Firm develops anti-drone net launching air cannon

4 Mar 2016 – A British company has developed a pneumatic launcher for capturing errant drones in nets.

Full details of OpenWorks Engineering’s SkyWall device – which looks like something you’d find in the later levels of Doom 3 – are available on tech news website The Register, along with a demo video by the firm.

It appears to be an air cannon, in that the projectile is fired by a blast of compressed air from a hefty cylinder on the rear of the projector. An explosive charge in the projectile, which features four fins, detonates a few moments before impact, launching a net that captures the target drone and makes it fall to earth.

Its sights apparently include a hi-tech computerised scope-cum-rangefinder that programs the projectile and tells it when to detonate the charge for the net.

Which got UKSN’s author wondering. Is this compliant with section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968?

Section 5(1)(ae) states that banned weapons include: “any rocket launcher, or any mortar, for projecting a stabilised missile, other than a launcher or mortar designed for line-throwing or pyrotechnic purposes or as signalling apparatus”

Section 5(1A)(b) says, in ammo terms, banned items include “any rocket or ammunition not falling within paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of this section which consists in or incorporates a missile designed to explode on or immediately before impact and is for military use.” The “and is for military use” part could be an interesting area, given the firm’s heavy emphasis on “homeland defence” applications for their product.

The company no doubt has the needed licences and permissions in place, but it seems a bit much if airports and sports venue operators are expected to apply for section 5 authority for their security guards to use this rather neat item.

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