Welcome to the Drone Wars

DroneClash” is a competition to be held on December 4th (save the date!) in a hangar at Valkenburg airfield in the Netherlands. The game? Teams try to destroy each others’ quadcopters, navigate through a “Hallway of Doom, Death, and Destruction”, and finally enter a final phase of the game where they try to defend their “queen” drone while taking out those of their opponents.

This sounds like crazy and reckless fun. Surprisingly, it’s being sponsored by the Technical University of Delft’s Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) lab. The goal is to enable a future of responsible drone use by having the ability “to take them out if necessary”.

Drone development has grown hugely in recent years, and you can see the anti-drone industry growing too. Ideally, these developments keep each other in check and result in a safe and responsible incorporation of drones in our daily lives. We are organising DroneClash to generate new ideas in order to encourage this process.

We do have to ask ourselves why anyone would want to use another quadcopter to take out illegally operated quadcopters — there must be a million more effective means from a policing standpoint.  On the other hand, if we were re-shooting “Hackers” right now, and looking for a futuristic sport, we would swap out rollerblading for drone combat. Registration opens this week. Gentlebots, start your engines.

17 thoughts on “Welcome to the Drone Wars

  1. Back in the 80s as RC cars started using high tech materials, a group of us at MultiMate built the fastest, sturdiest cars we could and had demolitions in the parking lot next door – a tractor-trailer driving school. After hours we had a huge expanse of asphalt we could use to see how much damage we could do to these multi-hundred dollar cars. It’s hard enough to catch and smash into another car when they’re all moving 60+ MPH in 2 dimensions, but in 3? The idea of drones trying to demolish each other sounds awesome!

    My only copter right now is a Fotokite Phi which has enough trouble flying without simply crashing and hurting itself and the Hero 4 camera. :(

    1. The problem is that there really aren’t any better ways. In theory radio jamming or spoofing sounds great, but a motivated attacker could easily pre-program routes and use visual localization instead of GPS.

      This basically means you need to physically destroy the drone, and hitting a drone at range without massive collateral damage requires guidance.

      Finally just detecting an incoming drone could become impossible. Right now audio detection seems to be getting traction, but what stops a drone from flying way above the target and cutting power?

      A swarm of fifty purpose-built $500 dronesis virtually unstoppable, even with tens of millions of dollars in countermeasures.

      1. “At range” depends on the range. For short range, shotguns with fine birdshot are basically designed for it already, and the birdshot will be slowed to safe speeds on the way down.

        For long enough ranges that the drone operator may detect firing and dodge before the projectile arrives, guidance will be necessary; a Patriot missile is certainly overkill, but I’m not sure how much you can scale that concept down… it’s really a tossup whether an intercepting quadcopter or a tiny radar-guided missile is the better choice.

        For intermediate ranges, where shotgun pellets can’t reach, but point-and-shoot is still good enough, a smart-grenade type round with birdshot and a very small bursting charge should be doable — travels as one round for good ballistics to within perhaps 10-20 meters of the target, then disintegrates, leaving the birdshot to spread out as it approaches the target. The XM25 might be adaptable to this use; should be as “simple” as developing the new round, and a software patch to handle the difference in airburst timing.

      2. Well, they’re working on it at least Not sure if they’ll hit their target point (still a silly cost multiplier).

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAVAIR_Spike

        The issues are always cost. Brainless or remote navigation is always cheaper than homing. It’s one of the reasons that most AA weapons use a blast fragmentation warhead, because contact is extremely difficult, and unneeded, at those speeds and armor levels.

        If they could get “underneath” the drone for a laser paint the even simpler Ratheon PIKE could take them out.

        http://www.raytheon.com/capabilities/products/pike/

      3. Wouldn’t directed-energy weapons be the best choice for small drone swarms?
        Fry the electronics with high energy radar or set them on fire with lasers. It would not take long for a laser to take one out drone and then move on to the next.

  2. I’ve often thought one of the coolest safest places for active drone users in an urban setting would be in a warehouse… you could have multi level courses, mazes, open areas set up and a nice experience big bullet proof shield for the pilots and spectators to stand behind and sip on a nice soda or barley pop.

  3. Patriot is probably better at hitting drones than missiles, since during the gulf war times they reportedly shot missiles down but the remnants continued to come in at mach 5 by inertia, and cause the same damage as if not having been intercepted I read.

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