Pepper Spray Drones

Coming soon to a protest near you: drones that fire pepper spray bullets.

Desert Wolf's website states that its Skunk octacopter drone is fitted with four high-capacity paintball barrels, each capable of firing up to 20 bullets per second.

In addition to pepper-spray ammunition, the firm says it can also be armed with dye-marker balls and solid plastic balls.

The machine can carry up to 4,000 bullets at a time as well as "blinding lasers" and on-board speakers that can communicate warnings to a crowd.

Posted on June 25, 2014 at 2:19 PM • 68 Comments


AnuraJune 25, 2014 2:39 PM

I'm assuming this is intended to be deployed against miners? Probably cheaper than increasing wages and improving working conditions.

ToniJune 25, 2014 2:49 PM

The two benefits of drones are that they're non-human, so you can attack them without feeling bad, and that they're up in the air, so you can attack them with reduced chance of hitting innocent bystanders.

MarcJune 25, 2014 3:09 PM

Good point Toni. I full agree with you :-)
You only missed one step (but it could be fun): when they fall down from the sky...

flargleJune 25, 2014 3:10 PM

"Coming soon to a protest near you" was my first thought, too.

@Toni: except that they'll be flown out of range of any projectiles whose use doesn't see their wielders gunned down, and any miners lucky enough to hit one will be recorded by the cameras of at least one of the swarm, and end up being docked, prosecuted and/or fired, if not gunned down :P

So incredibly disappointing that this was developed in SA, and with *mining firms* the headline customers. &^%$ing war profiteers.

Alan KaminskyJune 25, 2014 3:12 PM

What's to stop someone from buying a Skunk drone, arming it with solid plastic balls -- and firing them at another Skunk drone?

TechieJune 25, 2014 3:38 PM

The police already have umpteen non-lethal weapons, and yet look how many times they use bullets first claiming that the victim appeared to be (a) holding a gun (b) carrying a knife (c) approaching threteningly (d) driving a blue truck just like LAPD fugitive Christopher Donner (e) non-white, and therefore dangerous.

WaelJune 25, 2014 3:43 PM

The camera lens you have has a coating on it; its purpose is to reduce light reflections. It works by acting as an "Impedance Matching Transformer" by gradually transitioning the light from one impedance (or index of refraction) level to another. Without it, a fraction of the light will reflect off the camera lens. Similarly, there are quarter wave transformers in the Electromagnetic world (light is also in the EM spectrum, but could also be viewed as photons) that implement the same principle... These techniques implement the principle of "Maximum Power Transfer". In the drone example, you start by having some drones delivering goods you order, then drones that shot pellets of "pepper spray", then drones that shoot real bullets, and then... imagine the natural evolution paths. So they are following the principle of "Maximum Population Resistance Reduction", by way of desensitization... If they go from no drones to drones that are more on the grouchy side, the resistance will be high. Gradual transitioning = less resistance.

Hurry! Add a small filter to your heavy-duty tin-foil hat :)

AnuraJune 25, 2014 3:44 PM

I totally imagine a future in America, where rioters and police have dogfights with their drones. I mean, I don't think it will actually happen, I just really really want it to.

Hat Trick PennryJune 25, 2014 3:48 PM

I expect that, eventually, these things will be used to shoot VX pellets and the like.

BenniJune 25, 2014 4:05 PM

at the end, they will be largely autonomous, finding their targets without somebody piloting them. that will be interesting times to come...

You know, at the same time, there are these projects to simulate entire brain cells with computer programs.

It will be some time, but certainly we will have some day a computer that can "simulate most of the functions of the human brain"... and that connected to such a drone.....

uh, MikeJune 25, 2014 4:19 PM

The lawyers will have a field day with this. The police have to justify an assault, which that would be. If the police aren't even there personally, and it's a crowd, there's not a chance in court.

mbJune 25, 2014 4:22 PM

According to the FAA FAQ:

Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval. Private sector (civil) users can obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate to conduct research and development, training and flight demonstrations. Commercial UAS operations are limited and require the operator to have certified aircraft and pilots, as well as operating approval. To date, only two UAS models (the Scan Eagle and Aerovironment’s Puma) have been certified, and they can only fly in the Arctic.

