As yet another creative use of the remote-controlled flying devices, drones have been discovered apparently being used to smuggle drugs and cell phones to inmates in the United Kingdom. The operators apparently attempt to fly the drones up to the cell window of inmates where their payload can be removed by the prisoner.
Well, the Dutch are the first to come up with a far simpler, low-tech solution to knocking out unwanted drones – using a trained eagle.
These eagles are trained to see the drones as prey. Using their hunting instinct, they intercept the device mid-air and carry it to a safe landing place. They’re rewarded with a piece of meat after each successful capture. The Dutch police began testing the use of the birds last year, and this week announced the results from the trial period. The eagles successfully brought down the drones 80 percent of the time.
Tokyo riot police have developed specialized drones complete with nets to capture suspicious drones that fly or hover too close to sensitive locations, such as Government buildings.
Riot police will control the camera-equipped interceptor drones to chase after private drones they feel may be spying on buildings, including the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe‘s office, and ensnare them in large nets before returning to the ground. Those controlling the force drone will first warn the suspicious drone’s operator to cease the flight, before pursuing them.
Although drones that can take off and land vertically already exist, the new Arcturus UAV Jump system is extremely versatile in that it takes just 15 minutes to attach to fixed winged aircraft, endowing them with the ability to hover like a helicopter.
Private company Advanced Tactics has been commissioned by he U.S. military to look into developing a remote-controlled vehicle that can take off like a helicopter, land, and then immediately drive off without a driver. The prototype, currently in testing, has eight rotors that fold into the body of the vehicle on land to make it more easy to drive. It has been developed to allow for delivering cargo into areas where traditional aircraft cannot go, plus has the advantage of not needing to send pilots into hazardous situations.
Check out the Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System (ARGUS-IS). Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA wiki), this 1.8 Gigapixel camera system is the highest resolution camera ever developed. Even more badass, when mounted on a drone, it can take an overall image or video of a mid-sized city and zoom in with enough detail to make out pedestrians walking on the street – and even objects as small as six inches in diameter. However, whether or not ARGUS is currently being used by the military as a drone camera to collection information is classified. ARGUS-IS reportedly took 30 months and $18.5 million to develop. The included video clip is from a new PBS documentary called “Rise of the Drones,” which can be seen in full off the PBS website. The clip provides a fascinating look at what kind of photos and video these drones can take.
If you think you’ve seen everything when it comes to the military’s pilotless drones, hold your hats ‘cuz you’ve seen nothing yet. This past November, the military began testing the X-47B unmanned drone aboard the USS Truman, an aircraft carrier. The X-47B is a concept drone aircraft (see the Northrop Grumman data sheet large enough to actually fit a person in the cockpit – were there any need for a pilot. One of the greatest challenges of modern military aviation is landing a plane aboard the limited runway space of an aircraft carrier, and if the X-47B is any indication, it appears it won’t be long before on-board human pilots will be taken out of the equation.
Secom, the largest security company in Japan, is preparing to offer a service in which it will rent a drone to homeowners for as little as $60 a month. They promise the drone will be launched in the event the user’s home is burglarized, in which case it will hover over the home and take photographs/video of the burglary in action, making it more likely the thieves are caught. (No, it will not fire missiles). It will be a little while, though as Secom hopes to make the service available in 2014. The service will be limited to Japan for now, though the company wants to eventually expand to other countries. In any event, it is an interesting development on how drones are becoming more mainstream in their use. Secom reportedly hopes its drones will be a cost-effective surveillance solution for not just personal homes but also large warehouses and even open clearings where mounting surveillance cameras would be either too expensive or impractical.
Local police departments in both the U.S. (such as Miami PD in limited circumstances) and United Kingdom have recently started making use of drones as part of their tactical response to certain emergency situations, and it is only a matter of time before their use extends to the average person.