Robotic engineers at Sandia National Laboratory (SNL) are developing drones that can capture hostile drones in flight. The Mobile Adaptive Passive Anti-Drone System (MARCUS) project, funded by NATO’s Peace and Security Science Program, uses four teams of unmanned quadcopters to intercept and capture the drone into the network.
As drones become more and more complex, they also pose a growing threat. Drone systems are now a major component of the world’s major military forces, but they are also seen in airport pranks that violate privacy or can crash aircraft.
Over the years, researchers have developed many anti-drone systems, including jammers, laser equipment, and even eagles trained to shoot them down, but MARCUS’s goal is not only to counter the threat posed by small drones, but also to capture them for disposal or information gathering. According to SNL, this is not the first system to use the network, but the first to combine the network with a drone controlled by a computer on the ground to coordinate the drone group route to ensure interception.
The computer algorithm, which has been under development since 2017, aims to overcome the limitations of ground systems such as radar, which have difficulty selecting drones from buildings and trees in the background.
Flying drones can act as sensor platforms and intercept threats. Taking advantage of this, the MARCUS project is developing ways to use airborne sensors combined with data from ground systems to identify, track and capture small drones. In addition to the interceptor complex, other drones can be deployed to track and examine potential threats. After the suspicious drone is captured, it can be flown to a secure area for mid-range and inspection.
So far, the system has been successfully tested indoors using four drones to safely capture and bring the object to the ground, the team said.
“This is the future of security and incident response,” said Jon Salton, sandia team manager involved in MARCUS. “Think of it as a drone to a drone. What we need to achieve is a combination of ground and air capabilities to respond more powerfully to future UAS threats. “