March 15, 2013
Do you want to keep drones out of your backyard?
An Oregon company says that it has developed and will soon start selling technology that disables unmanned aircraft.
The company, called Domestic Drone Countermeasures, was founded in late February because some of its engineers see unmanned aerial vehicles—which are already being flown by law enforcement in some areas and could see wider commercial integration into American airspace by 2015—as unwanted eyes in the sky.
"I was personally concerned and I think there's a lot of other people worried about this," says Timothy Faucett, a lead engineer on the project. "We've already had many inquiries, a lot of people saying 'Hey, I don't want these drones looking at me.'"
Domestic Drones Countermeasures was formed as a spin-off company from Aplus Mobile, which sells rugged computer processors to defense contractors—though the company won't discuss its specific technology because it is still applying for several patents. Faucett says that work has helped inform its anti-drone technology.
The company will sell land-based boxes that are "non-offensive, non-combative and not destructive." According to the company, "drones will not fall from the sky, but they will be unable to complete their missions."
Though Faucett wouldn't discuss specifics, he says the boxes do not interfere with a drone's navigation system and that it doesn't involve "jamming of any kind." He says their technology is "an adaptation of something that could be used for military application" with the "combat element replaced with a nondestructive element."
"We understand the nature of the equipment drone manufacturers are using and understand how to counter their sensors," Faucett says. "We're not going to be countering Predator drones that are shooting cruise missiles, but we're talking about local law enforcement drones and commercial ones that people might be using for spying."
For now, Faucett admits the technology is "expensive," but the company is already ready to design custom anti-drone boxes for customers.
"We envision it could be cheap enough for residential use very soon," he says. "It's quite possible to deploy it if you were shooting a movie and wanted to protect your set, or if you had a house in Malibu and wanted to protect that, we could deploy it there. If a huge company like Google wanted to protect its server farms, it can be scaled up for a larger, fixed installation."
As drones become more commonplace, Faucett says more people will begin searching for a way to protect their privacy.
"The thing that brought it home for me was Senator [Rand] Paul doing the filibuster, there's a lot of unanswered questions," he says. "We think there might be as much business for this counter drone stuff as there is for the drones themselves."