DARPA's non-explosive drone takedown system uses giant 'party streamers'

DARPA has wrapped up work on a system designed to take down small drones operating over places where an explosive countermeasure wouldn't be acceptable. Put simply, this system involves launching a device into the air that, once it detects a drone, launches giant streamers into the air, not unlike the kind you may see shooting out of a small cannon at a party.

Drones that operate in restricted airspace can be neutralized using many different methods, but the task is trickier when the takedown must occur over a populated area like a city. An explosive anti-drone tool isn't suitable for these locations, so the agency has a different solution: launching streamers at the drones, which become tangled in the ribbons.

DARPA refers to this as the Counter-Unmanned Air System (C-UAS) multilayer defense architecture, noting that it is intended for use when a drone or multiple small drones are operated without authorization over military operations and installations. The system is described as reusable and low-cost, with four years of work having gone into the system.

The reusable system is able to automatically identify drones in the nearby vicinity, while a variety of systems guide the product to intercept the drones — this can be done both with and without operators. Key to the system is the durable 'stringy streamers' that eject from the inceptors toward the drone, which become tangled in the strands.

The system is designed to deal with a swarm of small unmanned drones rather than just a single wayward UAV that intrudes into military airspace. DARPA demonstrated the finalized technology in a new video, showing off what looks very similar to the streamers you may see pop out of novelty toys and fireworks.