5 Awesome Ways People Are Defeating Drones
Drones are the internet leaking into the outside world: technology letting douchebags spy on your ass and then annoy you, while all you can do is shake your fist at the sky. For instance, Uber unleashed drones to mock drivers stuck in traffic jams with patronizing notes, which is sure to bring about the first case of a court justifying road rage murder. An evangelical church is planning a military drone-bombing of the Middle East with the 11th plague: electronic bibles, which sounds like a Mr. Show sketch.
Self-defense against drones is now a moral imperative. Which is why I've found the five most awesome ways of swatting these techno-wasps out of the air.
DroneDefender Ray Gun
The DroneDefender looks like a prop department had to fight '70s science fiction enemies with only plumbing supplies, a TV antenna, and about 60 seconds to prepare.
Once the Doctor's companion started carrying this, every episode was two minutes long.
The DroneDefender disrupts the drone's control signal by bombarding it with ... well, even more signal. It's the electromagnetic equivalent of a Skrillex concert when someone over 50 is trying to talk on the phone: They're both using the same technology, but the victim has no choice but to stand paralyzed and deafened as they try to comprehend the overpowering noise.
Of course, this "fire so much signal that everything goes electronically deaf" means the DroneDefender has to tackle a far more terrifying foe than the drones: the Federal Communications Commission. Which reportedly hasn't stopped the Department of Defense and Homeland Security from placing large orders. I suspect they're only selling to the federal government (so far) because they're the only ones who can afford the legal fees resulting from firing this anywhere on the continent.
The DroneDefender doubles as the "FCC Violation Signal."
The key issue is that the drone doesn't explode or electrocute itself; it just doesn't know what to do now that no one's giving it instructions anymore. So instead of killing it, you've just turned it into an adult. Top-flight military machines might have return-to-base or auto-landing software, but most of the shitty civilian models are going to just pointlessly maintain their current position until they run out of time and collapse into the dirt. So again, just like most adults. Except the person firing the DroneDefender has to stand there aiming it the whole time, turning the drone into a screaming chore you have to keep your eye on until it falls asleep. So it's a baby as well.
At least a tech firm is finally honest about the word "disruption." As in "we are disrupting the normal operation of our target by swamping it into technological bullshit, all while paying no mind to the safety and legal effects on anything or anyone else in the vicinity." Another thoughtful aspect is how their "simulation" videos insist that any targeted drone will peacefully leave and carefully land without anything going wrong. We're assuming that's plausible deniability so you can smugly declare, "I swear, I thought your hundreds of dollars of annoyance wouldn't shit its levitating pants and eventually smash itself to pieces."
Skywall 100 Net Bazooka
The Skywall 100 is designed like the video game weapon that you only get for four shots, half of which you waste missing the final boss.
1.11 percent of the BFG 9000.
What it fires looks like it escaped from '60s Batman. Because it's ludicrously awesome.
"Holy Drone, Batman! That's what I call net-working!"
It's a massive, shoulder-mounted, gas-powered, net-flinging bazooka, blasting a capsule which opens to reveal a net which wraps itself around the target, tangling it in weighted bolas. Then, because awesome never stops when it's on a roll, the net deploys a parachute. It's the world's first functioning Rube Goldberg Gun, and it's amazing. Because nets are drone Kryptonite -- something stupidly simple that came from far earlier in history, and can utterly cripple the flying bastards. We should always have known that our future robo-toy overlords would fall to the same technology as the average Scooby-Doo villain.
The only tragedy is intellectual property laws, which mean this has to be called Skywall 100 instead of the outrageously perfect Skynet. It can be rapidly reloaded, and as a backup, you could probably use it to club a Terminator to death. Or maybe hire Scottish anti-drone guards to caber-toss it at offending devices. This interdiction system also offers a wonderful honesty. Firing a weighted net cannon is not a gentle reminder that other human beings might not be NPCs in your entirely first-person-view of the world. It says, "Your drone is going down, and that's the last time that possessive will apply. It's my bag of spare parts now."
The low-tech solution doesn't run the risk of FCC interference. Though, honestly, it's only a matter of time before some asshole fires this directly at a human. Warning: DO NOT FIRE THIS DIRECTLY AT A HUMAN. The reason we finally have net-guns now isn't that we've worked out how to make them safe. It's because you can fire massive kinetic throttling-projectiles at robots without being arrested. Just because something looks like it should be fired by Wile E. Coyote doesn't mean kinetic energy has agreed to be nonlethal.
The Tokyo Police are creating a "Drone Squad" -- agents trained to use technology to patrol the city against mechanical threats. Somehow they don't have a theme song, unresolved romantic tension, or the ability to combine all the drones into one megabot to face series-ending major threats, though we're sure they'll add those in season two. Their first response to most offenders will be a drone with a camera and megaphone swooping in to shout "We can see you, stop doing that." And if politely reminding people that the law exists doesn't work, it's time to take direct action.
Nothing but net. And miniature helimotors.
