Top Ten Anti-Terrorism Patents

This is not a joke. The Airplane Trap Door is my favorite.

Perhaps this would make a good Movie-Plot Threat Contest for next year.

Posted on June 30, 2008 at 6:21 AM • 52 Comments


AnonymousJune 30, 2008 6:30 AM

That's gotta be the funniest thing I've seen in years...isn't that sad?

TanukiJune 30, 2008 7:05 AM

The 'Doggie Earphone" has already been done [although in a somewhat more-bulky form] see Here.

Dimitris AndrakakisJune 30, 2008 7:10 AM

> Airplane Trap Door
> Bonus: Great prank to pull on the co-pilot going on a bathroom break.

This one had me spill me coffee all over the place laughing, but its certainly worth it !

JarlJune 30, 2008 7:21 AM

Obviously this is a terrorist plot to know which antiterrorist measures have been used by patenting them and noting who they receive royalties from and for what.

D0RJune 30, 2008 8:00 AM

> Airplane Trap Door

> Problem: Terrorists want to hijack a
> plane by trying to break down the
> cockpit door.

> Solution: After hardening the cockpit
> door, airlines should add the next
> logical step: airplane trap door that
> springs open to entrap terrorists below > deck.

> Bonus: Great prank to pull on the
> co-pilot going on a bathroom break.

> Improvement Suggestion: Add an
> alligator pit to the trap door ...

And spikes. Don't forget the spikes.
And poisoned darts too.

HarryJune 30, 2008 8:09 AM

The Railroad Missile System has already been done. Probably not patented since it's a military application.

The Passenger Control System During Flight sounds regrettably like the seatback cameras Bruce has been telling us about.

Dr. EvilJune 30, 2008 8:26 AM

@ D0R

What about the sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads?

KaukomieliJune 30, 2008 8:28 AM

This list shows how borked the US-patent-system is.
Those are "ideas" not patents!

Mounting weapons on mobile carriages has been around since the middle ages, it was called cannons then. This totally lacks an inventive step. Trapdoors have been around for ages, etc.

Those patents totally lack ingenuity.

TSJune 30, 2008 8:36 AM

Yes, the problem with the railroad missile system was that, while the missile could move, it could only move where the railroads were located.

Hardened silos are in known positions, but difficult to destroy. Mobile launchers on trucks are easy to destroy, but hard to locate. Railroad launchers are easily located since they have to be somewhere on the railroad, and easy to disable by removing a few spikes and letting the thing derail itself.

Carlo GrazianiJune 30, 2008 8:47 AM

It has become increasingly clear that P.T. Barnum was one of the most profound and far-seeing philosophers that America ever produced. There really is a sucker born every minute.

bobJune 30, 2008 9:05 AM

Since several of these items claim to work with "zombies" I suspect it was at least tongue-in-cheek.

And while "mobile-ing" missile launchers is a good idea against nation-state level attackers who have access to bombers and ICBMs, against terrorists who probably do not, I would rather use the formidable defense systems installed at USAF missile silos to defend MY missiles than a truck or train that can move into an ambush and whose outlying defenders would by necessity be moving and therefore easily detected.

As far as incapacitating gas why not use anoxia; which is already built into every jetliner flying above ~20,000 ft.

Rich WilsonJune 30, 2008 9:31 AM

"Doesn't seem like patents can be granted for these things."

They weren't. Well, I haven't checked all of them, but in the counter-terror enveoploe case, no patent was issued.

SparkyJune 30, 2008 9:31 AM

Security system: incapacitating gas.
Circumvention method: gas mask.

Someone should patent that, at least we can sue the terrorists for patent infringement.

When reading the article about that radio controlled dog, I noticed something:
"... and fired a revolver" (at the very end).

WTF?!? They made a revolver that a dog could operate? And this isn't even in the US, it's in Australia. Who is responsible if the dog kills an innocent person (or a guilty one, for that matter)?

SpiderJune 30, 2008 9:51 AM

Next product: Laser guided, Anti Terrorist Cream Pies.

