- DARPA introduced a new drone defense designed to disable drones attacking convoys.
- The Mobile Force Protection system uses a drone to spray weird pink stuff on other drones, forcing them to crash.
- The system is designed to be usable in populated areas without endangering nearby civilians and friendlies.
The U.S. military’s mad scientist division, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has unveiled a new counter-drone system designed to protect convoys on the move.
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The system, known as Mobile Force Protection, launches a drone to intercept other small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS). The drone sprays a mysterious, disabling pink material that forces the attacking drone to crash. Watch it in action here:
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The Mobile Force Protection (MFP) program began in 2017, designed to “develop an integrated system capable of defeating self-guided sUAS (i.e., those that do not rely on a radio or GPS receiver for their operation) attacking a high-value convoy on the move.” DARPA wanted a system that could detect sUAS at a distance of 1 kilometer (6/10 of a mile) and neutralize a drone at that distance, cheaply and with minimal chance of damage to civilian property or injuries to civilians.
MFP also needed to be compact and deployable on a ground vehicle as small as a Humvee or U.S. Coast Guard 25-foot patrol boat.
The new system looks like it hits the mark. The MFP vehicle, a modified Humvee, uses an X-band radar to automatically detect and track hostile drones. MFP then launches a counter-drone interceptor—in this case, a hovering drone that looks like the IG-88B assassin droid from Star Wars.
The counter-drone races to catch up with the incoming enemy drone, paces it, and then launches what DARPA calls “strong, stringy streamers.” The pink streamers foul the rotors of the enemy drone, causing it to lose propulsion and crash into the ground.
It’s not clear what the “strong, stringy streamers” are, although the stuff looks like military-grade Silly String. According to DARPA, the MFP uses both the helicopter drone shown in the video and a fixed-wing airplane-style drone. The two interceptor drones demoed different methods to bring down enemies. DARPA credits defense contractor Dynetics as the primary systems integrator.
Back in 2017, when DARPA initiated the MFP program, small drone attacks against convoys probably seemed like science fiction. But science fiction turned to science fact in 2020, when autonomous hunter-killer drones attacked retreating Libyan militia convoys. In the span of just a few years, drone attacks on convoys have become part of warfare. Fortunately, if and when U.S. forces suffer a similar attack, DARPA already has a solution.
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