Their next step is to dangle a big square net to swoop down and "Ole!" any unauthorized aerial-bots into a tangled mess. This is a real Robot War. We could set up a points system and a league. This is the very brief window in which aerial bullfighting will be cool: after we realize animal torture's really not fun, but before the robots get smart enough to decide it is. This could be the greatest Japanese techno-sport possible until we finally get zero-G sumo.
The American Airspace Systems are also arming drones for the future Sky Wars, merging the last two anti-drone systems to equip their own drone-hunting quadracopter with an aerial net gun.
The One Touch Interceptor system means their hunter autonomously tracks and captures its target. Just tap your smartphone once and a robo-warrior soars off to capture your enemy, generating another Black Mirror plot as a side effect. Though letting the robots track and attack targets all by themselves seems short-sighted, it takes a human operator to press the button to start it. So the barrier between roaming, hunting terror drones and eventual human annihilation is one finger.
The net remains attached to the hunting drone, meaning it not only takes out the target drone, but it also then dangles and parades it in full public view. That's the drone equivalent of mounting a lion's head on your wall.
Related: Drones Aren't Weird Anymore!
Hack Them out Of The Sky
The whole point of drones is that they need someone in control. The whole point of hacking is that "someone" can always be a hacker. And the average drone has fewer cybernetic defenses than the annoying douchebag who's flying it.
Samy Kamkar developed the SkyJack. That's Samy as in the "Samy Worm," which wrecked MySpace back in 2005, so he's got experience taking down incredibly annoying noise-making technologies. The SkyJack is a super-drone equipped to hunt and hack other drones. Yes, all by itself. No, I don't know how to appease our imminent Quite-Literally-Over-Lords, but advise finding out extremely quickly. Or digging Morlock tunnels. Did I mention the SkyJack looks just like a regular drone?
The SkyJack's software searches out every wireless MAC address in range. If it finds one that it can control, it does so. And it's open source. So anyone can add any other hacks. And if you want, you can run SkyJack from the ground to mind-control any vulnerable invaders. So drones just went from "cool toys" to "expensive gifts for any nearby hackers."
Another anti-drone option is the Maldrone backdoor. Instead of going after the fast-moving aerial drone, you can target its idiot owner and their computer, and it's often hard to say which is a more stationary target. Maldrone installs a backdoor in drone control software. This is '90s cyberpunk "I'm in!" hacking for real, and it's awesome.
The ultimate in down-loading.
It could only be cooler if the guy in the video had chromed eyeglasses implanted in his face. Though when you're standing right next to four hacked helicopter motors, "facial implantation of shiny techno-chunks" is only a matter of time. It's the glorious success of intelligence over brute force. The EM jammer and net systems require careful aim, significant physical outlay, and you still have to drag your target out of the sky. This lets you tell the drone "DIE NOW" and hope there isn't anyone underneath to get caught up in the obedience.
Birds -- No, Seriously, Actual Birds
Dutch police are training eagles to swoop in and grab drones. Which HAS to be the plot of an upcoming SyFy movie. We'd even enjoy it if it was The Birds 3: Feathers Will Fly, as we team up with an old enemy to fight the new robotic threat.
You'd see pretty much the same as a human, but more red-tinted.
Obviously, I'm all for this. I am all for birds of prey as solutions to EVERY problem. Someone using their phone in a movie theater? HAWK TO THE HEAD. Spitting chewing gum on the ground? FALCON TO THE FACE. Wolf-whistle at a woman? BUZZARD TO THE BALLS. Check this shit out:
The Dutch police are training up to a hundred officers to work with eagles, in the most awesome deployment of "unlikely animal-based buddy cop movie as a real thing" ever. If my calculations are correct -- and I don't see how awesome scribbled pictures on the back of my trapper-keeper could be wrong -- this eagle-enhanced officer corps could eliminate all crime within a year. As well as eradicate all police corruption and violence, because eagles can sense and reject an evil heart.
Look at this totally unrelated GIF of an eagle I found.
The police are already training up their own birds, and until then, they're renting airborne officers from the company "Guard From Above." But this system won't just work for the police. It's perfect for civilians. There is nothing like looking after a bird of prey to teach you an extraordinary respect for personal space. Drones dissolve people's sense of empathy and society, turning invasions of privacy and even mass murder into a mere video game. Point-blank, eagles teach you to FUCK OFF and RESPECT OTHERS.
It doesn't matter what your sexuality was; now it's Drone-Destroying-Eagle-Master-phile.
It also resolves a huge number of legal issues. When one asshole-gadget takes out another, it opens all kinds of awful legal interactions, internet debates, an array of thinkpieces, and copious discussions of ethics. When an Eagle Commander snatches a drone out of the sky, Eagle Commander WINS. That is the law of things. That is the way of the sky, and if you don't want it to swoop out of that sky into your face, you will recognize its sky-majesty.
Luke writes ZERO POINT COMEDY science humor, has a mailing list, and responds to every single tweet. For more techno-social problems, check out Schrodinger's Pregnancy and The HOTTEST Before and After Selfie EVER!!!
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