So it would seem that these drones are just plain illegal. Well, flying them in the U.S. is, anyway, and for good reason. Never mind the projectiles that these things are firing, the drones themselves are a serious hazard. You have 8 large blades spinning at high speed with no form of protection. If one of these goes down into a crowd it will be carnage.

SteveJune 25, 2014 5:11 PM

I wonder how accurate or generally safe these things would be.

Consider that there's considerable reaction force whenever a pellet is fired.

I also am curious how real this actually is. The main illustration the last time I looked at the web site was a CAD mockup and an image that doesn't look as if the device is actually in flight (it looks to be hanging in a trade show booth.

I'd like to see it actually in flight before I get too exercised about it.

GodelJune 25, 2014 6:44 PM

@ uh, Mike and mb

It will be used by large mining companies in South Africa against poor striking miners. Legal considerations will not be a problem.

I wonder if the Israelis will buy any to use against the Palestinians?

Shawn SmithJune 25, 2014 7:08 PM


Let's complete the last paragraph of your post:

... Public entities (federal, state and local governments and public universities) may apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). The FAA reviews and approves UAS operations over densely-populated areas on a case-by-case basis.

I don't know how hard it would be for a police force to get that COA. I don't imagine very hard, especially if they already have helicopters. It's possible the company selling these things might even be able to provide whatever assistance the cops need to get the COA.


But if it's good enough for South African mine owners, then it sure as hell should be good enough for American First Responders (PBUT).

ThothJune 25, 2014 9:22 PM

If Predator drones can be hijacked from the ground, I am expecting most other drones to be susceptible to hacks. Load up a drone take-over Metasploit module and turn the drone around :D .

Drone Exploit Module:
- Take-over control
- Load unauthorized programmes
- Use drone as remote access point/hovering computer platform
- Imagine more uses for a pwned drone...

Nick PJune 25, 2014 10:38 PM

To all those wondering, most drones are insecure for sure. There's even been reports of run of the mill malware infecting the C&C systems. There was also a well-funded R&D program working on all kinds of ways of increasing the assurance of combined hardware-software systems. A supposedly secure drone came out of that. What they didn't mention is the existence of that program and drone kind of implies things about the confidence you can have in all the other drones. ;)

RonKJune 25, 2014 11:49 PM

@ Godel

> I wonder if the Israelis will buy any to use against the Palestinians?

Uh, you're doing it wrong. When you troll by bringing up the Palestinian-Israeli conflict preferentially over tens of other regional conflicts, it's against protocol to even hint that Israelis have any regard whatsoever for Palestinian lives.

FigureitoutJune 25, 2014 11:50 PM

--Let's start out easy and just oh let's say crack some wifi networks or do some sniffing. Let's say we have enough programs and computing power to do that in the Raspberry Pi. I just weighed one w/ a cover (85.2g) and w/o a cover (42.2g) w/ a regular sized 8GB smart card. Hanging another antenna off (if even necessary) would maybe be another 10 grams or so, a battery, there's some mass, let's say 100g. Now we just need to either directly route that battery power to the Pi or add another USB interface, probably add another 50g, maybe more. There's other pieces of scripted hardware to sniff networks and crack them, scoop the credentials, and now you have some networks to route either "anonymous" or tricky packets assuming you took care of other methods of ID'ing you. Play your cards right and you're looking at hopefully less than 200g, fits on this drone:

I used to fly RC airplanes, sometimes I think of picking it up again. I used to laugh so hard at the epic crashes I had w/ my more powerful plane (which could likely carry a better payload and propeller could actually injure you) than my styrofoam plane that was a lot more fun to fly (and land in one piece).

Gina RyneheartJune 26, 2014 12:38 AM

Mine workers are quite happy to work for $2 a day in South Africa.

