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Military shows off new drone killer that fires ‘silly string’ at opponents

Within a few years, drones have gone from little more than toys to be one of the most significant emerging weapons technologies of the 21st century.

Drones are already being used in combat. ISIS has used swarms of cheap hobbyist-level drones to drop grenades on US-backed Iraqi troops in Mosul, and in last year’s clash between opposing Libyan factions a drone is thought to have killed a human, based on its own AI decision making.

And if any weapon exists, we need to come up with a defence against it.

DARPA, the research and development agency that dreams up new tech for the United States Department of Defence, has shown off at least one way of taking down rogue drones in a new video.

The demonstration of the radar-guided device showed it is armed with a "silly string" type technology that it sprays into the rotors of quadcopter intruders.

Other anti-drone drones use explosives to target and destroy airborne threats but the “string” technology would be far less dangerous if an enemy drone needed to be neutralised in a built-up area.

"The issue of a hostile drone – potentially with explosives attached to it – falling to the ground and possibly injuring civilians exists," security analyst Robert Bunker told New Scientist.

"But it’s a far better option than targeting such a drone with indiscriminate machine gun fire."

  • Next generation of AI drones will be 'too fast for humans to fight' warns top general

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It’s also a much safer option if a bomb-carrying drone were buzzing an airport, for example, or a crowded sports stadium.

Bunker says that the future of drone warfare will involve formations of different classes of drone, with "bomber" drones attacking a target while "escort" drones protect them from defenders.

The Pentagon has already demonstrated another anti-drone technology, with a flying "aircraft carrier" drone capable of launching smaller six-kilogram combat drones at a target.

The carrier drone is also fitted with a machine gun, although in most cases drones are too small and nimble to be targeted with guns.

Drone expert Bart Remes says that mid-air ramming is still the best way to eliminate a rival drone.

"One of the best ways to take down a drone is to sacrifice your own drone," he says.

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