for a drone that is approaching an extremely high priority location such as the White House or Capital or troops in the field. At the Boston Marathon there was a system deployed, referred to as a “net gun”, which would have presumably entangled the blades of any drones that got too close and brought them to the ground without distraction.

The endpoint of this development which I can foresee is eventually getting an economic system which celebrities could deploy around their mansions to disable paparazzi’s drones hovering outside their windows.

Oh wait. The counter-counter would be for paparazzi to launch half-dozen or a dozen drones to look in the windows, which would overwhelm the defense system.

Aha! Then the defense system could be beefed up to handle multiple simultaneous targets.

And then the paparazzi would…

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