Drone security seems to be a hot topic these days.
Now, as they become more common and complex, protecting these machines from being intercepted by external parties, and having measures in place to protect soft targets from rogue drones could be vital.
There’ve been some innovative approaches to avoiding hostile drones. These include aircraft designed to capture them in a net, weapons that disrupt their frequencies and even eagles (you may have heard of eagles being trained to snatch drones out of the air).
However, in the eyes of Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey, a heavier-handed approach is required. His company Anduril is focused instead on aircraft that take them out of action by literally smashing them.
Palmer Luckey, co-founder of Oculus, has developed an autonomous attack drone. As reported by Bloomberg and NBC News, Luckey’s Anduril defence company is now selling a self-piloted drone called the Interceptor, designed by ramming them head-on to disable other drones mid-flight.
As photographed by Bloomberg, the battering attack drone looks like an off-the-shelf quadcopter on a Parrot drone scale. However, Anduril has programmed the Interceptor with a specific protocol to protect the airspace around a certain building. (As Anduril sees, the structure could be a military base, an oil rig, or a prison.)
Once a block of airspace that needs defending has been identified, the drone can search the space using the company’s computer vision technology and automatically ram any objects that interfere. Before any attack, the Interceptor requires explicit permission.
The Interceptor was able to disable a drone 100 feet off the ground in a demo for NBC News, crashing into the craft from below and coming away from the takedown unscathed.
Luckey mentioned that the Interceptor’s defensive measures could be applied not just to quadcopters attacking a base, but even ultralight aircraft, a helicopter or even a cruise missile.
Since its launch, Anduril has been the subject of major controversy, primarily because of its enthusiastic support related to federal border control projects.
The main product of the company, called Lattice, is a system that utilizes computer vision designed to identify migrants as they cross the U.S .- Mexico border. During a 10-week trial in 2018, the system reportedly identified 55 people.
With regards to contracts with the Department of Defense, Lattice has already found some success and was involved with a $13.5 million contract at a border-adjacent Marine Corps base. It’s still unclear how broadly U.S. border agencies specifically use the technology.
However, a spokesman told NBC News that it’s working with about a dozen agencies across the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.
Andruil is, in essence, a defence technology company, which is why Lattice AI is part and parcel of its current approach integrated into most of its offerings. The software can accommodate a variety of devices from camera systems, drones and even surveillance towers with the aim of detecting and responding effectively to threats in proximity.
In fact, Lattice AI could be used as software for third-party hardware, one of the company’s Sentry Towers or one of its large single-rotor patrol drones called Ghost UAS. This same software is what powers the newly revealed Interceptor drone.
The Interceptor can either defend autonomously (with the Lattice AI) or manually, through human input to verify targets and set the drone to attack. The company is confident about neutralizing threats in any given environment and, according to Luckey, the Interceptor “almost always survives and returns to base.”
“The best way to kill fast drones piloted by hostile humans is with even faster drones piloted by AI!” Luckey stated in a Twitter post. “The United States cannot allow the skies of the world to turn into the Wild West, our ability to take out aerial threats in a matter of seconds is part of the solution.”
According to reports, Anduril has already started delivering Interceptor drones to military clients within the US and the UK. Anduril has stated that it is continuing with improvements to the tech.
As the drone industry flourishes, so too should the security measures that surround it. Regulations may not be enough to keep malicious activity at bay. The Interceptor could be a potentially useful solution that offers power and precision when dealing with threats.
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