British tech firm OpenWorks is showing off the latest in anti-drone small arms: SkyWall system. Part smart rifle, part net cannon, SkyWall targets and tracks drones and brings them down intact and unharmed.
As drone technology becomes more available and affordable, more people are finding ways to take advantage of small, short-range personal drones. In the wrong hands quadcopters and unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs have been used to commit crimes, invade privacy and smuggle contraband. And the potential to deliver ordnance remotely has huge terrorism implications worldwide.
In recent months the anti-drone arms race has taken off and we’ve seen dogfighting drones in the skies over Japan and trained drone-hunting eagles in flight in the Netherlands. Now, out of England, we’re seeing the first commercial surface-to-air anti-drone net cannon.
Other counter-drone measures depend on other technologies like high-energy laser weapons and focused electronic jamming systems. The SkyWall system was designed from the get-go to be cheaper and easier to use than earlier anti-drone devices.
OpenWorks hopes to put their first system, the SkyWall100, into service protecting public and private security. It’s man-portable at 22 pounds, designed for a single user. The first unit has a 100-meter range and can track and take down any drones within line of sight.
The company has plans for three SkyWall systems, the SkyWall100, SkyWall200 and SkyWall300. The 200-series is a fixed unit on a pintle mount for prolonged use at venues like concerts, speeches and sporting events. The 300-series is a fixed, weatherproof turret for permanent emplacements.
All use the same basic launcher and tracking system although the 300-series has a longer effective range
OpenWorks has also developed several different types of projectiles and all are reusable. Their flagship net unit is the SP40. The SP40 bundles a parachute with the net unit that deploys after capturing a target to bring it safely to the ground. This is especially important when using the SkyWall system at public events where bystanders could be hurt. It also minimizes the risk of damage to the drone which could have other legal consequences.
The basic projectile is the SP10, a low-cost net-only round. They also have a unit with electronic countermeasures, the SP80 as well as a training round, the SP01.
“OpenWorks Engineering believes that security enforcement authorities need a cost-effective and proportionate way of protecting the public and high profile individuals and we wanted to put a system on the market that offered just that,” said Managing Director Chris Down.
“Authorities around the world have been looking for a system like this and we are proud to continue the tradition of British innovation in the security industry.”
OdinWorks expects to have SkyWall systems in use by Q4 2016. The new battle for control over the small skies is just heating up.