A team of commercial drone developers are creating a drone whose sole purpose is to seek, intercept and destroy other drones.
Michelle StarrScience editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Fences used to be perfectly fine for keeping prying eyes out of our backyards -- but as drones become more accessible to the consumer, concerns about privacy are on the rise. One new startup wants to fight drone with drone.
Rapere -- which is from the Latin word rapio, meaning to steal -- is a drone designed to hunt, find and disable other drones.
The company consists of a team of developers who have years of experience working with unmanned aerial systems, although they're remaining anonymous for now for "commercial reasons," it claims in its FAQ. Rapere works in a lab setting, however there aren't any photos or videos of the killer drone in action. The website instead has only a slideshow of the concept.
Nevertheless, it sounds like an interesting idea. When activated, the drone will seek out other drones using an array of 12 low-res 90 fps cameras, hover above them and drop a piece of rope, which will tangle in the target drone's rotors, felling it from the sky.
It is able to tell the difference between a bird and a drone, the team said.
"Fortunately for us, detecting a free floating object which is well illuminated and far from any other visible object is easy," the website reads. "We can burn lots of watts on the onboard computer, because of the short flight time. This is difficult on normal UAS."
This means that the drone would be able to catch up pretty quickly with commercial, rotary-style drones, sacrificing battery power that would usually go towards giving the drone longer time in the sky. Instead, it has speed -- and so far, other drones are unable to escape its clutches.
"Because of the intentionally designed short flight time (2 mins, vs a normal drone 15 minutes) we can drain the batteries much faster, and have a much higher power to weight ratio. With a flight time of 2 minutes, this is the best performing drone we can imagine from a flight performance point of view. It's even hard to see it once it's a few hundred feet up because it's so fast."
There are a few problems with potential use. While the drone itself is legal, its uses may not be. It is designed for taking out, say, paparazzi drones -- not any old drone the user is afraid of. The first step towards circumventing this issue is price point. It won't be priced like a DJI, for example, but rather as a professional tool, and buyers will need to be qualified in some way.
"We're not sure exactly yet, but we will require some sort of proof of legitimate use, such as public safety officials, event organizers, private security firms, etc," the team said. As for preventing abuse, "We have a number of ideas, such as requiring disclosure of ownership with the local police department before we will ship the drone."
That's great and all, but now we're really keen to start up a Robot Wars-style drone wars.