Training Eagles to Take Down Drones

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Drones are raising the dust of interest among e-commerce and logistics companies. But they are sure becoming a pain point for the airline industry. Drones, officially called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are cluttering airspaces across several parts of the world, nearly turning into unsafe aerial vehicles. The latest of these precarious incidents includes an American Airlines flight that was landing at Miami International Airport in January this year. The crew spotted a drone in the aircraft’s path, flying about a mile away. On a similar note, an aircraft landing at the British Manchester Airport encountered a near miss with a drone that was flying just 50 feet away.

These are just two of hundreds of such incidents happening across the world, calling for an immediate solution that can protect the lives of commercial airline passengers from peril. While some security organizations and others such as the University of Michigan are championing the ban of drones, several governments are instead coming up with strict regulations on drone flying. For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration started a drone registration program on February 19th this year. As per the rules, owners of unregistered drones can face civil penalties of up to $27,500 and criminal charges of anything up to $250,000. A more severe offence can even attract jail term.

Training the drone

But that cannot be a permanent solution to this growing technology in the consumer sector. In the first of its kind, Netherlands police is training eagles to grab flying drones and take it down to the ground, as it would do to a prey.

But eagles are not the solution to drone trouble everywhere. Hence, researchers and technologists are developing new tools and methods to disable drones and allow them to land safely, or remove their functional ability altogether. While there is technology available to track a drone’s electromagnetic signature, innovators are looking at aircraft being equipped with facilities to disrupt a drone’s communication and camera equipment using high frequency radio waves. In more serious cases, they may also be able to destroy a drone using laser beams.rfare

Netting the drone to avoid biological warfare

In the last one year alone, the USPTO has witnessed an increase in the number patent applications relating to drone disabling technology. US 9,085,362 titled “Counter-Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System and Method” describes counter-UAV measures by deploying a “net-capture” device.  This device deploys a net that provides a large cross-sectional area to intercept and entangle a threat UAV.  It also comes with a release mechanism which released the deployed net once the drone is ensnared and triggers an inflatable frame that helps the target UAV land safely. This method claims that the drone cannot disperse any biological warfare agent if captured in this manner.

Injecting disabling agents

Another patent directed at the drone disabling market is US 9,175,934 titled “Auto-Injector Countermeasure for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”. This invention describes a UAV-borne countermeasure that non-destructively disables and controls a threat UAV. It includes a penetrator rod which is propelled towards the drone and pierces the skin of its fuselage. The rod then dispenses a disabling substance into the interior of the threat UAV, destroying or disableing the electrical and/or mechanical systems.

Destruct and destroy

Patent US 8,788,118, titled :Systems and Methods for Detecting and Managing the Unauthorized Use of an Unmanned Aircraft”, relates to the use of unique identification methods for policing and managing the operation of a target UAV. This unique identifier allows an appropriate authority, such as the police, to transmit an identification request to the target UAV, or to a person controlling the target UAV, and allows for appropriate defensive action such as dispatching another UAV to intercept the target drone, shooting it down, or initiating a self-destruction of the target UAV. This technology, invented by Jeffrey A. Matos of New Rochelle, NY, is specifically designed to address issues related to the usurpation of UAV control by an unauthorized third party or the ill-intentioned use of unmanned aircraft.

With the severity of countermeasures to control drones on the rise, it has become a greater challenge for e-commerce and logistics management companies to obtain airspace and appropriate rights to deploy drones for their business. This is an interesting phase that is likely to culminate into a near-futuristic world of managing the business of flying with more keenness and dexterity.

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Dr. Nalini Mohan Koutha
Dr. Nalini Mohan Koutha

Dr. Nalini is a Pharmaceutical patent expert and has extensive experience as a technical and Intellectual Property Specialist in Generic Pharmaceutical manufacturing. His quest for analytical thinking extends to his deep interest in philately.

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