At a flip of a switch, Cream pies will descend from the roof and hit all passengers. The on board passenger tracking system combined with laser guidance will ensure that every passenger gets hit regardless of where they are on the plane. Seltzer water cannons also available for an additional charge.

Animal TrainerJune 30, 2008 10:04 AM

four-legged non-human trained animal?

It reads to me that any four legged animal trained by humans won't count. Now if you have monkeys, turtles, robots or aliens train the four-legged animal, this patent will hold.

Sam JJune 30, 2008 10:19 AM

I've often wondered why they don't just lock the !#$@*$ cockpit door on the ground and not open it again until after landing - either technically or using plain old keys that only ground staff have.

If they can't work out how to make a door which can't be opened using whatever an attacker can get into a cabin then the next logical step is to take away the door and put the pilots in from another entrance (eg trapdoor to tarmac).

If a terrorist wants to take over the plane and somehow manages to climb out onto a wing, under the belly of the plane and then into said trapdoor (all at 30k ft & hundreds of mile an hour) then the deserve their spoils, but in the mean time they just have to make do with tormenting fellow passengers.

Nomen PublicusJune 30, 2008 10:19 AM

The "truck" - I used the same idea (but for terrorists to use) in the April competition a couple of years ago.

Missiles on the railway - I think the Russians have been using that since the 1950s.

Sleep gas - way too difficult to control. The Russians tried it on a theatre full of people and terrorists a few years ago and managed to kill a large percentage of hostages.

Mobile Crematorium - Herr Goebbels could probably claim prior art.

Overall, what are the chances of the terrorists, their method and the right equipment all being in the same place at the same time for any of these silly ideas to make sense?

EricJune 30, 2008 10:22 AM

Armchair: Maybe not, but there are certainly TWO-legged (and smaller/slower SIX-legged) non-human trained animals.

Sparky: Where are you seeing "revolver" or "Australia" in that patent application/document? Inventor is in Oregon, it's a US Patent, and no such mention.

The "Antiterrorist Vehicle" from '87 seems a response to the terrorists in the van from "Back to the Future". I prefer the DeLorean. :)

At least these are all '05 and earlier; I wonder how many movie-plot oddities have been proposed since '11.

SparkyJune 30, 2008 10:31 AM

@Eric: I was talking about the article linked to by Tanuki in the third post.

derfJune 30, 2008 10:36 AM

@Armchair Dissident
"There are four-legged humans??"

Not yet, but with gene splicing, that may be a reality soon. It's a very forward thinking article.

Can we patent the idea of a four legged human?

NickoJune 30, 2008 10:50 AM

Has anyone else noticed how large the overlap is between technology for fighting terrorists and technology for dealing with zombies? Readers of Bruce's blog know well that the our governments are instilling in us a level of fear of terrorism which far exceeds the real threat of terrorism. Has anyone considered that perhaps they are quietly trying to prepare us for a different, darker and more sinister threat?

sooth_sayerJune 30, 2008 10:51 AM

Bruce ... get back to work .. let's do some prime numbers for a change, enough of this horsing around, geez .. you were are CTO not CLO.

SteveJune 30, 2008 10:54 AM

As mentioned above, the mobile missile system is an old idea, dating back at least to the Carter administration. There was something called the "Mobile MX". As I recall there was the "racetrack" option, which would do precisely as the patent suggests, mount missile launchers on rail cars.

Asinine then. Asinine now.

Rick AuricchioJune 30, 2008 11:35 AM

I love the drawings of the aircraft in the trap-door patent.

They describe the flight condition of the aircraft the first time someone uses the device and finds out it was built backwards. The pilots are incapacitated and the aircraft flies straight down...

Davi OttenheimerJune 30, 2008 12:22 PM

I noted they all deal with the problem after it already exists.

Seems like (in terms of risk avoidance) terrorism prevention ideas should rise to the top, rather than response ideas like an umbrella, trap-door or even a crematorium.

No, really. How is a crematorium even close to being considered an anti-terror device?

jammitJune 30, 2008 12:30 PM

I personally liked the mobile crematorium. Not the crematorium as used in a "terrorist" attack, but for general purpose (I'm thinking about a large flood where many are killed. Nice clean up). I'm upset at the trap door. I was hoping it would dump the hapless person out, not into a containment cell. An added bonus if there were a sound system that added a toilet "whooshing" sound.

