With the Number of Consumer Drones Increasing, So Too Do The Counter-Measures
photo: Lee – cc
For as long as there have been cool things springing from the fountain of technology, there have been unscrupulous a-holes more than willing to ruin it for everybody. Over the course of the last decade we’ve seen the emergence of highly maneuverable consumer drones enter the hands of anyone with as little as $20 to spare. Quickly sparking a devout fan-base of hobbyists, casual aviators, and videographers, it was only a matter of time before the morons were unleashed upon our newest high-flying past-time. With a rise in drones hitting dudes in the face, nearly colliding with airliners, and perhaps most importantly encroaching on privacy, we’re beginning to see a frustrated response to the question, “Where am I allowed to fly my drone?”
The Trouble with Drones
If you haven’t flown a drone yet, I highly recommend it. They’re becoming easier to get a hold of and they’re just as fun as they look. The matter of respectful airspace, however, while mostly acknowledged by the majority of drone enthusiasts, is quite often ignored. It was only recently last year that California updated the Invasion of Privacy Law to ban the photographing via drone of anyone “under circumstances in which [they] had a reasonable expectation of privacy.” And it’s no joke either – the penalty is specified as a civil fine of AT LEAST $5,000, but less than $50,000, not including as much as 3 times any claimed damage caused by the drone. Ouch. Such laws have been largely seen as a response to paparazzi-style invasions of celebrity life, but drones have also been used for other more nefarious purposes such as peeping out nude sunbathers or blatant pre-meditated harassment.
With a large portion of the population ranging from a bit uneasy to vehemently anti-drone, some creative (and often malicious) counter-measures have been concocted as an answer to the free-flying robots. Here are just a few:
Though still very much in the testing phase of development (not even a proof-of-concept video exists), a California group of commercial drone developers have teamed up with “computer vision experts” to create an autonomous “anti-drone” drone called “Rapere.”
The premise is simple – with the press of a button Rapere hunts down the offending quadrocopter (or similarly bladed drone) then cripples its blades by lowering a wire into it. With a flight time of only 2 minutes, it relies on fast battery expenditure (aka speed) to ensure very little chance of escape.
photo: rapere – cc
While the site offers little info other than that they’re having fun trying to evade the Rapere during trial runs, plenty of skepticism from drone hobbyists boasting high levels of evasion skill means the Rapere has its work cut out for it.
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Though the concept itself is more than enough to attract the attention of tech geeks everywhere, it goes without saying the real fun would be in a Rapere vs. Rapere battle.
Quite a bit more “finished” than Rapere, DroneShield is a sonic-detection system started by the appropriately named Brian Hearing to alert venues or any private properties to the presence of drones.
photo: DroneShield – cc
The DroneShield system detects the sonic frequencies made by trespassing drones, and even has the ability to indicate which type of drone is the offender in many cases.
At the Boston Marathon last Monday, DroneShield offered its system to the Boston Police Department along with a few net guns to ensure runners remained unharrassed in the city-mandated “no-drone zone.” As much fun as it would be to see a net gun take out a quadrocopter, unfortunately no drones were detected.
While the potential to train a bird to take down a drone is very real, there have been no real instances seen of anyone actually doing so… yet. There have, however been quite a few instances of wild birds besting their mechanical counterparts.
Bird trainers have acknowledged the possibility of using predatory birds for such endeavors, but question why anyone would want to do such a thing. The potential for injury to the bird is relatively high, and there are simply easier more cost-effective ways to bring down a drone.
Guns Guns Guns
Perhaps nothing is more effective at drone counter-measures than traditional American gunpowder. More than a few reports of gunfire against drones have been recorded in multiple states, the bulk of which, however, appear to be against government surveillance drones.
Many in a small Colorado town share the sentiments of a man clearly razzed by the National Defense Authorization Act, which allocates a certain amount of money for projects such as drone surveillance on US soil.
While many maintain the “nothing to worry about if I’m doing nothing wrong” mentality, others deride their perceived lack of concern for what they believe is the beginning of a very slippery slope.
While counter-measures can be put into place, and counter-measures to those counter-measures will follow, the best solution is common sense. If you fly a drone, don’t spy on people, don’t fly over large groups of people, stay away from windows, and don’t try and race air-liners. There, consider this one solved.
Bonus Anti-Drone: Chimpanzee