We’d Have Called it the Drone Dropper… or Drone-B-Gon

This anti-drone device is going viral. They’ve clickbaited it well by calling it the Skynet anti-drone rifle, and it can directionally jam the GPS signals a drone needs to navigate, and the wireless video downlink.

skynet-anti-drone-rifle-3The two white and black “barrels” are directional antennae in two separate GHz ranges. The backpack is the necessary power source. Anyone who’s got Electronic Warfare experience will tell you jamming is a power-intensive activity.

skynet-anti-drone-rifle-1If you look at all the pictures available on the company’s website, and watch the video (below), the whole thing appears to be built on a (partial? modified?) AR-15 receiver, with a standard M4 receiver extension and stock. A bit overkill for just something to hang an arduino, a transmitter, and some highly directional (< 10º) antennae on, but it kind of makes sense to give people a familiar interface, and the AR-15 is the point and click interface for the 21st Century.

Along with this video, there’s a new one showing a live test. They claim a “suppression ratio” (difference between the range from the Skynet operator to the drone and the drone controller to the drone) of 8:1, which means (thinking of power squares here) that this jammer has vastly more power than the controller.

The two signal rangess it can jam are 1.450 GHz – 1.650 GHz and 2.380 GHz – 2.483 GHz, but it can only jam one at a time. Available hacks for, for example, the DJI Phantom drone (the one in the video) can take the drone control out of the target range, and could practically be developed for the video range.

There are a few other problems with it, to wit:

  1. As a jammer, it is almost certainly illegal to use in the USA. The Federal Communications Commission takes a dim view of jamming, and has considerable technical and legal resources it deploys to punish violators.
  2. It’s only effective against some common commercial drones and is unlikely to have any impact on a more sophisticated government or military system, which is likely to use robust, high-availability communications, and have backup onboard navigation (usually inertial) that’s immune to jamming or meaconing.
  3. It requires clear line-of-sight to the drone, ergo, it’s only useful as a point-defense weapon.
  4. It requires a human operator and visibility of the target. (How would it work in the dark, against a drone deploying LLLTV? We suppose there’s a Picatinny rail upon which you can mount an image intensifier or thermal sight).
  5. It has the scent of early prototype all over it, and is a long way from a commercial product or (alternatively) a flexible R&D platform. But even experimenting with this thing brings you back around into the sights of the FCC.

Finally, this is, we think, the firm’s first video, from May.

All in all, it smells to us like a gimmick. And within the range of this thing, there are other ways to take out a drone (one lady pestered by paparazzi drones seeking spy shots of a celebrity neighbor demonstrated her wingshooting skills and blew the drone to Kingdom Come. The paparazzi boarded their Range Rover — apparently invading privacy pays well — and were last seen heading back for Gawker HQ or whatever glutinous sump whence they emerged).

This is not the only anti-drone product out there. As well as other jammers, there are counter-drone drones that ram them or drop nets or cables onto their rotors. All of them are similarly immature at present, and no one knows if they represent a real market segment or just hobbyists tinkering.

12 thoughts on “We’d Have Called it the Drone Dropper… or Drone-B-Gon

  1. Al T.

    I dunno, with Iran supposedly getting one of ours a while back, there may be something to this project.

  2. Loren

    I was having a very nice romantic dinner with the GF on Sunset beach Ko Sumai one evening when a guy came by flying a drone on the beach. I said he should take it over the ocean thinking he’d never risk it. Being the adventurous type he did just that.
    No idea why the power failed. We enjoyed the Mojitos while watching him swim and dive,and dive…….

  3. Ti

    I played w ham radio as a kid, and worked for an antenna mfr. later in life. The interesting thing to me is a jammer should be made quite easily now with the advent of high power microwave solid state components, DSP(dig. sig. proc.) and small high gain antennas. There is some serious computational software for designing at microwave frequency as the components of a tuned circuit – inductor, capacitor and resistor can actually derive their electrical characteristic’s from the “physical” shape of the component.

    I checked out the website.
    Dual mode AA – That microwave jammer mode 1 for GPS band, mode 2 for common ISM/802.X 2.4 GHz video drone downlinks. Interesting, but surely illegal in U.S. due to ERP (effective radiated power). That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t use it if you needed it. A retired law enforcement officer told me they would shoot out street lights w a silenced ruger 10/22 during surveillance of suspects. And that’s in a US city. How legal is it to discharge firearms in US Metro areas?

    1. LSWCHP

      You are correct sir. I’ve spent most of my professional life in this arena, and building something like this is almost at the “kit from an electronics hobby shop” level. Totally ilegal though, as our host points out.

  4. Aesop

    Make one that looks like one of the conduit carriers on top of work trucks, and that kills cell phone calls and text messaging of people driving in the leftmost lane, and I’ll take one.

    If they can make a microwave gun that’d explode the driver’s head instead, I’d like to talk to someone about getting a franchise going.

    1. Ti

      I’m with ya brother. Denver metro now reminds me of the 405 in metro LA. CO law says move over to right lane Except when passing. You can actually drive faster in the right lane due to everyone camping out over in 2 left lanes. People flooding in here.

      1. DSM

        I just had a moderate road trip and it’s that way pretty much everywhere now. It may have been that when I noticed it I started to pay more attention to the frequency of it happening but the majority of people we passed was on the right. Ridiculous.

  5. John Distai

    I’d still prefer the shotgun method. But the eagle has to be the coolest way of all.

    That would be loads of fun at a first person drone race. If you haven’t seen those, people build drones with cameras attached that transmit to video goggles worn by the pilot. The pilots then “air race” their craft around a course by viewing the images transmitted from their drone’s camera. I assume their situational awareness is quite low as they are effectively blind while wearing those things. You could sneak in, block the video feeds and watch the excitement unfold.

  6. Tierlieb

    We really need some “drone wars” show to figure out efficient ways to combat drones. Just for fun and science, of course.

    Besides that, I am really impressed how sleek and elegant the jamming gun looks. The rear compartment of the black antenna looks 3d-printed and the backpack adapter is rather elegant. I still doubt that anything out of an office-level 3d printer can compete with good ol’ plywood and steel regarding sturdiness, but it seems to bring people to spend a lot more thought on the design (except for gun printing people. But never had any taste to begin with, right?)

  7. Docduracoat

    The FAA considers drones as aircraft
    Interfering with, shooting at or destroying one is a federal crime
    Even if it is harassing you at the beach or in the airspace over your property

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