Davi OttenheimerJune 30, 2008 12:50 PM

"mobile missile system is an old idea, dating back at least to the Carter administration"

er, to be precise, the soviets mounted RT-23 (SS-24 SCALPEL) ICBM missiles to trains in the mid-1980s.

this was AFTER carter's administration.



the US had plans to do the same but they were never realized, fortunately, as gorbachev unilaterally dismantled the soviet system and thus stopped the competition.

incidentally, despite the "mobility" concept, trains sit on highly vulnerable rails, as demonstrated by the nazi bombardment of polish armored trains in 1939.

thus, wheel-mounted missiles (e.g. the soviet SS-25) are a far more resilient/mobile design and used frequently today.

NealJune 30, 2008 1:54 PM

It seems that the "trap door" I linked to was considerably different than that described in the patent. Still amusing though.

NealJune 30, 2008 1:56 PM

It seems that the "trap door" I linked to was considerably different than that described in the patent. Still amusing though.

(Also, you have to read a few pages ahead to get to the part with the trap-door.)

DanJune 30, 2008 3:08 PM

Two thoughts:
- a friend got an email saying all women should be made to walk around naked, because Muslim terrorists would have to kill themselves for the shame of seeing such a thing. Or something like that. Sounded like a good idea to me!
- re: all the airplane devices - I seem to remember that pilots can alter the airflow / CO2 content and/or temperature to pretty much put everyone to sleep - so why do we need all these things??

Rick AuricchioJune 30, 2008 3:24 PM

Good point, Dan.

Just dump the pressurization. Everyone gets a sudden earache, but they're out within 30 seconds above 30K feet.

The pilots have oxygen masks.

ShaggywerewolfJune 30, 2008 5:31 PM

Deployable Kevlar umbrella really cracked me up.

Because *I* want to be the unlucky chump who has to get within range of a suicide bomber (within seconds of positively identifying one and moving into position before the device is detonated) to deploy that ridiculous contraption. Not to mention that the blast from the explosive will simply blow the umbrella OFF the target and negate whatever infintessimal degree of protection that it provided.

AnonymousJune 30, 2008 8:28 PM

In the South the "Mobile Crematorium" is called Bubba's Mobile BBQ Pit.

Kermit the BogJune 30, 2008 9:04 PM

== I've often wondered why they don't just lock the !#$@*$ cockpit door on the == ground and not open it again until after landing - either technically or using == plain old keys that only ground staff have.

What if the terrorist is one of the flight crew?

Also if you lock these guys in you will also need to provide them with a personal bathroom, sleeping area, kitchen and catering staff (esp for long-haul flights) in the sealed area. It's starting to sound expensive and the more people who need to staff this area, the more scope you have for a terrorist to infiltrate.

Lockable cockpit doors are not a bad idea to stop the odd unruly passenger from bursting in unannounced, but terrorists don't take over planes all that often. They are more likely to blow up the plane which they can do quite happily from the cabin.

larsJuly 1, 2008 2:25 AM

Actually railroad missile systems have been used by the US and Soviet Union in the cold war.

n0_j0July 1, 2008 8:38 AM

I notice that the illustration for the explosion containment net shows a hippie being trapped under the net. Damn those terrorist hippies!

AlexJuly 2, 2008 8:33 AM

Why is everybody joking? Don't ya all know that: "Terrorists can pop up at any ti leaving me, local authorities totally defenseless against their raging attacks" ;-)

AlexJuly 2, 2008 8:35 AM

sorry, typo, that should have been:

"Terrorists can pop up at any time leaving local authorities totally defenseless against their raging attacks" ;-)

AnonymousJuly 6, 2008 11:17 PM

"Terrorists can pop up at any time leaving local authorities totally defenseless against their raging attacks" ;-)

That assumes that people are going to rely on them for security. The public is vigilant. Plus we have friends with the capability to one up terrorists with stuff like Predator drones to even scores.

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of IBM Resilient.