Tech Firms Offer Ways to Knock a Drone Out of the Sky -- or Hunt Down Its Operator

The fight to reign in drones -- and their operators -- gets technical.


The battle for civilian airspace has forced government agencies to get creative when it comes to policing their territory.

There are two approaches in development making news: The British way involves frying drones out of the sky while the American method employed by the Federal Aviation Administration scans for drone operators in flagrante delicto near airports.

On the heels of declaring it would levy a nearly $2 million fine against a commercial drone operator flying through restricted New York and Chicago airspace, the FAA has announced it will evaluate a system from Virginia-based information technology company CACI International within a “five-mile radius of airports.” The FAA and CACI are being cagey about exactly what the technology will do, but CACI officials say it can identify and track not only where the drone is but the operator on the ground.

Contrasting with the you-are-a-sinner-and-we-will-find-you American method, in the U.K. they just want to shoot the bloody things down. It’s a three-part process: radar to locate the drone, a thermal camera to target it, and turning on a high-powered radio signal that jams communication between drone and operator. Depending on how long the tech paralyzes the drone, it will either appear like a glitch to the drone’s controller, or you can freeze it in place until the drone runs out of juice and falls to the ground.

To underscore that we maybe haven’t got this drone thing quite figured out, another machine fell out of the sky near the White House Friday morning.