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The Skunk - A Riot Control Hover-Drone
June 16, 2014 9:04 AM   Subscribe

The Skunk is designed to control crowds without endangering the lives of security staff. Bright strobe lights and on-board speakers enable operators to communicate with and warn the crowed. If things get out of control the Skunk can use its four paintball guns to disperse or mark people in the crowd. Four ammunition hoppers can load different types of ammunition such as dye marker balls, pepper spray balls or solid plastic balls.
The early customers are South African mine owners, who hope to use them to control striking workers.
posted by Slap*Happy (119 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another piece of the growing Skynet apparatus falls into place.
posted by smrtsch at 9:07 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]


What could possibly go wrong?
posted by Paendragon at 9:08 AM on June 16 [9 favorites]


Here's to countermeasures. Destructive countermeasures.
posted by planetesimal at 9:11 AM on June 16 [26 favorites]


When am I going to start regularly seeing hackers, makers, etc. taking up the challenge of DIY drone countermeasures? The gauntlet has clearly been thrown down.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:12 AM on June 16 [12 favorites]


When am I going to start regularly seeing hackers, makers, etc. taking up the challenge of DIY drone countermeasures?

We have one. It's called a wrist rocket.

I can tell you that Taconite Pellets or ball bearings make the best ammo, but pretty much anything at hand will do. It doesn't take long to become exceedingly proficient with the thing.

I wonder if drones are good eatin'.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:18 AM on June 16 [27 favorites]


Oh man, I really don't want to see a weaponised drone arms race. I feel like it would end up being a "first one to Manhack gets to control the populace" kind of thing.
posted by fight or flight at 9:20 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Throwing a gauntlet would probably be a fairly effective countermeasure. Or a crowbar.
posted by ChrisHartley at 9:20 AM on June 16


I wonder how long until these are deployed in London. My guess: 5-10 years.
posted by acb at 9:20 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Slingshot - perfect metaphor there... Striking Miners vs Goliath Mining Inc.
posted by symbioid at 9:20 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]


METAFILTER: Another piece of the growing Skynet apparatus falls into place.
posted by Fizz at 9:20 AM on June 16 [10 favorites]


Yeah, "drone countermeasures" sounds all sci-fi and whatnot, but the way in which people will disable drones effectively is just to shoot them down. With all the dangers attendant in a bunch of people bringing things they can shoot a drone down with to a demonstration.
posted by gurple at 9:21 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


This is a great idea. I've only been to one or two protests, but my experience is that, when things get tense, what people really need is a fleet of heavily-armed robots hovering a few feet above their heads, flashing a seizure-inducing strobe light and screaming DANGER! DANGER! DISPERSE IMMEDIATELY OR YOU WILL BE DISCIPLINED!
posted by koeselitz at 9:21 AM on June 16 [51 favorites]


My guess: 5-10 years.

Sure, as long as Boris Johnson volunteers to let us try them out on him first.
posted by fight or flight at 9:21 AM on June 16


When am I going to start regularly seeing hackers, makers, etc. taking up the challenge of DIY drone countermeasures?

You mean a thrown projectile or a T-shirt Cannon or a Potato Launcher? Hell, my neighbor has one of these copter-things that he uses for commercial quality filming of parties, yacht club outings, and property appraisals that could be taken down by one guy with a shotgun.

I'm not belittling the skynet-like direction this stuff is taking, but the simple physics of the device means that a t-shirt wrapped in a rock or a tangle hazard would take them down instantly.

For stuff that keeps them out of that sort of range though you'd have to make a, what I think would be somewhat trivial, rifle shot to down one.

Once they get the requisite range, stability, and deadly force levels they are working their way, ever rapidly, towards.... then we're all screwed.

On preview: Pogo nailed it, those slingshots are beastly and deadly when used by someone familiar with them. Fuzzy bunny lover trigger warning: I used to be one of them, I've seen people kill/flip a rabbit on the run with one, cheaper and more fun than a shotgun if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:22 AM on June 16


I keep reading this sentence:

Bright strobe lights and on-board speakers enable operators to communicate with and warn the crowed.

That really sounds weird. Are strobe lights a common crowd-control mechanism?
posted by koeselitz at 9:24 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


> Are strobe lights a common crowd-control mechanism?

Dazzle 'em.
posted by planetesimal at 9:26 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Yeah, "drone countermeasures" sounds all sci-fi and whatnot, but the way in which people will disable drones effectively is just to shoot them down.

Maybe, but jamming, hacking control systems, etc., seems potentially more effective on a number of levels when the drones are armed.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:27 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


"... without endangering the lives of security staff..."

Very specific. At least they're honest.
posted by brundlefly at 9:28 AM on June 16 [23 favorites]


"Paranoia and common sense merge as the world goes insane." - Norman Mailer
posted by crazylegs at 9:28 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


I wonder if drones are good eatin'.

Pretty bony, I'd imagine, but that onboard FLIR camera will fetch a pretty penny with the traders in town.
posted by contraption at 9:29 AM on June 16 [7 favorites]


Yeah, shooting one down is kind of a nuclear option. It gives away your position and gives law enforcement a reason for escalation. Hack those things and send them back to their launch points with new programming.
posted by planetesimal at 9:29 AM on June 16 [14 favorites]


Maybe, but jamming, hacking control systems, etc., seems potentially more effective on a number of levels when the drones are armed.

At least until they have the option of going fully autonomous and selecting their own flight path and targets according to preset criteria.
posted by figurant at 9:33 AM on June 16


Maybe, but jamming, hacking control systems, etc., seems potentially more effective on a number of levels when the drones are armed.

