The widespread availability of drones has always carried the increased risk of them falling into the wrong hands. And forces battling Islamic State terrorists are now seeing this play out in very real and dangerous ways. As more reports emerge of the group using weaponized consumer drones to strike allied forces, one unnamed Middle Eastern government is bringing in a high-tech solution, the long-range Dronegun that can ground unmanned aircraft from kilometers away.
Last month, the Islamic State formally announced the establishment of its "Unmanned Aircraft of the Mujahideen" – an air force made up customized drones built to carry bombs – and claimed that these aircraft had killed or wounded 39 Iraqi soldiers in a single week.
France is one example of a country looking to meet these threats head on. The Agence France-Presse reported last week that with the country on high-alert following a string of jihadist attacks over the last two years, the military is now raising golden eagles to intercept suspect drones before any damage can be done.
And now DroneShield, the company behind the Dronegun, has announced the sale of its anti-drone jammer to what it says is the Ministry of Defense of an unnamed Middle Eastern country. It says this is the first reported sale of a tactical drone-jammer product to a Middle Eastern country, and claims that the purchase was made after an extensive review of Dronegun alongside its competitors.
Some of the other anti-drone technologies we have seen include shoulder-mounted net cannons, drones that catch other drones in nets and eagles – not just in France, but in the Netherlands as well. The 5 kg (11 lb) Dronegun doesn't place any animals in harm's way and doesn't require reloading of nets or other materials. It also has better portability and working range than the other drone frequency-jamming technologies we have looked at.
The devices work by blasting a drone with electromagnetic noise at the same frequencies it uses for video transmission and control communications. A lot of consumer drones these days will automatically return to their take-off point when the connection breaks down, but the Dronegun overcomes this by blocking GPS too. This means the drone will land on the spot, with the makers listing the Dronegun's range at 1.3 mi (2 km).
Exact figures on the cost of the Dronegun aren't available, but the company does say that is in the tens of thousands of dollars and the one unit was purchased at full price. It was done so on the basis of it being a test unit, which will possibly lead to a large-scale follow up order for the unnamed military if things go well.
"We are glad to both be on the right side of the fight against terrorism and deliver commercial success to our shareholders," said DroneShield's Chairman Peter James.
You can see a demo of the Dronegun in action below.