Every once in a while you’ll hear of a drone causing trouble, either because it breached security perimeters or because someone though it’d be a great idea to strap a firearm to one in what might be the least smart thing to do since flying one over the White House walls.
But there’s a bigger, more realistic, and all-too-regular issue: people are flying drones far too close to aircraft.
A trio of British companies have banded together to develop an anti-drone ray, which will soon be arriving at US airports, as part of the federal government’s efforts to keep small, unmanned aircraft away from the larger, manned variety.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will soon begin trials of the ray, known as the Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS), to detect and identify potentially dangerous or hostile drones in the near vicinity to airports.
The FAA didn’t say which airports will receive the AUDS, but will study their use while ensuring that they’re not getting in the way of existing airport security policies.
AUDS works by tracking the drone with a thermal imaging camera, then sending high-powered radio frequency signals to the drones, making them unresponsive to the controller.
In as little as eight seconds, the drone can be knocked from the skies of up to a range of about six miles.
The three British companies separately provide electronic-scanning radar target detection systems, electro-optic tracking and classification, radio-frequency disruption technologies to create the ray.
It can’t come soon enough, given the rate of suspected drone sightings near US airports. According to the FAA, the administration receives more than 100 reports each month from pilots and others who spot unmanned drones flying too close to airplanes.
Homeland Security also last year warned that terrorists could use drones as weapons, but did not provide specifics on any imminent threat.