Yeah, these things will be deployed in clusters, and the instant that one of them goes down, the others go on evasive maneuvers and open fire on the crowd. Currently, it's paintball guns. Pneumatic slug-rifles for hunting medium size game (like deer... or people) have become very popular in recent years, and are an easy add to the system. You better believe the cops will include destruction of drones as a sanctioned excuse to deploy lethal force. Cops in more despotic regimes may not even bother with the paintball nonsense, and opt for an automatic .22 rifle and a few hundred rounds.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:34 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


It occurs to me that using machines to oppress people has the added benefit of enabling police, capitalists, etc to incur property damage if people resist being blasted with noise, paintballs, and even other kinds of missiles. So don't shoot down a drone unless you're willing to be slapped with a civil suit, maybe?
posted by clockzero at 9:35 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]


planetesimal: Yeah, shooting one down is kind of a nuclear option. It gives away your position and gives law enforcement a reason for escalation. Hack those things and send them back to their launch points with new programming.

I am glad someone mentioned this. Are there typically hackers and people of that sort of technical experience doing things during protests? I haven't been to a large scale protest where people are battling with the police. It would seem dangerous to shoot down a drone, although the police shot one down in Turkey. Are left-wing groups a little more lax when it comes to using weapons against things like this? Likewise, would a wrist rocket be able to damage a drone? I imagine a potato cannon (like what RolandOfEld mentioned earlier) would work pretty well.
posted by gucci mane at 9:36 AM on June 16


I can't believe they're automating the work of the strikebreakers. If only they'd unionized.
posted by boo_radley at 9:37 AM on June 16 [56 favorites]


Yeah, these things will be deployed in clusters, and the instant that one of them goes down, the others go on evasive maneuvers and open fire on the crowd.

Making them susceptible, in the right hands, to being converted into a botnet and used in attacks - both physical and digital - against their control points, other drones, etc.

Clustered, networked drones could just present a bigger and more high value target to adversaries.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:43 AM on June 16


Given that most nonmilitary drones use helicopter-style blades, I still maintain that an effective nonlethal way of crippling a drone would be thin dangly cables shot over/through their rotors.

Chaff, if you will.

As for downing them during demonstrations, I would argue it's likely to be more effective to down them on a daily basis. Being able to deploy a small self-contained targeting system that automatically fires on any drone within range could mean that drone operators would need to clear areas prior to flight, increasing their effort.

Something the size of a shoebox would be achievable, I think, and you could wrap them in MIT camouflage to deter removal.
posted by aramaic at 9:45 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


The slingshot is one thing, but the idea of "just shoot 'em down with a shotgun or a rifle" seems crazy to me. The potential for bad shit to go down as soon as the cops see somebody with a rifle in a crowd...
posted by Wretch729 at 9:49 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Chaff, if you will.

3 bucks a pop in qty > 50...
posted by mikelieman at 9:49 AM on June 16


I think active, pre-industrial countermeasures will be much more user-friendly, and therefore more widely implemented, then technological countermeasures. If 100 people in a crowd of 1000 launch confetti that coincidentally includes steel wires, I honestly don't think those 100 people will be picked out.

And if the police open fire on the whole group: well, that's the point, isn't it? They're doing that anyway, right? I don't think the best case scenario in these events is "Let's figure out how to only get a little oppressed, in a way that's not too uncomfortable."
posted by rebent at 9:50 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Fuck me.

I hate people.
posted by PMdixon at 9:52 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


The slingshot is one thing, but the idea of "just shoot 'em down with a shotgun or a rifle" seems crazy to me. The potential for bad shit to go down as soon as the cops see somebody with a rifle in a crowd...

Right, note I didn't say it was a good idea but it would take them down. The whole idea of a drone with paintball guns (which will by someone/somewhere be made more deadly) is the crazy part of all this.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:53 AM on June 16 [3 favorites]


We can probably take them all down at once by blowing up the mothership, right?
posted by brundlefly at 9:54 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


How long before these get adopted by US police departments, to add to their MRAPS and grenade launchers?
posted by rtha at 9:55 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Whenever I read about drones, the first image I see is a really boring man talking at length about tax codes or something. I imagine a group of then being dropped into the middle of a protest to essentially bore the participants into leaving. I have a nice little chuckle to myself.

Then I remember what they actually are and get pissed off.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:56 AM on June 16 [11 favorites]


What about taking them out with other drones? They're getting cheaper all the time; could you end up with drone-fights?

(this pointless speculation brought to you by my psyche needing some way to whistle in the darkness caused by increasingly efficient oppression)
posted by emjaybee at 10:02 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


How about everyone in the crowd has a bright, happy-smiley helium balloon and they loose them all at once when the drones arrive.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:08 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


...with a long tangly wire attached.
posted by fairmettle at 10:17 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Huh... drones, with bright lights, used to monitor crowds... wonder where I've seen that before. Is Valve involved somehow?
posted by caution live frogs at 10:20 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


Barrage balloons! Good point.
posted by Zarkonnen at 10:24 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Silly string?
posted by Foosnark at 10:26 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Shooting down a drone seems like a pretty dumb move. Particularly with something like a wrist rocket firing ball bearings, which could easily be interpreted to be a "deadly weapon" or just illegal to possess (they're already illegal in NYC and many other locales). Unless your goal is to get tear-gassed and beaten, I guess.

Barrage balloons seem like a reasonable countermeasure that doesn't escalate, if they're put in place before the drones arrive. Maybe make them festive, basically just oversized party balloons with high-tensile fishing line or very light aluminum cable tethering them to the ground or dangling freely. If one person in ten is holding one at various heights and moving around, it's going to make a pretty solid no-fly zone.

