When the fateful day inevitably arrives that finds you looking over your shoulder at a horde of malevolent drones, all honing their evil red dot sights on your your oh-so-vulnerable back, maybe you can take some comfort in knowing at least one company is cooking up a way to program one of these soulless, dystopian robo-killers to fight back on your behalf.
Well, that might be overstating things a bit, since Fortem Technologies’ counter-operational flying fighter doesn’t actually shoot bullets, and is being squarely pitched to land government security contracts. But at least the idea’s the same: design and program a “good” drone that’ll scan for the bad ones, and then turn it loose to restore peace and order.
The Today Show recently sat in for an in-the-field visit with the Utah-based Fortem, which is developing a counter-operational flying fighter that’s capable, according to the company, of “detecting, and autonomously pursuing and capturing [a hostile] drone.”
Putting on a demonstration of how the whole thing works, Fortem CEO Timothy Bean explained that their good-guy version even backs away from extreme prejudice against its nefarious drone cousins, since it “captures them and tows them away to a safe location,” mimicking the role a real police officer might play in apprehending a real perpetrator.
Sure enough, the friendly drone — which the company has appropriately dubbed the DroneHunter — spots its target, shoots out a net, and tethers the offending bad actor for a quick trip to safer ground. Even the Today crew couldn’t help but insert a Spider-Man reference or two as video rolled showing the DroneHunter shooting out its perp-nabbing (and effective) web.
While visions of flying death machines bent on search-and-destroy missions go back decades (hey, one of these things even set off Han Solo’s’ Force-skeptical alarm bells when an Imperial probe droid paid a short-lived visit to Hoth), the real-world threat of drones being used as vehicles for remote-controlled terror is beginning to manifest beyond a mere fretful fantasy. A recent drone scare in Venezuela ended with actual drone-borne bombs exploding high above their intended target: President Nicolas Maduro, alongside hundreds of Venezuelan soldiers who’d gathered to hear his TV-choreographed pep talk.
For now — and, sadly, probably forever — the DroneHunter is being sold “not to regular people, but to the military, police departments,” and other government entities tasked with public safety, Today’s Jeff Rossen said. That means your hopes of recruiting one of these fellas to scan your own personal airspace will likely remain unfulfilled, but at least it gives the home team a new advantage in the ever-evolving game of tech leapfrog between the watchers and the bad guys who’re always trying to stay one step ahead.