How To Stop A Drone? There's No Good Answer Here's why the drone tormenting Gatwick's airport remains at large.

How To Stop A Drone? There's No Good Answer

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A small drone sparked enormous disruptions at London's Gatwick Airport this week. Thousands of passengers were grounded as police struggled to stop the drone or drones from flying into restricted airspace. Police have arrested two suspects in connection with the incident. NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reports on why it's so hard to catch a drone.

GEOFF BRUMFIEL, BYLINE: If you haven't been keeping up with drone technology, well, you're not alone. I had no idea how small they'd gotten.


IJUSTINE EZARIK: I have a drone in my purse. There's a drone in here.

BRUMFIEL: That's one of about a bazillion drone unboxing videos you can find on YouTube. In addition to shrinking, drones are also getting more powerful. And they're flying for longer and further than ever.


EZARIK: These batteries will also give you about 27 minutes of flight time, which is a pretty long time, actually.

BRUMFIEL: The authorities at Gatwick Airport near London discovered all of this for themselves on Wednesday when a small drone shut down the airport. Again and again, it flew into restricted airspace around the runway. Police arrived. A helicopter was called in. And yet, the drone, or possibly several drones - police aren't sure - it couldn't be stopped. Now, the solution might seem obvious. Why not shoot it down? Well, there's an answer for that also on YouTube.


BRUMFIEL: This is video of a bunch of guys at a gun range in Arizona trying to hit a drone.


BRUMFIEL: They get it, eventually. But obviously, unleashing that kind of firepower at an airport in the London suburbs would be extremely dangerous. Developing technology to safely stop drones is becoming big business. Arthur Holland Michel is co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in New York. He says everyone from small start-ups to established military contractors are getting in the game with technologies to bring down drones.

ARTHUR HOLLAND MICHEL: We've seen things like, you know, water cannons, lights and lasers to dazzle the drone sensors.

BRUMFIEL: Some companies are even developing other drones to crash into the trespassing drones. But Michel says given all the different shapes and sizes that today's drones come in...

MICHEL: There is no single technique for detecting drones or for bringing them out of the sky that is going to be 100 percent effective against 100 percent of drones in 100 percent of cases.

BRUMFIEL: At Gatwick Airport, the military eventually had to be called in. According to press reports, they deployed an Israeli-made system known as Drone Dome to jam the signal to the drone from its controller. So far, it seems to be working. Geoff Brumfiel, NPR News.

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