There are various places – such as airports, prisons and military bases – where people aren't allowed to fly consumer drones. If someone does so anyway, it's always possible to shoot the thing down or remotely disable it. Another option, however, is to net it in mid-air, using the new-and-improved DroneCatcher.

Made by Dutch startup Delft Dynamics, the DroneCatcher quadcopter has been around in prototype form since at least 2015, and the commercial model was unveiled last year. Just recently, though, a clever new additional feature was announced – a detachable power tether.

When hooked up to that tether, the DroneCatcher receives power from an electrical outlet on the ground, allowing it to already be hovering at altitude for an indefinite period of time. When an approaching intruding drone is detected, however, that tether can be detached from the DroneCatcher by remote control. This allows it be flown unfettered using battery power, in order to quickly reach that drone.

Once it's done so, its automated targeting system utilizes multiple onboard sensors (including a gimbal-mounted image-tracking camera and laser rangefinder) to lock onto the enemy aircraft. The DroneCatcher then uses its pneumatic net gun to shoot a net at the target from a distance of up to 20 m (66 ft), capturing it.

That net remains attached to the net gun by a cable, allowing the netted quarry to be flown back to a safe landing spot. In the event that the captured drone is too heavy to carry, the cable can be released from the DroneCatcher, letting the payload parachute to the ground.

Other features include folding carbon fiber propeller arms, a top forward speed of 20 m/second and a weight of under 6 kg (13 lb), plus the DroneCatcher can fly by battery power for up to 30 minutes per charge. It can be seen in drone-catching action, in the video below.

A team at Michigan Technological University has been working on a similar system.

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