Police are testing “death ray” technology in a bid to halt the use of drones by model plane enthusiasts.
After a spate of dangerous incidents in the London area, trials of counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems have been launched, including one using military-grade technology used in Afghanistan that can crash-land a drone with a “death ray” jamming its radio signals.
In the US, drones have also been responsible for scores of problems including smuggling drugs into an Ohio prison, crashing against a Cincinnati skyscraper and nearly colliding with three airliners over New York City.
Now the fightback against those who fly drones has begun.
The Anti-UAV Defence System being tested tracks heat from a drone’s battery pack, zooms in using a powerful camera, and can down it by blocking the signal from up to six miles away.
Developing the technology, produced by three British companies, is said to have cost less than £1 million ($1.4million).
This month a British Airways plane coming in to land at Heathrow airport was struck by an object believed to be a drone.
There were 132 passengers and five crew on board the flight, which was at 1,700ft.
The legal maximum height for UK drones is 400ft.
BA said the plane landed safely and was cleared by engineers for its next flight.
Drone manufacturer DJI has developed geo-fencing software that blocks its UAVs from straying into airspace around airports and prisons.
Plane manufacturers are also being asked to work out what will happen if a drone is sucked into a jet engine because of the evolving shapes and weights of UAVs, a leading aerospace engineer said.
Lambert Dopping-Hepenstal, of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, said: “Civil aircraft are tested for bird strikes, they have a requirement that when a certain sized bird, if ingested into engines or the bird hit the air frame, it’s not catastrophic. The problem is trying to work out what a standard test for a drone strike is going to be more challenging.”