Radio wave gun zaps drones out of the sky – and it's perfectly legal*

* If you're a Fed

US biz Battelle boasts it has found a way to rid our skies of annoying drones without breaking the flying machines' hardware.

And here's the solution: DroneDefender, a shoulder-mounted weapon that sends pulses of radio waves to disrupt communications between the drone and its operator. The electro-magnetic cannon, which has a range of about 400 metres, causes the flying bot to enter a manufacturer-set safety mode, which typically either lands it or returns it to its starting point.

"We were very adamant about not doing damage," Alex Morrow, technical director on the product, told The Register. "The device uses proprietary electronics to create a signal that's disruptive to the drone and breaks the link between the drone and its controller. There's no damage to the drone."

Shooting down a drone with a gun, say, is obviously destructive – which causes all sorts of liability and paperwork problems – and also hard to do, Morrow said. The DroneDefender emits a harmless cone of radio waves that interfere with GPS and signals on the industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) radio bands, confusing the heck out nearby drones and forcing them to automatically land.

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As we saw in July, it's possible to blow one out of the sky with a shotgun if it's low and slow enough. Battelle reckons that's legally somewhat dodgy. In any case, it's selling DroneDefenders only to the US government since the device is essentially a radio-jamming gadget – and the great unwashed aren't allowed to use such kit.

"For today we're very particular about staying on the right side of the law," said senior researcher Dan Stamm.

There is certainly a need for this. During this year's wildfires in California, drones filming the blazes were getting in the way of firefighters. State legislation is now being considered that would allow federal workers to knock out drones that are in the way. ®

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