Space & Innovation

Anti-Drone Ray Guns Coming to U.S. Airports

The FAA is on target to test a British system that disables incoming UAVs with directed jamming signals.

In yet another indication that the world is turning into a 1950s sci-fi movie, the Federal Aviation Administration has announced that it will start testing technology to fight flying robots at major U.S. airports.

The Anti-UAV Defence System -- or AUDS -- is designed to stop drones and other unauthorized UAVs from entering restricted airspace. According to its designers, the technology can automatically detect, target and disable incoming drones from up to six miles away.

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AUDS does this by first tracking incoming aircraft using standard and infrared cameras. Once a rogue drone is identified, the system fires a directed energy jamming signal that disables the UAV's controls. In certain instances, AUDS operators can essentially hijack the drone remotely, forcing a landing outside the airport perimeter.

According to developer Blighter Surveillance Systems -- part of a consortium of British companies behind the project -- AUDS can effectively neutralize incoming drones within 15 seconds. The system is largely automated, providing 24/7 vigilance in any kind of weather, and won't interfere with existing airport communication systems.

The AUDS designers have carried out more than 400 hours of live testing against sorties of various kinds of UAVs, said team representative Mark Radford in press materials accompanying the announcement.

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"These trials confirmed that our production system was able to detect, track, disrupt and defeat a wide range of micro, mini and larger unmanned aerial vehicles or drones -- even on unscripted sorties," Radford said.

The AUDS technology is actually just one of several anti-drone systems in development worldwide, some of which are delightfully low-tech. This emerging technology sector is getting increasingly busy, as government officials fret about weaponized drones over vulnerable areas like airports, sporting events, nuclear power sites and other infrastructure facilities. Sweet dreams!

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