On edit, Zarkonnen beat me to it. But it's trivial to implement. The way I'd do it is take regular party balloons and fill them with various amounts of helium, and then weight them down with an excess of string (so, put enough string on the balloon so the string itself is a counterweight). If a drone hits the string, it'll be dangling loosely and will coil around the prop either by pulling the loose end up or the balloon end down. It's better if it's not attached to anyone, since you don't want the drone to basically haul itself into someone's face along the line. Most big drones can fly without the use of a prop or two, so it wouldn't necessarily cause a crash, either. You just want to discourage the pilots from flying too close, not really destroy the drones.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:27 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


could you end up with drone-fights?

You could put together a thing like a jellyfish, with lots of long tangly wires mounted on breakout fittings to the bottom. Maybe put a small fishing weight on the end of each so it hangs in the right place. Fly it over the drone you want to take out and tangle its rotors, then move on to the next one. If you have a lot of tentacles, you could probably take out several drones with just one jellyfish.

Probably not as practical as balloons, but it is cooler.
posted by echo target at 10:29 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


...thin dangly cables shot over/through their rotors...
...a long tangly wire...
...Silly string...
...party balloons with high-tensile fishing line...


Net launcher! Net launcher!

/this message brought to you by Zorg Industries
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:31 AM on June 16 [11 favorites]


drone-fights?

Kite fighting is a thing, so I doubt that drone fights are far behind.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:34 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


This seems fake or just some silly prototype without real-world application. Shooting paintballs (or other compressed air projectiles) at rioters from a drone is idiotic and couldn't reasonably be expected to disperse a crowd of enraged miners. Also, umbrellas. Whatever kind of pepper spray it can do can already be done much easier by a person launching a canister. Maybe this thing makes sense as "eyes in the sky" but I'll believe the crowd-dispersing capability when I see it.
posted by Mid at 10:42 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Why not put a sound system on it, rent it out for parties?
posted by thelonius at 10:42 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Laser pointers or flash guns may irritate the optics a bit. No nasty lawsuits then. EM jamming / hacking would probably work, these aren't military units after all.

Thing is, how will they be positioned? At the end of the day, the pellet guns are facing practically forward - they won't be above the crowd, they'll be circling the outside edges (paint guns don't have a long range). Most likely position would be hovering over security people. It'd be difficult and slow to position the balloons to tangle the quite agile copter's rotors, and the range of a paint gun exceeds that of a confetti launcher.

Anything with range enough to physically damage a copter would bring in the police. A net launcher could look like a home-made mortar.

Mess with the optics, that's what they'll primarily be used for, aside from an intimidation tactic.
posted by YAMWAK at 10:44 AM on June 16


posts like this remind me i keep meaning to take advantage of the community college down the street that has lots of good classes on electronics and stuff that would be handy in the coming age of setting up nets to catch drones on my roof and then dismantling or reprogramming them.

ps nsa i am kidding i would never do that ever. ever.
posted by sio42 at 10:49 AM on June 16


YAMWAK: "Anything with range enough to physically damage a copter would bring in the police."

I don't know, first few results for "wrist rocket" on Amazon brought up a pretty slick looking folding slingshot for under $40. If it fits in my pocket or lays flat inside my sleeve it isn't going to draw a lot of attention.

Couple it with a few high intensity LED lights or green laser pointers and you're good to go - have accomplices swing lights up to blind the onboard camera, then you deploy wrist rocket and take down the drone.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:50 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


I'll believe the crowd-dispersing capability when I see it

i don't think it's really meant to disperse a crowd in the way that "hey go home everyone, game's canceled" means dispersing a crowd.

this is meant to hurt people who are not dispersing.
posted by sio42 at 10:50 AM on June 16 [13 favorites]


(I mean, you know, if you were writing a novel about how the evil terrorists would stage an attack on our benevolent leaders before OF COURSE getting caught and justly punished, that would be one way of plausibly staging the scene.)
posted by caution live frogs at 10:51 AM on June 16


This seems fake or just some silly prototype without real-world application. Shooting paintballs (or other compressed air projectiles) at rioters from a drone is idiotic and couldn't reasonably be expected to disperse a crowd of enraged miners. Also, umbrellas. Whatever kind of pepper spray it can do can already be done much easier by a person launching a canister. Maybe this thing makes sense as "eyes in the sky" but I'll believe the crowd-dispersing capability when I see it.

This is absolutely an inevitable evolution in crowd control and will be used against nonviolent protestors in the first world within my lifetime for sure, within the next 15 years almost without doubt. And it will inflict lots of pain and discomfort, and most people will not care or notice.

I don't understand the world you are living in if it doesn't include states committing violence to control popular political dissent, with a huge helping of the automation/roboticization of violence.
posted by jsturgill at 10:52 AM on June 16 [9 favorites]


Let's all pitch in and buy one for the workers. I love the idea of a standoff. Two huge machines futilely trying to dazzle each other for hours with strobe lights loud noises and paintballs.
posted by vorpal bunny at 10:55 AM on June 16 [6 favorites]


Anyone want the instructions for an all-band radio noise transmitter. You just need a coil, a rectifier, and a battery.
posted by clvrmnky at 11:00 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]


I don't doubt that the idea is to threaten and/or hurt people with this to make them disperse. I also don't doubt that future drones may be effective at that. What I am saying is that this specific product looks like mostly vaporware to me.
posted by Mid at 11:00 AM on June 16


I bet the sale of butterfly nets and long pool nets increases accordingly with universal drone usage.
posted by Sprocket at 11:04 AM on June 16


Geez, life is getting all Blade Runner on me.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:08 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


relevant: drone brought down by a hockey jersey
posted by metameat at 11:10 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]


How long before these get adopted by US police departments, to add to their MRAPS and grenade launchers?

Under 24 months is my guess.

Thank whatever you care to thank that these things didn't exist during the G20 in Toronto. It was bad enough then, I shudder to think how people would have reacted to aerial drones disorienting them and firing paintballs.

Wait, in both the USA and Canada don't we have constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of assembly?