The protesters that were shot in South Africa were just a greedy few who wanted more than $2 a day, and so were quite deservedly shot in the back while they fled from the police who were hired by the mining company.

I have been trying to convince the Australian Government to allow me to import African mine workers for my Australian mining operations.

I fear these new drones will allow mine workers to escape with their lives in case they protest, unless of course I can purchase a model of these new drones that is armed with live rounds.

Australian workers are lazy and will not work for $2 a day. I find this insulting as I already fly them over 1000 miles from their families to work for 2-3 weeks at a time, then I have to fly them home for a week, and provide metal shipping containers and "dongers" for them to sleep in. The food I provide them may not be A class, but it is better than what mine workers receive in South Africa. I don't understand what they complain about. Perhaps a few rubber bullets and CS gas will change their minds, but first I'll have to lobby the government to allow me to import these drones, at least in their current form if they won't legalise live round versions.

At least the government could allow me to have a few of these drones to put farmers and other old people in their place when they protest about my mining exploration on their properties, and my colleagues Fracking next to their homes.
We donated a lot of money to political parties to get access to the public's land for mining exploration and the minerals and water on these properties. If the public doesn't like it then they can move or we'll bring in the Police and the drones.

Finally the tide is turning in the favour of Billionaires like myself and modern technology will finally allow us to subdue our precariat underlings, as well as monitor and track down any of the public who dare to resist or criticise us.

If you people want privacy then get to work and inherit Billions of dollars like I did and then hire your own private team of lawyers to shut everyone up you don't like, and a few private investigators or policemen to keep an eye on them.

dohJune 26, 2014 2:18 AM

Get a magnetron from a microwave oven, build a horn waveguide, power the magnetron, aim at drone, press the button and it goes down in less than a second.

CiroJune 26, 2014 2:23 AM

Miners in some countries still use dinamite (most of the countries) ... if they are given a non human target, I think they will not doubt and use it against... or instead of dinamite a ballon filled with paint and a sling could do a lot of damage...

pxlJune 26, 2014 2:35 AM

Reminds me somewhat of Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez. That didn't go well...

Wesley ParishJune 26, 2014 3:13 AM

umm, laser pointers, anybody? And what's the likeliehood that someone'll come up with a hack to turn laser pointers into programmable laser message "pointers" and attempt buffer overflows, then take the drone over?

If I was Iain M. Banks I'd be rubbing my hands in glee and exclaiming about how "realistic" I could make my next SF novel ... insert the Culture references then sue the UAV manufacturers for stealing my ideas ...

PeterJune 26, 2014 3:20 AM

@Wesley Pariah, it's quite hard to rub your hands in glee after a year in a coffin.

kronosJune 26, 2014 7:58 AM

@ Wael: In the drone example, you start by having some drones delivering goods you order, then drones that shot pellets of "pepper spray", then drones that shoot real bullets, and then... imagine the natural evolution paths.

Autonomous (or semi-autonomous) machines armed to fight against someone or some group? Who would ever have imagined it becoming reality. Cue Arnold's voice saying "Come wid me if you wanna live." (from the Terminator movies)

Clive RobinsonJune 26, 2014 9:35 AM

Whilst laser pointers and water bomb ballons filled with paint catapulted at the drone might have some effect, home made HERF guns are more likely to fry the operator (having built a couple from microwave ovens and UPSs I'm more than aware of both the difficulties and dangers).

I'm thinking something a bit more effective, which is stunt kites.

A friend builds and flys such beasts that range from a couple of square feet of cloth right up to monsters that will lift a three hundred pound person off of their feet.

If you were to use fine metal fishing wire it would mangle the rotos beyond repair faster than you can say "Opps didn't see you there", or if more skillfully flown two kites and a big "gosemer fishing net" between them and go wide trawl fishing for the drone.

