How the White House Could Protect Itself from Drones

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The Secret Service discovered a drone inside the White House grounds early Monday morning after it landed in a tree. It was described by officials as a quadcopter — a small drone that is available to anyone for less than $100. "What technology do we have to defend against this? Not a lot right now," Missy Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University, told NBC News. Products like Drone Shield look for the acoustic signature of small drones and give real-time alerts when one is near your property. In the middle of busy Washington D.C., it might have trouble picking out sounds, but luckily drones are so loud that the Secret Service should be able to hear them on their own. A device called Cyborg Unplug looks for specific wireless signatures — say, from a drone or Google Glass — and immediately disconnects them, although that would be ineffective against drones controlled with direct radio signals. There is also Rapere, a drone in development that will hunt for other drones and disable them by dropping a tangle line into their rotors. In the end, Cummings said, a camera system that tracks low-flying objects would probably be the best bet. Quadcopters are slow and fragile enough that once spotted, a Secret Service agent could easily take one out with a rubber bullet.



— Keith Wagstaff