Ugggggggggggggggggggggh.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:12 AM on June 16


I understand your suggestion, caution live frogs, but I'm not sure how easy it will be. How many shots do you think you'll need to take one down?

The electronics are probably both simple and inside a metal case, and a ball bearing will have lost some of its energy after it's reached the drone and ploughed through the outer plastic. Hit a rotor? Difficult shot and it looks like it has a fair amount of redundancy. Hitting the guns and the block under the main housing won't stop it from working.

I'd suggest getting a dozen nice red laser pointers. Don't want green ones if you're working at night - very easy to trace the beam back to the pointer. Either that, or as suggested above, shoes and jerseys would probably work as well as anything else.
posted by YAMWAK at 11:13 AM on June 16


Call me crazy, but why does a drone called the Skunk, purposed for crowd control, not fly over the crowd and just spray everyone with stink? Seems easier and less controversial than paintball guns, cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and frankly a pretty good deterrent.
posted by Muddler at 11:16 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


rtha: "How long before these get adopted by US police departments, to add to their MRAPS and grenade launchers?"

Our local pig dept recently showed off their fancy new MRAP at our wonderful Farmer's Market. :\
posted by symbioid at 11:20 AM on June 16


How long before these get adopted by US police departments, to add to their MRAPS and grenade launchers?
posted by rtha at 12:55 PM on June 16 [1 favorite +] [!]


Been there, done that. In2004 in Boston a girl was killed when a non lethal paintball entered her skull through her eye.

The FN 303 fires a spherical, fin-stabilized projectile. According to FN, the fin-stabilized design provides greater accuracy than a standard paintball round. The forward half of the sphere is a non-toxic granulated bismuth shell designed to fragment on impact to prevent penetration damage. The rear half of the sphere contains one of several color-coded liquid payloads:

Training/Impact (clear): non-toxic glycol base with no additives, used for training and when the impact sting is the preferred deterrent.
Permanent paint (yellow): latex-based polymer paint used to mark suspects for later identification.
Washable paint (pink): water-soluble fluorescent pink pigment in glycol base, similar to standard paintball filling, used to mark suspects short-term.
Oleoresin capsicum (orange): glycol base mixed with 10% OC (pepper spray) at 5 million SHU, used to incapacitate targets.
posted by Gungho at 11:20 AM on June 16 [5 favorites]


Simple solution: phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:28 AM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Given how easy it is to obtain helium balloons and hanging wire? These drones will need rather improved paintball ranges or they will not be long for this world.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:34 AM on June 16


The other things they make that can, but will not always, be used for things like anti-poaching patrols and safeguarding forests are nice. Makes me wonder how long it will be until the long range drones we do have move from pure surveillance to a drone-carrier model, where they deploy the appropriate number and type of mini-drone to respond to the presence of plant/animal poachers, illegal loggers, etc when the proper authorities are waaaay too thinly spread to reach the area in time.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:38 AM on June 16


So, I'm thinking that if South African mine owners are the first to line up to buy your product, you should be ashamed of yourself. (The consequent was going to be funnier, but I couldn't handle it.)
posted by allthinky at 11:38 AM on June 16 [12 favorites]


relevant: drone brought down by a hockey jersey

LA fans have a lot to be proud of these days.

Your move, Brazilian soccer fans.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:43 AM on June 16 [2 favorites]



This seems fake or just some silly prototype without real-world application. Shooting paintballs (or other compressed air projectiles) at rioters from a drone is idiotic and couldn't reasonably be expected to disperse a crowd of enraged miners. Also, umbrellas. Whatever kind of pepper spray it can do can already be done much easier by a person launching a canister. Maybe this thing makes sense as "eyes in the sky" but I'll believe the crowd-dispersing capability when I see it.


First, you shoot paintballs to mark people so that they can be picked up/picked out later.

Second, most protests actually aren't "a giant mob ready to commit violence" - that's media nonsense. Most of the time, even a "large" protest is relatively small and the people doing it are regular people, subject to the same things that would scare you - fear of arrest, fear of violence, just ordinary fear-of-standing-out. Hovering surveillance drones with the ability to fire projectiles would deter quite a lot of people, and they'd make the whole thing feel a lot more useless. Strobe lights and noise would stop speech-making or testimony giving and would create confusion.

I'm not saying that these things can't be hacked, or that people won't sometimes get desperate enough to protest anyway, but the thing is if you are really willing to oppress people enough, you can win. We like to believe that this is not the case, but the smarter and more ruthless the state is and the smarter and more ruthless corporations are, the more likely they are just to succeed in beating people down most of the time - that's what I've observed over my life as an activist, and that's what I think is true based on reading about, eg, the Paris Commune, Kronstadt, etc.

I think that this all makes a great deal of sense - jobs are disappearing, the economy is polarizing more and more, living conditions are getting worse, we're probably five or ten or fifteen years out from some kind of major global food crisis that hits richer countries and doesn't just involve limes, the climate is going to hell...and basically anyone with a brain is anticipating large groups of ordinary, disaffected, unhappy people who don't even have a shitty job to keep them off the streets and who must scavenge, beg, steal, rely on charity or sponge off relatives for many necessities. Something like this has to happen because there has to be a way to keep large groups of random disaffected people (who aren't in fact activists or hackers but just ordinary unhappy people) in line.
posted by Frowner at 11:45 AM on June 16 [19 favorites]


Given how easy it is to obtain helium balloons and hanging wire? These drones will need rather improved paintball ranges or they will not be long for this world.

Helium balloons pop. Easily. These are hovering robots, not RC planes or helicopters. The drones just descend on any given balloon from above, tilts a bit until the blades hit latex or mylar, pop!
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:54 AM on June 16


On edit, Zarkonnen beat me to it. But it's trivial to implement. The way I'd do it is take regular party balloons and fill them with various amounts of helium, and then weight them down with an excess of string (so, put enough string on the balloon so the string itself is a counterweight). If a drone hits the string, it'll be dangling loosely and will coil around the prop either by pulling the loose end up or the balloon end down.

