The increasing popularity of hobby drones poses myriad challenges to the skies, but as the Wall Street Journal reports, they’ve given rise to one that’s more surprising than any other: How do you take a drone down when you need to?
Last week, hobby drones flying over a California wildfire prevented firefighters from being able to get to the blaze before it jumped onto the highway. Drivers were forced to abandon their cars and the resulting scene looked like a hellscape from a post-apocalyptic movie.
What if rescue workers could have taken the drones down in a hurry though? That would be great! But it’s a vexing problem that has both private companies and governments dreaming about destruction. A coalition of European companies working recently succeeding in using a laser to take down a drone at 500 meters. Less far-fetched options involve hijacking the radio controls and diverting the drones.
But perhaps the most curious facet of the problem is that we have to undo some of the technology we’ve used to police the skies in the past. From the story:
Experts say drones present many defense challenges. That’s partly because of the way conventional radar systems have evolved. For years, radar makers have used software to make sure small birds didn’t register on radar screen, creating clutter. Now, engineers have to develop algorithms to look at objects of that size and distinguish drones from birds.
What goes up, must come down.