This drone catcher shoots out nets like Spider-Man

How do you stop mischievous drones? With more drones that function like "robotic falconry," says one university professor.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
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There's no escape from this web -- uh we mean net -- slinger!

Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET

Bad drones look out: a new flying robot could be coming to capture you.

For all the fun and utility they can provide, pesky drones in 2015 did things like crash into the White House lawn, deliver drugs to a prison in Ohio and distract firefighters from doing their work in upstate New York.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported in August that there had already been more than 650 reports of drone sightings by pilots. And while the FAA put legislation into effect in December that requires drone operators to register their craft, that's not necessarily going to stop a rogue drone from causing havoc on an airport runway or in a crowd if its operator is intent on such a goal.

What will stop such an event is a more powerful drone that can shoot nets at its enemies, a la Spider-Man.

So thinks Mo Rastgaar, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Michigan Technological University (MTU). Rastgaar and his team have developed a drone that has the ability to shoot a large net at another drone from as far as 40 feet (12 meters) away, then bag it up and carry it away. The net-shooting drone can function autonomously or be controlled by a human operator.

Here are the drones that will crowd the skies in 2016 (pictures)

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"What makes this unique is that the net is attached to our catcher, so you can retrieve the rogue drone or drop it in a designated, secure area," Rastgaar said in an MTU report about the invention. "It's like robotic falconry."

You can see just how effective the device is in the video below.

Rastgaar was inspired to create his drone after he realized that spectators at a World Cup game were being protected by snipers, but that such precautions might not be effective against a destructive drone. "I thought, 'If the threat is a drone, you really don't want to shoot it down -- it might contain explosives and blow up, he told Michigan Tech News. "What you want to do is catch it and get it out of there."

The professor and his team member Evandro Ficanha, a research engineer, have filed for a patent for the drone.

So while 2015 might have been the year of the drone, 2016 just might become the year of the drone wars.