This is the right idea. But tie the bottom end off to a railing, pole, cinder block, backpack full of garbage, car wheel, bike, etc. these big copters can fly with one prop out, and may even have a good enough flight controller to stabilize while "tethered". But once it's tethered, you throw a fucking net/jacket/shirt/rocks/soccer ball/anything at it since it's stuck in place.

This is the best idea I've heard on here. Why don't these things have prop cages? I mean I don't want to give them any "good" ideas here, but seriously.

Alternative point: the weakest component of these are the carbon fiber arms the props are on. If I was trying to break this, I'd want to hook it with fishing line/thin cable and then use a whip or something to target those arms.

Also, in practice and on YouTube I've never seen one of these(albeit smaller ones, but still) actually recover from being snared. The ones capable of flying without one or two props are designed more with "a motor fails or a wire comes loose" in mind, not "a prop gets tangled in something".

The best strategy here might just be to have another length of cord with like, a carabiner on the end and clip it to your cable the instant you "catch" one, get back a safe distance, and just yank really hard. The ground, or the roof of a car, or the side of a building can be your weapon here.

Having flown smaller ones of these, I can come up with a lot more ways to break them than to make them unbreakable. As the tech stands, they're just shitty crowd control weapons. Do I think that will be mostly resolved within a few years? Yea. But even just going up on the roofs of places and dropping light things that won't hurt people with another team snaring them with balloons could destroy an army of these. A stack of say, empty Rubbermaid boxes. even if one of those just grazed one of these it would take it down. If one grazed my head I'd be like "oww, fucking asshole" and go on with my day. Plenty of stuff falls into that category.

Fuck, even like, blankets or cheap nets with tennis balls tied into the corners.

fuck, now I'm on a list aren't i.
posted by emptythought at 11:55 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]


Hope somebody hacks them to follow mine owners around blaring techno, doing club lighting and spraying clouds of mdma.
posted by yoHighness at 12:07 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


These things are explicitly designed to stop non-violent protests - to quell civil engagement.

Actual violent crowds will have - guns; guns that can shoot at drones.

Coming to a DNC convention/RNC convention/Occupy-style-protest near you.
posted by el io at 12:07 PM on June 16 [11 favorites]


The danger with almost every single suggestion here for taking these things out is twofold:

1) "Obstruction of justice" which tends to be a kind of catchall charge used to intimidate people

2) Almost everything suggested here could be classified by a certain kind of police officer (coincidentally, the ones usually deployed into protest/riot situations) as a weapon, thus escalating the situation into people getting actually hurt.

What to do? I don't know. But I'm getting closer and closer and closer to making an actual firm decision that (if I ever find a husband, hahahahaahah) I simply will not have children because I will not raise them in this world.

These things are explicitly designed to stop non-violent protests - to quell civil engagement.

Bingo. They are explicitly designed to trample on the Constitutional rights of the two countries with whose constitutions I am familiar.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:09 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


the thing is if you are really willing to oppress people enough, you can win.

Not necessarily.

"Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They went down like ten-pins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whacks of the clubs on unprotected skulls. The waiting crowd of watchers groaned and sucked in their breaths in sympathetic pain at every blow. Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing in pain with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. In two or three minutes the ground was quilted with bodies. Great patches of blood widened on their white clothes. The survivors without breaking ranks silently and doggedly marched on until struck down."

"Dyer—without warning the crowd to disperse—blocked the main exits... Dyer ordered his troops to begin shooting toward the densest sections of the crowd. Firing continued for approximately ten minutes. Cease-fire was ordered only when ammunition supplies were almost exhausted, after approximately 1,650 rounds were spent."

No government can survive pyrrhic victories like that. Ultimately, no government rules without consent. Even the North Korean government depends on the effectiveness of its mass brainwashing. Similarly, there's a reason why the Chinese government brought troops in from the far side of the country for the Tienanmen Massacre; there comes a tipping point in peaceful mass protests where the soldiers turn their tanks around, and the Chinese democracy protests had passed the point where local boys could be trusted to fire on their neighbors.

In a very limited sense, the slogan "the people united can never be defeated" is true. The catch is that the people are almost never united, and never for very long. However, those rare miracle moments are quite real, and remain our best hope that the natural condition of humanity is not slavery to the most thuggish.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:14 PM on June 16 [7 favorites]


>> jamming
> At least until they have the option of going fully autonomous


Autonomous drones and remote-controlled drones with linger mode mostly rely on GPS which can be jammed, cheaply. Working around GPS denial-of-service at this point is pretty expensive & difficult.

Shotgun vs. (small) drone
posted by morganw at 12:20 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I could swear the water in this pot keeps getting warmer and warmer...
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:35 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


(No government can survive pyrrhic victories like that. Ultimately, no government rules without consent. Even the North Korean government depends on the effectiveness of its mass brainwashing. Similarly, there's a reason why the Chinese government brought troops in from the far side of the country for the Tienanmen Massacre; there comes a tipping point in peaceful mass protests where the soldiers turn their tanks around, and the Chinese democracy protests had passed the point where local boys could be trusted to fire on their neighbors.

Yes, and since you mention it, the Tiananmen protests were crushed and basically a generation was silenced. I knew a number of people who were at those protests, and even nearly ten years later they had obviously been shut down in some crucial way by what they'd experienced.