Another trick that might work, is a two or four ounce lead fishing weight with a long length of fishing line attached and a catapult. Back in the days of medium wave Pirate Radio we used to use this arangment to fire fifty or so meters of fishing line over a couple of high trees to pull the long wire antenna up between them.

It is surprising just how accurate you can get with it and one nutter who shall remain nameless used to fire up 150m of fishing line into those very high electricity pylons you see around South West London, without hitting the actual conductors or insulators, befor pulling up the antenna. It was scary to watch, but the signal realy did get out all over South West London and also most of South East England down to Brighton and Dover...

CallMeLateForSupperJune 26, 2014 10:17 AM

My first thought while reading the article was "Someone will surely jump on this, work out ways to subvert/defeat it."

My own gedanken experiment conjured "snot" projectiles; think non-lethal "shock and awe" aimed into the sky. Slime the sucker! Ummmm... too technical; go for simplicity. Perhaps circular netting weighted at its edge, like the hand nets flung onto the water by peasant fishermen. Fling a dozen of those simultaneously at an octo-assailant and see how/if it handles multiple simultaneous threats.

The kid in me likes the slime idea though. In my mind's ear I hear the BLUK of propellers meeting slime, followed by silence, followed by a satisfying crash.

ThothJune 26, 2014 10:59 AM

If that drone can carry some weaponry (pepper spray with ammunitions) and C&C hardware, it should have enough hardware computing power on-board that babie.

I believe there are experiments where someone strapped actual pistols with 9mm ammunitions on-board drones as experimental aerial combat platform (Youtube). Those aerial drone platforms could withstand gun recoils too. I wonder if such aerial combat platforms would be deployed in the big city soon to "combat crime".

WaelJune 26, 2014 12:00 PM


One day most of what you see in science fiction pictures will become a reality. One of the things I can't imagine ever happening is "beaming up" a person from one location to another, star-trek style "beam me up Scottie". Because it includes transforming matter into energy (person to some energy form), then reconstructing the energy form back to the physical person at a different location. We can do the first part, but not the second. The other one is time travel. One possible way of time travel is if one is able to travel faster than the speed of light, stop and catch the light waves (with a good telescope) that travelled from earth x years ago. No interaction with the past would be possible, no "timequakes" can happen (~dual of earthquake, see the movie Millennium) -- just passive observation. Another one is becoming "invisible", as in the "invisible man". If the man is invisible, then he must be blind as well -- reciprocity.

John MacdonaldJune 26, 2014 12:24 PM

@wael - invisible is not equal to blind unless you limit yourself to totally unpowered mechanisms.

A movie camera is not restricted to displaying its recording to only one time on one device - so it is easy to get a one to many multiplication of images.

Far-fetched, but, ... imagine a closed surface capable of simultaneously detecting incoming radiation (colour, direction of movement) and generate arbitrary outgoing radiation (with the same range of colour and direction), plus sufficient compute power to determine in real-time the control requests to generate the outputs on the appropriate location of the other side of the surface that match the inputs. Surely such a system would be able to also copy the measured inputs to a display inside the surface - in front of the operator who is also inside the surface. The invisibility is driven by copying the incoming light and duplicating the outgoing light that would have occurred if no object was present, but that doesn't stop you from also displaying that light elsewhere (but, of course, with different photons for both generated copies of the incoming light).

David in TorontoJune 26, 2014 12:39 PM

Blinding lasers. Really what were they thinking?

I can already see the headlines and lawsuits from bystanders.

WaelJune 26, 2014 1:01 PM

@John Macdonald,

invisible is not equal to blind unless you limit yourself to totally unpowered mechanisms
Mostly true because there are other passive methods that leverage recent advances in this area. What I meant is, if the retina can see incident light, then the retina will be "visible". The person's body might be invisible, but the retina will be visble. A person's visible image will be reduced to two small disks representing the light that was absorbed by the retina. If the retina were to be made invisible, then light will pass through it, meaning the invisible person will be blind. Brings another idea :) Perhaps cloaking will be possible in the future, good point!

