Have the skies over your backyard been darkened with privacy-invading drones? Wish there was a good way to bring them down? As a cranky, ineffective technophobe, I feel your pain. But the fact of the matter is that your drone-repulsion options are limited. Throwing rocks at drones is ineffective. Yelling at the skies just makes you look crazy. You can always grab a gun and try to shoot down the drone, but then you become the jackass. (Oh, and it’s illegal.) There’s got to be a better way!
The Battelle Memorial Institute might have found one. Zach Epstein at BGR.com writes that the Columbus, Ohio–based defense contractor recently unveiled a nonlethal drone taker-downer that it calls the DroneDefender. The device is basically a giant antenna mounted on a rifle stock. Aim it at a drone in flight, and the contraption will bombard it with radio waves that disrupt its remote control and GPS signals, putting you, the DroneDefender user, at the errant drone’s helm. After staging this aerial coup d’etat, you can use the DroneDefender to gently guide the intruding drone down to the ground, where it can be stomped on, traced back to its owner, or offered up for ritual sacrifice, depending on your local customs.
A Battelle-produced promotional video for the DroneDefender shows the device in action. I’m a big fan of this video, especially the part where a bro in sunglasses and a purple T-shirt sends a quadcopter to breach the perimeter of a secure facility, presumably in some sort of fraternity hazing ritual. His antics are thwarted by a lumbering security guard who takes his sweet time getting his DroneDefender out of his truck. “The DroneDefender: Why Hurry?” would be a great slogan for this product.
A few caveats before you rush out to Micro Center to place your preorder. The DroneDefender is not yet street legal, and until Battelle obtains Federal Communications Commission clearance for the device, it will remain the stuff of dreams and Internet videos. And not even really-real videos: The YouTube description notes, “Due to U.S. Federal regulations, this is a simulation of our DroneDefender.” If and when the DroneDefender does go up for sale, I really cannot imagine that Battelle will immediately market it to the consumer sector. (SPOUSE 1: “Honey, I just spent my entire paycheck on this futuristic radio-rifle!” SPOUSE 2: “I want a divorce.”) In its current incarnation, the DroneDefender is clearly intended for government and institutional use. Still, today's military prototype is tomorrow’s household gadget, and, if nothing else, the existence of the DroneDefender—and the 700,000+ YouTube views its promotional video has already received—indicates an emerging market for drone-repulsion devices that can improve upon shotguns, rocks, and yelling.
This article is part of a Future Tense series on the future of drones and is part of a larger project, supported by a grant from Omidyar Network and Humanity United, that includes a drone primer from New America.