My point isn't that people will never, ever win any victories ever, but when I read all this stuff about "oh, why don't people bring balloons/wrist rockets/wire/etc, or get some hackerz to hack something, that's an easy way to shut down the drones" or "that won't work, all they have is strobes and paintball pellets!", it seems to come from an unrealistic sense both of what protests are like and of how they've worked historically. (I say this, actually, as someone who has been in a small number of violent protests and is familiar with how a lot of this stuff goes down in the urban US.)
posted by Frowner at 12:41 PM on June 16 [4 favorites]


The drones just descend on any given balloon from above, tilts a bit until the blades hit latex or mylar, pop!

If you arrange the balloons at various heights the drone pilot would have to start with the ones that are highest and work their way down, which is potentially quite time consuming.

Also, you are ignoring the amount of propwash produced by a drone. Hitting a balloon with the rotor, without the balloon just being blown away, or pulled around and into the top of the rotor where the string will get fouled in the prop, could actually be pretty challenging. I know a couple of people with quadcopters, maybe they'd be willing to try it for laughs at some point. I suspect that what you'd really want to do is mount some sort of sharp stick thing and try to pop the balloons with that, rather than use the rotors.

At any rate, the time the drone pilot spends popping balloons one at a time is time not spent doing anything else, and a group of people with $10 worth of balloons, $5 worth of string, and a $50 tank of helium could put them up a lot faster than a drone could take them down.

One guy with an air rifle, though, would make short work of them.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:45 PM on June 16


Never mind The State or The Man being at the center of concern when it comes to drones, a young woman and a teen caused quite a tussle on a Connecticut beach just last week.
posted by wensink at 12:49 PM on June 16


Or one person with a wrist rocket and a cluster of rubber balls attached to X feet of hanging wire that is then shot vaguely over the drone. Or a kite that is flown at the drone. Or people making a web of balloons that are released upwards when the drone is vaguely beneath them.

And if it gets to the point that there's an actual arms race between protestors and drone operators? It probably won't be barrage balloon season for long.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:52 PM on June 16


So your slingshots are going to propel ball bearings and wire nets how high exactly?

These drones will (eventually) be quasi-military spec (hardened, redundant controls and subsystems) flying vehicles with total use of the airspace around and above the protesters, piloted by absent psychopaths who are just following orders. They will carry a potentially endless variety of lethal and non-lethal payloads, along with high-resolution video cameras to capture images that will later be fed into facial recognition systems.

To fantasize that The People will be able to win protest victories in the face of violence directed at them using automated air and ground vehicles, supported by good ol' fashioned riot cops, because The People have balloons and steel wire is just...

I dunno.
posted by jsturgill at 1:13 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Yeah, any attempt to disable these things with a weapon that could also be used against a person will be viewed by the authorities as an act of violence by the protesters, and the police will escalate their tactics accordingly.

Disabling them with nets, barrage balloons, other drones, etc. is unlikely to go over much better.

Folks are most likely to get away with barrage balloons, since they're passive—the cops would have to deliberately maneuver the drone into the balloon field. And it's possible that someone could operate a counter-drone from a concealed position (such as a nearby building), thereby escaping apprehension—but taking down a drone isn't going to endear the protesters to the cops, even if the cops don't know exactly which individual protester did it.

Downing a drone, like throwing a rock at a police car, is destroying police property. And I personally wouldn't shed a tear over that in a lot of situations, but it's a clear excuse for the authorities to ratchet up the aggression.

As for hacking: even if these things use totally unencrypted radio communication, and are otherwise unprotected, hacking into a drone requires a much rarer skill set than, say, lobbing a net. I doubt they're gonna publish the APIs for these things on GitHub, and hackers would have to get their hands on those docs (or an actual drone to study) in advance of a protest. (A crazy-talented hacker with the right equipment could possibly reverse-engineer the control protocol on the spot, but it wouldn't take long for manufacturers to get smart and, say, start rotating to a new protocol every three minutes.)

Jamming strikes me as the best of all worlds. It's discreet, it's easier than hacking, and it's harder for the cops to argue that it's an aggressive act.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:19 PM on June 16


Psychopathy is a specific mental illness with a specific definition. It would be nice if it weren't thrown around so casually. Thank you.

/derail
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:19 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


To fantasize that The People will be able to win protest victories in the face of violence directed at them using automated air and ground vehicles, supported by good ol' fashioned riot cops, because The People have balloons and steel wire is just...

I dunno.


You would prefer that The People just roll over and accept that the psychopaths have won?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:20 PM on June 16


Ahem.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:20 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


"oh, why don't people bring balloons/wrist rockets/wire/etc, or get some hackerz to hack something, that's an easy way to shut down the drones" or "that won't work, all they have is strobes and paintball pellets!", it seems to come from an unrealistic sense both of what protests are like and of how they've worked historically.

You're exactly right. Penny-ante countermeasures against police drones will accomplish nothing. If the police are willing to use violence against protesters, countermeasures that protect against only one of the many ways police can attack protesters will not help the protests succeed.

People designing anti-drone countermeasures are trying to imagine a technical solution to a political problem.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:20 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


All the people who built this must be so proud of their jobs.
posted by wotsac at 1:27 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Psychopathy is a specific mental illness with a specific definition. It would be nice if it weren't thrown around so casually. Thank you.

/derail


Apologies. Violence mediated by a video screen dulls empathy, which is one of the two primary benefits of remote violence (the other being fewer dead soldiers to create bad publicity for the military and police). That's not the same thing as being born a psychopath.
posted by jsturgill at 1:36 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


I'm on board with nonviolence as a strategy, really, but I love thinking about knocking out a drone. It's probably the closest a city-dwelling vegetarian ever gets to hunting, you know?

