"It's like robotic falconry."
Associate professor and team leader Mo Rastgaar's drone-catcher is simply a big, badass drone that shoots a giant net at its target from a distance of up to 40 feet. Seeing it in action is almost comic, like one of Wile E. Coyote's Acme products in the modern age, but it works with power and precision.
The drone catcher traps and disables the unwelcome intruder and then either releases its prey in a safe location or takes it somewhere for human inspection. Rastgaar told Michigan Tech news that the drone can be operated either autonomously, by a human pilot, or a mix of both.
Rastgaar got the idea when he heard that snipers were put in place to protect World Cup attendees from threats, which included mischief-making drones. Obviously, using actual ammunition in a massive crowd of people wouldn't have been the most optimal idea. As he told Michigan Tech news, "If the threat is a drone, you really don't want to shoot it down—it might contain explosives and blow up. What you want to do is catch it and get it out of there."
Rastgaar and his team have filed a patent based on their prototype, and see it potentially used to bring down spy drones, stop drones used in drug trafficking, or help the FAA catch unregistered drones. (The US government recently mandated that all drones, even those used by hobbyists for fun, be registered.)
The drone catcher's net is so big that it can even stop much smaller, more maneuverable drones, making it a formidable predator.
"It's like robotic falconry," Rastgaar said.