HermanJune 26, 2014 1:24 PM

It is trivially easy to take out a toy chopper with a rubber band catapult and a few pebbles.

David in TorontoJune 26, 2014 1:56 PM

@Herman - that may need to be scaled up a wee bit. Assuming the ammo were similar to standard paintballs you would be expecting about 12-13kg. The propellant system would likely be heavy too.

Mind you a 12 gauge loaded with birdshot or salt would probably be enough.

WaelJune 26, 2014 2:19 PM


My own gedanken experiment conjured "snot" projectiles; think non-lethal "shock and awe" aimed into the sky. Slime the sucker! Ummmm...
And by the time they find out what hit them, it'll be too late. Because by then, "the stuffnamely, snot already hit the fan" :)

unhappyApplesJune 26, 2014 3:26 PM

Clive Robinson wrote:

"A friend builds and flys such ... monsters that will lift a three hundred pound person off of their feet."

Attempting to look on the bright side, just a little bigger and we could clear the roads of speeders. Imagine the whoosh as one swoops down and grabs the car going at 110 mph that just went past you, sets it down on the side of the road, slaps a speeding ticket on the windscreen and deflates the tyres.

AlexJune 26, 2014 3:57 PM

Attention police folk:

Remember that the whole drone thing works both ways -- protesters can easily build and buy these as well.

Making drones illegal won't solve anything. I can't think of too many bank robberies or murders which were prevented by them being illegal.

LambertJune 26, 2014 5:07 PM

I bet that before long assassins will be out of work. Stick a sniper rifle and an IR camera to a drone, fly in, shoot, fly out (or just blow up the drone) and you're done.

StephenJune 27, 2014 12:33 AM

Anyone else worried about the lack of accountability with riot drones like these? How do you know if they're deployed by a private company rather than your local PD? Who do you sue when the "blinding lasers" permanently blind someone?

Wesley ParishJune 27, 2014 2:46 AM


Count Dracula manages it without any problems ... :)

No, facetiously, getting back on topic, I think something to gum up the works is definitely the premier way to defeat riot drones. Something gooey to gum up the cooling baffles around the electric motor. or block the air intake if it's gas-powered. It's not as if there's a lack of gooey stuff in nature, and that introduces a certain amount of plausible deniability into the equation.

Laser pointers are a good way of burning out the CCTV that's piloting the beggar. At this moment they would be using radio control, not laser control, so currently there's no way of "hijacking" the drone with lasers. Pity that. But the use of lasers against laser-bearing riot drones is legal: it's what is termed "proportionate response" and is considered part of the inalienable right of self-defense. Probably the same with magnetrons from highly abused microwave ovens.

Then there is the well-known but not well-used method of finding the drone's remote-control power supply and disabling that. Methods of doing that range from throwing a mains switch and/or replacing fuses with defective ones to taking an axe or oxy-acetylene torch to said power supply.

eswanJune 27, 2014 3:41 PM

> I think something to gum up the works is definitely the premier way to defeat riot drones.

Raspberry jam.
The drone sir. It appears to be... jammed!

AnuraJune 27, 2014 4:05 PM

So you know that spray-foam insulation that comes in a can? Attach that to a drone and a trigger mechanism, and counter police drones with thick, hardening foam, preferably targeted at propellers and weapons.

va pupJune 28, 2014 11:09 AM

It'll be good to provide link to initial posting and discussion on that subject last week on your blog for consistency and whole picture.
But you are the boss...

JardaJune 29, 2014 7:03 AM

Next time you go to riot, take a biker's kevlar suit and helmet.

BTW, someone should be impalled for this. The one who produces it as well as anyone who buys it.

Clive RobinsonJune 29, 2014 10:33 AM

@ Jarda,

Basic economics dictate that where there is an obvious and real market solutions will be supplied to satisfy it, unless there is some impediment such as legislation to stop it.

Thus either the market needs to change or legislation needs to be brought in by those elected to do so.

