- How to stop drones without having to shoot them out of the sky? How about ‘geo-fencing?’ That’s the solution currently being offered by NASA.
IN THE MOST nightmarish drone scenarios, one of the little whirlybirds flies into an airliner, or wanders into military airspace, or swoops down on the White House. At best, such things are mild annoyances. At worst, they pose a grave threat to safety and security. The sky is a big, open place, with a great many no-go zones that aren’t clearly delineated. That makes it easy for a drone, or its pilot, to cause trouble.
Geofencing helps reduce the odds of a malicious attack or an innocent “oops” moment, but NASA thinks it has a better idea: Drone suicide.
It works like this: A software system called Safeguard monitors the drone’s proximity to FAA-designated no-fly-zones like airports, military installations, and stadiums. If the drone gets too close (however close authorities decide that to be), Safeguard instructs it to land. Should it continue flying, the software—which works independently of the drone’s flight controls—assumes a system failure and cuts off power. The drone falls from the sky like a stone.
The folks at NASA’s Langley Research Center pitched this idea a few years ago, and it recently completed NASA’s stringent software compliance process. Passing that milestone means the agency has determined that Safeguard is, well, safe. That clears researchers to use flight-qualified prototypes in tests and demonstrations.
A self-destruct mode, for when your drone does something it shouldn’t.