With drone use on the rise around the world, authorities are scrambling to find ways to prevent unauthorized drones from flying in restricted air spaces. In Japan, the Metropolitan Police Force of Tokyo is ready to fight fire with fire, fielding a specialized force dedicated to capturing unauthorized drones and their users. The key element to Japan’s strategy is a fleet of their own drones that are equipped with nets capable of snatching unauthorized drones out of the sky.
Japan Today reports that a newly-formed squad, made up of dozens of specially trained officers, will start patrolling Tokyo’s restricted air spaces later this month. The squad will operate by scanning no-fly zones for unauthorized drone use. When a drone is spotted, the squad will work to locate the operator and order the drone to be grounded. The squad will also have drones of their own, equipped with large nets, that are capable of capturing unauthorized drones should an operator evade detection or fail to comply with police demands.
In a YouTube video made available by Jiji Press, which can be viewed above, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department drones can be seen in action in a series of successful tests. The drones appear to be larger and faster than many civilian models, and use a six rotor configuration that departs from the familiar quad copter design that many drones fall into. According to Japan Today, the nets utilized by these drones are up to nine feet in length, and they are designed to unfurl as the drone takes off.
When an unauthorized drone is spotted, the police drone makes chase, and ultimately tangles it up in the net, if all goes well.
Other anti-drone measures include jamming drone signals in specific areas, directional jammers that can disrupt the signal to a specific drone, and even shooting down drones that enter restricted airspace. The net method was tested in Korea earlier this year according to Popular Science, and it is probably the most controlled method of taking down an unauthorized drone that is currently available.
The reason authorities are interested in capturing drones rather than just shooting them down may have something to do with a scare last April, when a drone set down on the roof of the Japanese prime minister’s office. Similar events have occurred in the United States with drone operators apprehended in the vicinity of the White House, but the situation in Japan was a little more dire.
When the drone landed on the prime minister’s office in April, it was carrying a bottle of radioactive material, according to the BBC.
Nobody was hurt in that incident, but authorities in Japan and elsewhere are concerned about the growing possibility that drones could be used for nefarious purposes. In Japan, a senior member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department told The Asahi Shimbun that the new task force will patrol sensitive areas for drones, like the prime minister’s office, the Imperial Palace, and the Diet building.
“Terrorist attacks using drones carrying explosives are a possibility,” the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department representative told The Asahi Shimbun. “We hope to defend the nation’s functions with the worst-case scenario in mind.”
It has been a good three decades since Indiana Jones showed us why you don’t bring a sword to a gun fight, and it would seem that law enforcement is finally starting to wise up in the war of the drones. In the same way that you don’t bring a sword to a gun fight, you don’t bring a gun to a drone fight, unless you want to inadvertently drop a bottle of radioactive materials, an improvised explosive device, or any other mysterious payload on the heads of unsuspecting citizens.
[Images via Mila Supinskaya and Kulit Na Nakorn/Shutterstock]