WATCH THIS: Tokyo police deploy a crime-fighting drone squad

With the increasing affordability and accessibility of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), one of the emerging questions for authorities is: how do you catch a drone? Police in Tokyo have come up with a solution. Send a bigger drone after it with a net.

“Terrorist attacks using drones carrying explosives are a possibility,” a senior member of the police department’s security bureau told The Asahi Shimbun. “We hope to defend the nation’s functions with the worst-case scenario in mind.”

As of December, the Metropolitan Police Department unit that patrols the prime minister’s office, the Imperial Palace and the National Diet Building will be equipped with the drone-catching UAV. The six-propeller crime-fighting drone will be armed with a 3 x 2-metre net, which will snare suspicious-looking drones. The measures come several months after a drone was found to have dropped a radioactive package on the roof of Japanese prime minister, Shinzō Abe, in April. 

Safety concerns

In October, The Guardian reported on a “death ray”, developed by a set of British technology firms, which can knock pesky unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) out of the sky by targeting their radio frequency.

The sellers of the device, Liteye Systems, allegedly want to approach airports and the homeland security market, aiming to solve the problem of how to safely disable unwanted drones without affecting nearby mobile reception, or generally damaging people and property.

Drone drug smuggling - octocopter drone

As commercially available UAVs have swollen in popularity, there has been a major increase in the number of cases when drones have been a nuisance or danger to others. When forest fires engulfed large sections of national forest in California this summer, DC-10 planes carrying over 10,000 gallons of retardant were prevented from dropping their cargo by private drones. Small drones are also said to be an “emerging threat” to UK prison systems, after a drone was used to drop heroin, marijuana and tobacco into the prison yard of an Ohio prison.

There’s also the issue of surveillance. Earlier this year, French police investigated the appearance of UAVs in the airspace above the Les Invalides military museum and Place de la Concorde. Earlier this week in London, a filmmaker was fined £1,225 for flying a drone over Hyde Park, which goes against the Civil Aviation Authority’s rules on drone use in public spaces.

But…

If you can’t find the person controlling the drone, how do you catch the UAV that’s hovering over your head? Here are some of the ways people have been taking down drones.thedrones

Five ways to combat unwanted drones

Jam it

While Liteye Systems’ Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS) might look like a set of rifle barrels, it’s in fact a series of directional radio antennas. Developed by Enterprise, Chess Systems and Blighter, the anti-drone “gun” is apparently able to target a specific UAV and interfere with its specific radio signal – effectively turning it off without affecting phones or other drones.

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It seems like a highly effective way to disable UAVs, but, seeing as it’s being pitched to airports and homeland security, you’re unlikely to be able to afford one for your garden.

Net it

Similar to the tactics planned by police in Tokyo, earlier in the year French authorities demonstrated a clever way of stopping a drone – send a bigger drone after it with a net. In La Queue-en-Brie, east of Paris, a drone Interceptor MP200 was used to catch a DJI Phantom 2. It’s a good way of preventing disabled drones from crashing into innocent bystanders, but it does raise the question of what do you do when the larger drone goes rogue and needs to be caught. What happens then, eh? Send out an aeroplane? Who watches the watchmen?drone_to_catch_a_drone

Shoot it

People with guns and a rigid sense of personal property tend to not get on too well with personal drones, which have a habit of flying a little too close for comfort.

In July of this year, a man from Kentucky decided to shoot down a drone that was allegedly hovering over his sunbathing daughter. Earlier this week, a man from Louisiana shot down a drone, justifying his actions on the grounds that his wife felt she was being watched. In general, firing a gun over people’s heads is probably never a good idea – so we wouldn’t advocate this. (See also: throwing rocks/scissors/shoes)

shooting_drone

Hire a fisherman

This may not be the most reliable method of stopping drones, but it’s without a doubt the most impressive.

In August, a man was flying his DJI Phantom drone over the pier at Pacific Beach in San Diego, when a local fisherman went full-on Captain Ahab and cast his fishing line at it. The fisherman managed to hook onto the propellers of the drone as it hovered in mid-air, before eventually letting it fly away to safety.

Legal them to death

While there are certain areas where personal drone use is a definite no-go, such as The White House or Houses of Parliament, private homes are a little harder to police. In America, a consortium of drone manufacturers has banded together to create a national database of flight permissions for drone users.nodronezone

Register your address on NoFlyZone and your property will be added to a list of areas where drone flight is blocked. Only a handful of drone companies have so far agreed to be part of the project, and it’s currently only available in the US, but if it ends up being a success it could end up being a coherent way of negotiating the often-confusing rules of where you can and cannot fly your UAE.

Images: AP, PR and Thomas McMullan

If you liked this, check out the rise of the selfie drones.

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