However the market this is being arguably pointed at is at striking miners and others striving for some form of relief from oppression. This presents a problem because in many supposadly "democratic" nations, those in whos interest it is to not have preventative legislation are those that pay for the representatives election campaigns and also in many cases write the legislation for those that do get elected...

Thus you need to follow the money back to it's source and stop it flowing, to prevent the likes of these drones becoming common place as a tool of represion against those wishing to throw off the oppression of vested financial interests which give rise to plutocrats.

What ever you do though don't beleive those of a "free market" view point, free markets only create more of these sorts of problems as a few moments thought on the matter will show.

AutolykosJune 30, 2014 4:15 AM


Basic economics dictate that where there is an obvious and real market solutions will be supplied to satisfy it, unless there is some impediment such as legislation to stop it.

Usually, legislation will only increases price (and profit margins) while slightly lowering availability and quality. See also: War on Drugs.

In practice, I'd probably write a control system (or rudimentary AI) to fly 3-4 toy RC planes (or Quadrocopters) in formation with a net between them. Maybe make them smart enough that they can hunt an object illuminated with a strobe/IR-Flashlight without further intervention or signals (to make them immune to jamming).
Catch the sucker, stuff it into a metal box and carry it away (or just dunk it into the nearest lake). That minimizes danger to bystanders and is low-tech enough to make high-tech defenses against it extremely hard to pull off.

The child in me just wants to reenact Robot Wars in the air, though. Too bad wedges/flippers are pointless there :/

noonneeJune 30, 2014 7:46 AM


Do you mean that someone could by a kit, build it up, load it with some kind of explosives (like those used at the Boston marathon), program the drone to flight 5 minutes, then suddenly go down and explode during new year's celebration?

That kind of freaks me out, I'm avoiding great celebrations lately exactly because of that. Terror can be everywhere.

AutolykosJune 30, 2014 8:17 AM

@noonnee: Yes, he could. He could also just throw a grenade (improvised, if need be), or rent a truck and drive into the crowd, or shout "fire" at a large rock concert after blocking the exits.
Killing people is easy enough without Drones already. You shouldn't get all worked up over one specific scenario - and neither should anyone in politics or law enforcement. Investing in psychological health of your citizens (prevention) and emergency/disaster response (damage control) should be the way to go - and it would greatly benefit our society in many other ways as well.

AutolykosJune 30, 2014 8:25 AM

To clarify: I think the bomb design used at the Boston Marathon is way too heavy to be practical on a drone. But a smaller pipe bomb would also do. And you don't even need high explosives for those. Sodium Chlorate based explosives (which you could make in your kitchen using table salt, parts found in any hardware store and information available on Wikipedia) are plenty effective enough.

Clive RobinsonJune 30, 2014 9:14 AM

@ noonnee,

Do you mean that someone could by a kit, build it up, load it with some kind of explosives (like those used at the Boston Marathon)

Not currently.

The drone platform kits you can buy currently are not designed for large mass payloads. A pressure cooker with home made explosives is going to be to large and quite heavy.

Even semi pro UAV kits --where purchase is registered-- for camera platforms are still well below the shrapnel bomb weight a human could easily carry in a back pack or vest.

Whilst I can think of ways of making an effective lower weight payload device not to dissimilar to Noman MacLeod's M18A1 Claymore mine --ie a little under 4lb-- it's not the sort of thing you can just "homebrew" in a short time with shop bought components (though Wikipedia has sufficient information to get an effective design up and going if you can get the explosives etc and a covert test range to test/confirm the design). Even this weight along with control circuitry is going to be too much for most remote controled platform kits, which tend to limit payloads to low ounce values.

Trying to build your own UAV/drone platform to carry a 2Kg and up load, from the ground up is going to be no easy task unless you have quite a bit of requisite knowledge and significant experiance.

