'Angry Bird' Drone Tested to Take Down Drug Smuggler Planes
An unmanned ultralight aircraft used as target practice during the 2011 Commander's Challenge.
CREDIT: Brock Technologies
If pigs could fly, the U.S. Air Force has the "Angry Bird" drone capable of non-lethally knocking them out of the sky. Such a technology could soon help the U.S. Border Patrol take down drug-running ultralight airplanes used by gangs to smuggle illegal substances between Mexico and the U.S.
The solution combines two technologies that went head-to-head during a competition at Edwards Air Force Base in California several weeks ago, according to Aviation Week. One projectile, called "Angry Bird," fires a net that entangles the propeller of an ultralight airplane and stops the engine. The other takes the form of a drone that would kamikaze crash into the ultralight to break the propeller.
Tests for the 2011 Commander's Challenge held by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) used unmanned ultralight aircraft developed by Brock Technologies for target practice.
The "Angry Bird" net has a range of more than 1,000 feet when fired from an M4 rifle or M203 grenade launcher on the ground or from a helicopter. It came from Team Elgin, based at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida.
Team Wright-Patterson, based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, came up with the suicide drone capable of chasing down ultralight aircraft. They also deployed a dazzler system that can both track the aircraft and make the pilot disoriented. That combination of technologies helped the team win the Commander's Challenge Award.
Still, Aviation Week reports that AFRL plans to use both competing technologies to make a prototype for Border Patrol agents sometime in the near future.
AFRL has previously pursued other non-lethal ways of stopping vehicles it held an open innovation contest on the crowdsourcing website Innocentive to find a way of stopping ground vehicles without using barriers, shooting out the tires or firing bullets into the engine block. The winning solution by a retired engineer living in Peru used a speedy robot to deploy an airbag beneath the fleeing vehicle.