My only suggestion is throwies, or, LED/battery/magnet combos that could disrupt the visual feed of the drone. Trivially easy to make.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:56 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


So, they've found a way to automate the Pinkertons, further proof that the technology of the 21st Century is most effective in enforcing the sociology of the 19th Century.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:58 PM on June 16 [9 favorites]


Is an RF pink noise generator or similar illegal yet? What if I, er, my friend has a ham license?
posted by PMdixon at 2:09 PM on June 16


Yes, in the US, especially if you have a ham license.
posted by exogenous at 2:27 PM on June 16


glances at sandwich I need a license??
posted by rifflesby at 2:52 PM on June 16


Unless that sandwich is type certified to radiate at ~27 or ~462 MHz, yes, you need a license to operate it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:08 PM on June 16 [2 favorites]


Mind you, if your sandwich is broadcasting at 462 MHz you're likely to attract attention from the FBI.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:12 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


2) Almost everything suggested here could be classified by a certain kind of police officer (coincidentally, the ones usually deployed into protest/riot situations) as a weapon, thus escalating the situation into people getting actually hurt.

This is specifically why i endorsed the balloon thing, and after some thought styrofoam coolers. Clothing items, balloons, coolers, and possibly some rope are not weapons. You might need to go to court on that one(ugh) but it's like, really?

I would never bring a slingshot to a protest. I've seen an unarmed dude at a protest get his teeth smashed out on a decorative rock in a fountain by the cops simply for screaming at them. Anyone who brought a slingshot or any number of the other suggested items you're directly objecting too is borderline insane.

Helium balloons pop. Easily. These are hovering robots, not RC planes or helicopters. The drones just descend on any given balloon from above, tilts a bit until the blades hit latex or mylar, pop!

The blades on these are probably carbon fiber. Even if they were the plastic variety(which i'm almost 100% positive they would not be on an expensive octacopter like this) they are NOT designed to impact ANYTHING. Attempting to use them in this way would either end up with snapped or otherwise damaged blades, or just the entire blade assembly tangled in popped balloon bits(which is another reason i loved the balloon idea)

Also, you are ignoring the amount of propwash produced by a drone. Hitting a balloon with the rotor, without the balloon just being blown away, or pulled around and into the top of the rotor where the string will get fouled in the prop, could actually be pretty challenging. I know a couple of people with quadcopters, maybe they'd be willing to try it for laughs at some point. I suspect that what you'd really want to do is mount some sort of sharp stick thing and try to pop the balloons with that, rather than use the rotors.

This is a good point too. You know, i have a very cheap one of these sorts of copters i don't really care all that much about. But it's not a super tiny one either. I'd be willing to try the balloon popping Vs balloon strings routines with it at a fairly low altitude over an astroturf sports field that wouldn't destroy it if it went down. I'm 100% sure that nearly any balloon would pop if it directly contacted the blades(it can easily cut your face or arm open), but what happens afterwards? what happens if it hits the string?

The best material i could come up with for this was string trimmer line. The thinner stuff. It specifically has sharp edges and is very resilient while being pretty light. Tie 2-3 cheap balloons to a length of it, let it go up say 20 feet, tie it off to a car door handle... walk 8 feet and start over.

Downing a drone, like throwing a rock at a police car, is destroying police property

This is the biggest issue. Is this legally any different from spike stripping a cop car or something? I'm sort of leaning towards "probably not". And radio jamming would also jam police radios, which i imagine in this post patriot act america is basically domestic terrorism via "interfering with first responders" or something.

This probably really is bullshit internet nerd "technical solution to a political problem" stuff as stated above. But fuck, it's fun to think about.
posted by emptythought at 3:16 PM on June 16


Drone marks crowd members with paint? All the crowd members mark themselves with paint.
posted by kaymac at 3:20 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Another thing i just thought of. What about taking several cheap, essentially disposable $50 or so quadcopters, tying a length of fishing line with a nut tied to the end on them, and flying them around ABOVE these? maybe attach them to the breakaway from a cheap landyard so that as soon as they "hook" something they aren't pulled down with it and you can re-use them!

If it gets taken out/shot down/yanked down in taking out one of these, then you just took down a multi thousand dollar crowd assaulter for $40-$50 without using anything that could be construed as a weapon. Make sure to use clear fishing line!

As an added bonus, no one from the crowd can really be seen as doing anything. You can ditch the thing on a roof if you think heat is coming down on you, and have had the remote inside your jacket with your arms just pulled out of the sleeves...

By the way, this makes me realize that the days of flying that sort of cheap thing unlicensed and unmonitored are going to be over VERY soon.
posted by emptythought at 3:22 PM on June 16


All the crowd members mark themselves with paint.

For the convenience of the police?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:25 PM on June 16


The drones just descend on any given balloon from above, tilts a bit until the blades hit latex or mylar, pop!

Latex, sure. Latex balloons are under lots of pressure & will shred in an instant. Mylar, not so much. They'd be a lot harder to pop & when they did they'd retain most of their structure, making it much more likely they'd be caught up in the rotors.

Go with mylar.
posted by scalefree at 3:30 PM on June 16


smoke can be a very effective measure against surveillance
posted by pyramid termite at 4:21 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Look at that thing though - they've literally just slung 4 full paintball rifles from a ring of 8 little rotors. What is this, 1914? I'm not entirely convinced it could even take off with all that weight, let alone function as an effective crowd-control weapon. You'll have to try harder, Desert Wolf.
posted by Flashman at 5:05 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


People designing anti-drone countermeasures are trying to imagine a technical solution to a political problem.

True. But it does send a very specific kind of message when we take their toys away.

One such message; "If you send an unmanned device with the specific intent of causing me or people near me harm, I will do everything in my power to prevent it from working. And if you spent several thousand dollars on it, and I used a $0.25 steel ball bearing and a wrist-rocket, well, now you've brought asymmetrical conflict to our interaction."
posted by quin at 5:12 PM on June 16


If only there were a way we could put a system in place of the one that feels a need to fear and disperse crowds, that didn't cause angry crowds to gather in the first place. Then drones with loud sound systems and light shows would be for entertainment purposes only. I'm moving back into my head. It's a lot more fun in there
posted by Redhush at 5:35 PM on June 16


Kadin2048: " suspect that what you'd really want to do is mount some sort of sharp stick thing and try to pop the balloons with that, rather than use the rotors."

