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Counter-Drone Tech from US Army Nets Rogue Drones

Army Spc. William Ritter prepares to launch the RQ-11 Raven, a small unmanned aerial system into the air during a 2018 training event. Credit. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Counter-Drone Tech from US Army Nets Rogue Drones

With incidents like last month’s delays at Newark Liberty International Airport and similar major delays at the UK’s two largest airports, Heathrow and Gatwick in December and January becoming more frequent due to rogue drones in the airspace, it is only natural that the counter-drone sector expands and innovates.

Small, unmanned drones are easily available to the public these days posing a huge security issue for civilian officials and military commanders. While army officials have been working on preparing tactics, techniques, and procedures for field units that encounter such drones, use of conventional surface-to-air weapons like shoulder-fired missiles designed to target piloted aircraft may be overkill besides being very expensive.

The latest counter-drone technology is a new missile invented by Tomasz Blyskal, Richard Fong, and LaMar Thompson of the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Centre at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. These U.S. Army researchers have managed to pack a net into a 40mm grenade so they can take down enemy drones. The new invention, which was patented on Tuesday, combines high-tech engineering and grenade launchers which are in common use among U.S. military and law enforcement units.

This is an enhanced illustration of US Patent 10,197,365, showing the net under the proximity detector, which detonates a small charge springing the warhead apart and spreading the net out at a distance of six to nine meters from the target. Credit Troy Carter/TechLink

This is an enhanced illustration of US Patent 10,197,365, showing the net under the proximity detector, which detonates a small charge springing the warhead apart and spreading the net out at a distance of six to nine meters from the target. Credit Troy Carter/TechLink

According to an excerpt from the patent statement explaining the modus operandi,” As the round nears the target; a signal from a control board activates a servo. The servo pulls on a central lock plunger to release a ball mechanism. This releases the capsule section, which in turn allows the ejection spring means to eject the petals and weights along with the net stowed there within.”

The Army  said that the initial testing showed that their round outperforms other net-centric counter-drone tactics like dragging a net from another larger drone  because these methods requires trained pilots and don’t work when trying to “ensnare many, or swarms of drones.”

Small mobile ground units already include grenadiers equipped with M302 launchers could easily carry dozens of the new 40mm rounds to take out small drones from hundreds of yards away. Cavalry units, anti-tank sections, and heavy weapons companies that employ the Mk-19 grenade launcher could also use the new round from even greater distances.

Through technology transfer, DoD inventions are made available to businesses and entrepreneurs for use in new products and services. Businesses interested could contact TechLink, the Department of Defence’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer, for productizing DoD technology and getting more information about patent licensing. Interested parties could also contact Brian Metzger, senior technology manager at TechLink, at [email protected] or 406-994-7782 for more information. It may be noted that an invention license or patent license agreement confers the right to practice the invention for commercial purposes and often includes related data and technical knowledge. License fees paid to the Army are typically negotiable.

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