Thus I would be more concerned about proven home made rockets and mortar designs than bomb laden terrorist drones currently.

vas pupJune 30, 2014 2:48 PM

Neighbours spying on you with their new drone? Domestic Drone Countermeasures, a start-up company based in Portland, Oregon, wants to help. Their newest project is the Personal Drone Detection System, a set of sensors placed around the perimeter of a home that can detect possible drones from up to 15 metres away. Any suspicious signals are relayed back to a command module, which will then alert you via text message(New Scientist).

Clive RobinsonJune 30, 2014 3:12 PM

@ Vas Pup,

Rather than texting you, sending co-ordinates by wired comms link so your PC could train a camera / laser on it would be better, that way the pesky neighbours would get the hint PDQ that their rudness is totaly unwelcome.

Perhaps with a little experimentation a high power water gun could hit it if it was below 100ft, it would be a case of "oh dear the rain appears to have got in the electronics and it crashed... speak to customer service for a refund"...

The real problem is that these personal Drones don't need to fly over your property, at three hundred feet their horizon is several miles away, and even tall trees won't stop them getting some kind of view. Perhaps the laws of tresspass need to be updated befor the more hot headed "load for bear".

AnuraJune 30, 2014 3:55 PM

I'd imagine with an automated flight path, automatically landing on a hub that recharges and transfers stored video data, someone could use an automated drone to get a good idea, over a very large residential area, when people are home or leave for work (by tracking cars in driveways, for example). With no radio signals and a small size made up mostly of plastic (probably giving it a radar cross-section around the size of a medium-sized bird), a small drone could theoretically be detectable only by sight, while an adversary could use it to plan a very large string of burglaries.

stimoceiverJune 30, 2014 7:43 PM

If theres going to be objects flying around overhead capable of dispensing tear gas and blinding lasers then we're going to need to systematize some kind of protocol to serve the function of Identify Friend or Foe very quickly. Elsewise a good number of property owners will undoubtedly begin to claim the right to use whatever means necessary to force unidentified aerial vehicles down in an expedient manner.

Tossing aside the debate over the legality of UAV's in low altitude (unregulated) airspace - and the legality of firing upon them or otherwise disabling them - I am very much interested in civilian owned ground-to-air anti-drone defense technologies.

Specifically, I'd love to see the DIY and hackerspace community address the issue of disabling unidentified unmanned aerial vehicles entering my airspace. I wonder if the efforts at electron-beam sintering could be repurposed towards towards these ends?

I notice I'm not the first to mention magnetrons in this thread. This is encouraging to me. The GBPPR zine had several extensive write ups of experiments with fitting a waveguide to the magnetron from an old microwave. Wonder if it'd be strong enough to act as a LERF weapon and scramble drone electronics at an appropriately safe distance away?

For that matter I've always thought its a shame so many CRT tubes ended up in the trash bin. I wonder - could you cut the stem and repurpose the electron gun for use in homemade beam weapons? Use your glassblowing skills to attach it to a linear tube with a quartz window at the far end. Then instead of yoke coils for aiming, use electrostatic or electromagnetic magnification to increase the power. Someone better educated than me please tell me this isn't as simple as it sounds?

Or one could take a simpler approach and employ the time honored method of ballistics. Something like a well-aimed baseball practice pitcher could suffice, never mind propane cannons or magrail guns.

Even drones capable merely of air to ground photography might pose a threat to some sites. I predict that giant factory farms will be the first non-military to employ next generation radar and ballistic deterrent to activist use of aerial drone photography. But what about when the drone is technically flying over neighboring airspace and using a gimbal mounted camera?

AnnoyedJuly 1, 2014 1:21 AM

So I guess protesters should purchase a few drones of their own and fit them with loudspeakers and mp3 players.

Imagine 1000 protesters sitting quietly in their favorite coffee shop while their swarm of drones delivers an ear-splitting message 100 miles away, all the while performing superb aerial acrobatics against the hostile government drones.

