Back in January, we talked about the Rapere Drones that might be designed to take down other drones. Well, it seems South Korea is inspired by this scope, and wants to use a similar ambit as a counter against its northern neighbor. To that end, a group of scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) have been dabbling with technologies that entail the use of autonomous UAVs that could detect and disable other UAVs. This project comes in the wake of emerging reports relating to the use of unauthorized spy drones by North Korea for capturing strategic images of South Korea’s facilities.
Once again, harking back to the Rapere system, one of the autonomous drones that is being developed pertains to a multi-rotor UAV that would be capable of dropping a net over an enemy drone. This would presumably lead to a tangling up scenario, thus causing malfunctioning of its rotors. However, what may seem simple in theory is a bit complex in the practical realm. In that regard, the biggest challenge to the researchers is to devise an advanced detection system (with on-board vision mechanism) that would aid the ‘hunter’ drone in its autonomous feat.
And interestingly, as we mentioned before, such net-dropping drones will just be a part of a whole system of UAVs. In other words, the anti-drone defense scope will also feature drones that will be used for just spying, along with attack drones that can even take out enemy weapon systems – like missile launchers. This collective system was actually demonstrated as a field test by the scientists with a two-wave tactic (video below).
The first wave entailed a single spy drone that was let loose to gather crucial intel on the ‘enemy’ strengths and formations. The second wave in turn consisted of tiny hunter drones that could neutralize enemy drones while also performing a guarding stance for protecting a bigger drone. In an actual conflict scenario, this ‘alpha’ drone will probably haul an attack robot that can be strategically placed in the battle field to finally demolish the enemy weapon system with an explosive charge.
As per the test, the South Korean engineers originally envisaged a bigger net (or wire) to be carried by a tight formation of the hunter attack drones. However, the GPS control and windy conditions didn’t suit this impeccable formation – so as an alternative, each of these attack drones carried a smaller net (fixed by a magnet) that could account for individual enemy drones. As for the purpose behind such an intricate tactical plan, KAIST’s Dr. David Shim (who leads the institute’s Unmanned System Research Group or USRG) had put it forth succinctly –
As found in many cases including the recent incident of [a DJI Phantom] wandering into the White House, even if you know UAVs are out there, it is very hard to stop them. One can try to shoot them with rifles or missiles, but they are too small for guns or guided weapons. So our solution is to stop them with another UAV, as they say eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.