If I was designing an anti balloon drone I'd equip the drone with a butane torch.
posted by Mitheral at 5:39 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


But it does send a very specific kind of message when we take their toys away.

The message it sends is "You have just destroyed police property and you are now a criminal."

Sad, but true.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:28 PM on June 16 [3 favorites]


Jamming strikes me as the best of all worlds. It's discreet, it's easier than hacking, and it's harder for the cops to argue that it's an aggressive act.

Jamming a cellphone or civilian GPS receiver, which is designed to work in a 'friendly' RF environment where everyone is basically following the FCC rules, is easy and can be done discreetly. Military radios are pretty resistant to jamming; they have a lot of bandwidth to play with (if they want to), and can do stuff like very wide spread-spectrum or frequency hopping. You'd have to shit all over a big section of the RF spectrum to block them. And it wouldn't be hard to put a highly-directional antenna on a gimbal on the drone, such that it always points back to the transmitter, with a matched directional at the control site. To compete with that, in terms of signal strength arriving at either end, you would need to be putting out a hell of a lot of power into your little omnidirectional antenna. I think they are going to catch on, because you'll be dragging a bunch of car batteries or a generator around. And probably frying a bunch of people's pacemakers and handing out RF burns if you're not careful. I don't think escalating things in that direction--which is incidentally a direction that the military (and military contractors) have a lot of experience with--is a great idea. (Although it'd be a nice selling point for General Atomics next year's model.)

Plus, and perhaps more importantly, I'm not sure a solution that makes sure that only the Designated Authorities have communications is really going to achieve the ends you're looking for. Cellphone cameras with Internet connectivity, so that the memory card can't just be ripped out and stomped on, are a pretty good thing to have around if you're worried you're about to get the shit beaten out of you.

If I were a protester, I'd be very worried that when my cellphone suddenly said "no service" that things were about to get very ugly.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:59 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


This technology will go both ways and we will see an arms race of sorts between the buyers of these sort of drones and hackers who subvert the tech no doubt.

However, I do wonder how long it will take for drones to become "normal" in our everyday lives. With companies like Amazon making noise about delivery drones, we may find ourselves eventually lulled into acceptance for convenience sake in a way similar to how we have given up our privacy on much of the internet.

Drones may be here to stay especially if we can get same day drone delivery included with Amazon Prime. This sounds kind of sarcastic but I actually think it might be how things are going to go.
posted by PerfectlyCromulent at 9:34 PM on June 16


Attacking the drone is not a solution.

A CEO who decides drone attacks are the way to negotiate with striking workers is a CEO who chooses to forfeit his life.

History provides solid evidence that deadly violence will be used by corporations to quell striking workers. Striking workers will need to use the same tactic.

There are a lot more workers than CEOs. In a battle of attrition, the masses will win out.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:06 AM on June 17


Celebrating LA Kings Fans Took Down A Drone
posted by wensink at 11:33 AM on June 17


FP: Counterdrone ops from LA to Brazil: Not just for military and al Qaeda anymore
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:40 PM on June 17


These things go live against actual miners in South Africa next month. I wonder who will be reading this thread more closely - the strikers or the engineers looking for an edge for Skunk V.2?
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:49 PM on June 17


The FAA Is Still Sending Out Fake Cease-and-Desist Letters to Drone Pilots
posted by homunculus at 5:30 PM on June 19


'Follow Me' Drones Will Hover By Your Side on a Digital 'Leash'
posted by homunculus at 5:32 PM on June 19


This technology will go both ways and we will see an arms race of sorts between the buyers of these sort of drones and hackers who subvert the tech no doubt.

And this kind of thing is sort of inherently asymmetric. Anyone on the hacking side really only needs to invest time, not so much hardware.

Plenty of solutions could be ideas like a MITM attack. Lets say you have a receiver with several modules constantly scanning in pair mode for the wake up of a transmitter. Every real tx i've ever used sends out a "pair" signal at power on for a couple seconds while the rest of it boots up. This is a one way transmission, and it's up to the receiver in the drone to pick up and pair. Meaning, you can have more than one thing paired to the same transmitter at the same time.

Now that you have that pair info, i'm fairly certain you could work out a way to transmit with it. You don't need to be holding a controller here, just have some preprogrammed actions. Say, "gain altitude at max power for 10 seconds, then ailerons left non stop for 30.

If you have the stronger signal, or they aren't inputting anything like that you will win. your signal of max throttle will also override their decrease throttle signal if you just keep re-sending it as cycling between say 95 and 100 while they've decreased to 0 and aren't transmitting anything there anymore. Even if they try and correct when it starts to roll, it will just completely freak out while still gaining altitude. They shut off their transmitter to try and kick it into failsafe? now you have full control. You'd want to have a script that would crash it before it just went out of range and failsafed.

transmitter modules can be as cheap as $15, receivers are usually $80 or less. all you need is a couple batteries and an arduino or something. this is going to be devices that are a couple hundred bucks at most crashing multi-thousand dollar drones and leaving no real evidence. "interference", "malfunction", whatever.

There will be plenty of devices like what i'm describing. The antennas on these transmitters are tiny, as they're usually 2.4 or 5ghz. It's the kind of thing you could sew into the hood of a hoodie, and the rest of the stuff could be crammed into a fanny pack or something.

As soon as these sort of drones are in widespread use, there will be more than enough motivation to start creating devices that disrupt them with a very low visual profile.
posted by emptythought at 6:02 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


When drones fall from the sky
posted by homunculus at 6:11 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


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