The drones made it big time in the consumer market and soon the question wasn’t if they would be a success but how to control and take down drones that are suspicious. Since then we have seen a number of approaches being employed but none have gained as much traction as the drone-catching nets used by drones themselves. By making use of Tokyo’s police lead, a team of mechanical engineers has created a retrieval system that allows them to capture drones and safely take the catch to the desired place.
Tokyo’s police department, last month, came up with a drone-hunting aircraft that towed two large nets and was able to scoop up suspicious aircraft before any harm was caused. It was flown by riot police and the department was hoping to catch any drones that might be sneaking around in sensitive areas such as the Japanese Prime Minister’s office (yes, this really happened in April, 2015).
This led to the conception by Mo Rastgaar, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Michigan Technological University. The system is a bit more sophisticated and elegant and has been described as ‘Robotic falconry’. The system makes use of a big hexacopter along with a net launching system that has been incorporated into its body.
Upon spotting any illegal aircraft, the drone fires a net and can do so from a maximum distance of 40ft. The fired net captures the targeted drone and can then be driven back underneath the hexacopter, subsequently being swept away from the area. The team claims that the net has been designed so that it is large enough to be able to catch the most agile and fastest of the drones out there as well.
It can be flown autonomously or can be piloted by a person on ground or a combination of both can be used. The team has already filed a patent for the system and hopes that the system would be able to find a multitude of application including counter terrorism, drug smuggling and spy operations while also helping out with the enforcement of drone regulations.
Rastgaar said, “The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has just announced that drones must be registered, and we think the catcher could help enforce the law by catching unregistered drones.”