California-based startup Anduril Industries is said to have started supplying the U.S. military with its Anvil drone, which is designed to take down other drones by smashing into them.
One of Anduril’s co-founders is Palmer Luckey, who is also the founder of Oculus VR and the designer of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. The work of his new startup, however, deals with the real-world issue of hostile unmanned aerial vehicles entering restricted airspace.
“All the soft kill systems are a waste of time,” Luckey told Bloomberg in an interview. He was referring to several other anti-drone technologies that only disable their targets, such as by jamming the drone’s signal or hacking the drone while in midair.
Apparently, the best way to counter drones is for another drone to smash into them, and this is what Anduril’s Anvil is designed to do. The anti-drone drone is equipped with electro-optical and infrared sensors that allow it to spot, track, and intercept targets. An operator watches the Anvil’s feed through a handheld controller and issues the final order to launch an attack at a speed of about 100 miles per hour.
The Anvil, which takes out hostile drones from below, has its battery and motors optimized for short but quick flights. The drone’s rotors are located at the bottom, and all its flight-critical parts are placed as low as possible. This design aims to allow the Anvil to come back in one piece after crashing into another drone.
The biggest issue with making a drone to smash other drones is the damage that it will receive itself, which may make it too expensive as a long-term solution against hostile UAVs. However, Luckey believes in the survivability of the Anvil, though it will take a lot of them if a fleet of enemy drones is expected.
It almost always survives and returns to base, but for planning purposes, it makes sense to assume one interceptor per target.
— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) October 3, 2019
Luckey said that Anduril is already working on larger and faster versions of the Anvil that will target “an ultralight aircraft, or a helicopter, or a cruise missile,” but in the meantime, it remains to be seen if crashing into hostile drones turns out to be the definitive solution against the new-age threat.