Drones have now pervaded pretty much every single sector of industry. With everything from grocery delivery to explosive "suicide" drones, these little multirotor aircraft have become incredibly useful for a variety of applications.
Owing to their incredible speed, tiny form, and complete lack of any human involvement within (in some cases) miles of their location, small drones are swiftly becoming a problem for the military. They can have guns attached to the bottom of the craft, allowing for rapid assassinations, or they can be loaded to the brim with explosives and sent at a target. The average quadcopter can hit speeds of 112 kilometers per hour (70 miles per hour), while racing models can achieve much higher than that – trying to shoot them down or ground them by other means is no easy feat.
However, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) may have solved the killer drone problem in the most fabulous way: simply shooting confetti at them. That’s right – stock up on birthday streamers because they truly are the weapon of the future.
In a somewhat comical video posted to the DARPA YouTube channel, the government agency has unveiled a new anti-drone countermeasure that blasts drones out of the sky in a colorful pop. Deployed by a moving vehicle, the single-rotor aircraft is deployed to travel in front of the moving enemy drone and shoots "strong, stringy streamers" that become entangled in its propellers, rendering it inoperable and sending it crashing to the ground. Although the streamers may look unthreatening, the new system is cheap, effective, and can be used around civilian areas.
Watch as the drone countermeasures blast the combatant out of the sky in a burst of color. Video Credit: DARPAtv/YouTube
It also requires far less precision than alternative methods, with a large scatter of streamers more likely to connect than single bullets or other weapons.
The streamer system is entirely autonomous, using detection systems to identify threats and deploy countermeasures to protect vehicles in transit.
“The technology demonstrator successfully neutralized tactically-relevant drones using a newly-developed X band radar that automatically senses and identifies unmanned aerial system threats. The radar then pairs targets to specific interceptors through an automated decision engine tied to a command and control system, launching and guiding rotary and fixed wing interceptors with two types of drone countermeasures while on the move and without operator intervention.” writes DARPA in their press release.
DARPA is now working to transfer the technology into use, although it is unknown if or when it will enter active duty. The technology displayed in the demonstration is incredibly impressive, and will no doubt have many more applications than just drone-popping.
With the threat of "killer drones" looming, this is not the first out-of-the-box idea to ground tiny aerial combatants. Perhaps the most interesting (and insane-looking) is the anti-drone frequency cannon by DroneSheild, which apparently disrupts the connection between the drone and remote pilot from multiple kilometers away. Also, it looks like a weapon from Halo, so that helps.
Other attempts involve high-energy laser beams literally blasting the drone out of the sky, anti-drone net bazookas, and various other wild attempts to keep the swarms at bay. When compared to the competition, a confetti cannon suddenly seems to be the least wild option – at least for now.
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