AutolykosJuly 1, 2014 5:14 AM

I thought about building electron guns from CRTs while I was in school. Now I know they're not even in the same order of magnitude as "practical". Basically, there's a reason for the vacuum inside CRT tubes. The range of electrons in air is roughly a centimeter per MeV. And I highly doubt you could get to even one MeV with stuff you solder together in your garage.
On top of that, you'd also need some serious currents to get enough energy to the drone, since you probably want to disable it, not tickle it. And that kind of electronics is not only expensive, but also likely to make you small, black and ugly if you try to build it at home.
If you want home-made directed energy weapons, magnetrons are the way to go here.

But shooting the damn thing always has the problem that it needs to come down somewhere, which risks hurting bystanders. Since I'm not as irresponsible as the government spooks who deploy the drones, that's no option for me (unless I have a way of confirming the "LZ" is clear)

AutolykosJuly 1, 2014 5:22 AM

My bad, got the wrong figures in the hurry. You have slightly less than 4m per MeV. Which is still far from practical.

WaelJuly 1, 2014 5:49 AM


But shooting the damn thing always has the problem that it needs to come down somewhere, which risks hurting bystanders.
Even "tickling" the drone can possibly bring it down as well ;)

vas pupJuly 1, 2014 10:42 AM

General comments.
Drones could have flexible capabilities: not armed at all (surveillance, targeting, communication, etc.); armed with lethal weapon - to kill, destroy - military/counter-terrorist applications; armed with non-lethal capabilities - pepper spray, lasers - police function in suppressing riots;all features combined in one multi-tasking drone with arms lethal capability could be adjusted by the task. As I see it, soon it'll be drones with main task of fighting unfriendly drones as well. So, yes it should be in a future capability to recognize 'friendly' drone versus 'foe' drone.
(2)owners of the drone: government (military, LEA, Intel, FEMA-like, etc.), private (big corporations, small/medium business (including private security), citizen). Drone capabilities and usage within the country should be clear defined by law taking into consideration balance of security, privacy and property rights. That is key question: do you have a right for ACTIVE self-defense - destroy partially or totally unlawful drone (where? how far above your property? etc.) or only for PASSIVE self-defense (disrupt, temporary blind, take control and force to land, etc.). E.g. when LEA come to your door they should identify themselves as LEA and have authority to enter your property even without your consent; criminal enter your property (tress passing) without authority. Meaning regardless of having right for active or passive defense against drone, you need to identify owner first. Otherwise we may have same situation when guy found GPS device attached to his SUV by feds without his knowledge and consent, and then destroyed it being charged with damage to federal property.
Usage of the drones outside the country should be defined by international by-lateral or multi-lateral agreements, rules of military engagement, etc.

Wesley ParishJuly 2, 2014 8:18 PM


OT. That was one of the reasons I suffered a reality breakdown over the various claims of Ronnie Raygun's SDI concerning the (proposed) use of electron beam weapons in Low Earth Orbit - it's not as much a vacuum as they apparently believed. And the use of electron beams to destroy something makes it ever so much less of a vacuum. In the end I concluded that electron beam weapons would (only) be perfectly usable (and legal) inside the heads of their proponents, as you can't damage anything that's such a perfect vacuum.

A couple of asides: Stanislaw Lem in his Imaginary Magnitude and Perfect Vacuum collections painted a perfect picture of the direction warfare was going in, in the late 70s and early 80s. He got the fact that the resulting world would be quite unlivable quite right too.

And also: the development and use of drones and counter-drones is likely to become quite a thriving cottage industry. I've borrowed some books from the local library on the beasties; they're written from the POV of the manufacturers and users of these weapons, so are quite self-congratulatory in tone. I'll bet the tone won't be anywhere near so self-congratulatory once the first drone is downed by Waziri tribesfolk using their own home-made countermeasures. It's only a matter of time: various people from Yemen and the (formerly) NWF have publicly complained to the US about the "targeting inaccuracies" and the "collateral damage" - meaning dead civilians -, and the US has paid no attention. So I'm predicting these "undeveloped" regions will soon undergo a massive "development" in order to eradicate these noxious beasties.

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