How to Shoot Down a Drone

…without actually shooting.

The ominous-looking DroneGun can fire directed radio beams at drones over a mile away. (DroneShield)
airspacemag.com

With all the news reports on nefarious uses of consumer drones and near misses with airplanes, it’s no surprise that another new technology is making headlines: “counter-drone” or “anti-drone” measures. The most notable of these is the just-announced “DroneGun Tactical Drone Jammer” by Herndon, Virginia-based DroneShield corporation.

Despite the name, this “gun” doesn’t fire a physical projectile (the FAA announced earlier this year that it’s a federal crime to shoot down a drone). Rather, it’s a menacing-looking directional antenna that emits a focused beam of radio waves—a literal ray gun. The beam transmits over a range of frequencies used by Wi-Fi devices and radio-controlled drones, and optionally on GPS and GLONASS frequencies that can prevent the drone from knowing where it is. The radio waves blasted out from the DroneGun simply overpower links to the drone’s user, shutting down the video feed and forcing it to make a controlled landing or (if pre-programmed to do so) return to its launch point. This allows the DroneGun user to either intercept the drone after its forced landing, or follow it home (assuming it can still navigate). With its focused directional beam, the system can bring down consumer drones up to 1.2 miles away.

Of course, to jam and down a drone, the DroneGun user first has to detect it. That’s where another recently released product by the same company, called “DroneShield,” comes in handy. This gadget uses what’s called MASINT, or “measurement and signature intelligence,” to detect and identify a drone’s audible signatures. Based on the company’s patent-pending technology, the DroneShield alerts the user to the location of the aerial intruder, who can then pull out his or her DroneGun. And with a two hour battery charge, a “DroneGunner” could even hunt down a swarm of attacking drones. 

About Ed Darack
Ed Darack

Air & Space/Smithsonian contributing editor Ed Darack’s forthcoming book, The Final Mission of Extortion 17 (Smithsonian Books, 2017), covers the story of the people and circumstances of Extortion 17 and its downing in Afghanistan in August 2011. The shootdown was the single deadliest incident in the war in Afghanistan. The book grew out of his article in the Feb./Mar. 2015 issue. See his website and Facebook page for more information.

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