Drones deliberately flown over London’s Gatwick Airport prompted chaos and widespread disruption for more than 110,000 passengers on Thursday.
Britain’s second-biggest airport was forced to close whilst police pursued the drones’ operators.
Sussex Police described a game of cat-and-mouse, with the flying gadgets zig-zagging across the airfield before disappearing for short periods.
But how might police catch the drones? Dozens of products have been developed to help defeat rogue flying objects, known as “counter UAS”. Here are just some of the options available.
A military-grade cannon
A military-grade cannon that fires a net attached to a parachute towards a moving drone has been used to protect US President Barack Obama.
The SkyWall 100 system is a handheld device which hurls a projectile towards a drone, which then captures the moving device before gently bringing it back to Earth.
It was deployed for Obama’s visit to Berlin, Germany, and has also been used by prisons to combat deliveries of contraband. A more advanced sentry-style version is also available.
A remote control jammer
Devices which jam signals used by drones, such as GPS, could prove effective in immobilising the threat posed by rogue gadgets.
Many of these devices do not require kinetic weapons, and instead use radiowaves to disable drones completely.
One example, the DroneDefender, promises “fast-acting” signal jamming against remote controls and GPS – effectively killing the drone stone dead.
Another, dubbed the DroneCannon Tactical by makers DroneShield, offers “a lightweight, soft kill, drone jamming solution” – though the manufacturer recommends it is used alongside a gun.
Start-up SkySafe announced plans to help airports ward off drones by enabling enforcement officials to “take over” – or hack – a drone’s controls completely, a practise dubbed “spoofing”.
The technology would allow a person to fly a drone, or command it to descend gently and switch off.
While military drones have technology to prevent “spoofing”, most commercial manufacturers do not place limits on their models, according to The Verge.
Drone V Drone
Tokyo Police has launched its own fleet of ten drones carrying nets designed to capture other drones when they pose safety risks or enter protected areas.
The interceptor drones are controlled by riot police and are used only after attempts to contact a suspect drone’s operator.
The devices were used after suspicious device flew close to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office.
Engineers at Michigan Tech University have developed a similar device which fires a net towards a suspect drone.
Defence giant Boeing has developed a military-grade laser that uses energy to burn drones from the sky.
The device can be set up in minutes and takes just seconds to deliver a lethal shot.
Drones targeted by the laser would drop immediately to the ground in flames, however, raising the issue of collateral damage.
Drones: A rising threat to aviation
Drones are an increasing threat to aircraft in the UK.
Statistics from the UK Airprox Board showed 117 “near-misses” between drones and planes in Britain last year.
The figure is a 1200% increase on the close calls recorded in 2014.
The data includes incidents involving civilian planes, airliners and military jets.