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Here's how to mesmerise a drone

AAP logoAAP 14/11/2016 Max Blenkin, Defence Correspondent

There are various means to deal with a nuisance drone - blast it from the sky with a shotgun, zap it with a laser, shoot it down with an anti-drone drone or even snare it in a net like a wild animal.

The proliferation of low-cost drones and rising misuse has led to a new race to come up with the most effective counter-drone technology.

The US military is so keen it's funded an exercise series known as Black Dart to try out various commercial and military anti-drone technologies.

While much remains top secret, it's already known US military has used Hellfire missiles and 30 kilowatt shipboard lasers to destroy large commercial drones.

The push has also caught the attention of the Australian Defence Force and last week Australian firm Department 13 showed off 'Mesmer', a technology that takes control of intruding drones and forces them to land.

"We believe that making drones fall from the sky is a bad thing," chief executive Jonathan Hunter told AAP.

Drones are proliferating. There are small hobby devices for under $100 to more capable commercial units for everything from crop, powerline, beach and bushfire monitoring to police surveillance, media and imaging for real estate ads.

But so to is their misuse. Some have intruded into controlled airspace or paid a little too much attention to activities around the neighbour's pool.

Criminals have used them to deliver contraband. Islamic State and other terror groups have operated small commercial drones for battlefield surveillance and to drop explosive devices.

In the US drones have been spotted over nuclear reactors and military bases. And in April 2015, a drone carrying radioactive material was found on the roof of the prime minister 's Tokyo office.

"If they had shot that out of the sky, they would have dispersed radiological material everywhere," Hunter said.

"That would have shut down down Tokyo for at least a month."

Mesmer's technology manipulates the radio transmission protocols used to control drones.

"We make the drone listen to only us. Once we take control of the drone, we can land it, we can make it go back home, we can do passive video tapping so we can see what the drone is lookng at without the end user knowing," he said.

"We can do basically anything we want with that drone."

This can happen because most commercial drone radio controls operate in established frequency bands and use standard command protocols.

The Mesmer device is an esky-sized box of electronics that's currently intended for the protection of a fixed site, such as an airport, where it can use existing radar to detect intruding drones.

Hunter says the ADF is interested. "They have all seen it, they are all very intrigued by it."

The price tag of as much as a $1 million puts it beyond home use, but costs are expected to fall as the technology matures.

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