Sgt. Kiara Perez takes aim with the SkyWall Patrol (U.S. Army)

Ok, so modern unmanned aerial vehicles aren't nearly as much a threat as Skynet and these weapon systems really wouldn't do anything to the T-1000. However, today's remote-controlled drones can prove to be major security risks as surveillance or even explosive delivery platforms—it's this threat that the 40mm net grenade and SkyWall 100 bazooka are designed to combat.

On February 5, 2019, the U.S. Army acquired a patent for a 40mm grenade designed to snare and defeat UAVs. I can already hear you typing, "Why not just shoot them out of the sky with air-burst rounds or regular bullets?" Well, the first problem is escalation of force. Depending on the ROE, live fire may not be approved as a reaction to unmanned surveillance. There's also the fact that bullets fired into the air that don't connect with their target will eventually fall to earth and potentially strike an unintended target. Additionally, shooting down a drone creates the danger of an uncontrolled airborne object falling from the sky, most likely over friendly forces. This danger is amplified if the drone is carrying explosives.


Enter the 40mm net grenade. Based on the standard 40mm grenade platform used in weapon systems like the Mk19 and M320 grenade launchers, the 40mm net grenade provides troops with a non-lethal standoff countermeasure to combat drones. The basic components of the grenade are the net and proximity detector. The operator aims at the drone and fires the grenade. At six to nine yards from the target, the proximity detector detonates a small charge that propels the petals and weights from the grenade and casts the net. The net ensnares the drone and neutralizes it. The Army has reported that initial tests of the grenade have been promising since it is easily operated and it is extremely effective against multiple targets—that's right, drone swarms.


An illustration of how the net grenade works (U.S. Patent 10,197,365 B1 Figure 2)

What if the drone bigger than a standard commercial drone? Get a bigger gun. In this case, a bazooka. Built by OpenWorks Engineering, the SkyWall is a smart anti-drone shoulder-fired bazooka that assists its operator in targeting and neutralizing unmanned aerial threats. The operator identifies the target using the intelligent scope. The targeting system then calculates a firing solution based on the target's distance, speed, and direction. Once an optimal aim is acquired, the weapon fires its round at the target. The net-carrying canister round is capable of engaging drones up to 100m away. The net round can also be equipped with a parachute which helps to bring the drone safely to the ground. This can help with identification and intelligence gathering once the aircraft is recovered. The weapon system is designed to be operated by just one person and claims a fast reload time for dealing with multiple targets. That said, it's hard to beat the rate of fire of a Mk19.

While the net grenade is still in its testing and evaluation phase, the SkyWall has already been deployed operationally. The SkyWall Patrol model was implemented as a kinetic component of the GUARDION air defense system by German police at the Berlin Air Show. In an environment where an unregistered drone could cause serious damage to sensitive and expensive aircraft, keeping the skies safe is a serious business. The GUARDION system detects, tracks, and neutralizes drones in built-up and public spaces. This is made possible by SkyWall's accurate and non-lethal characteristics.

The U.S. Army is also implementing SkyWall Patrol in its anti-drone system. At a demonstration in Italy, the Army provided an overview of the system, performed two engagements against a drone, and held a discussion on the recovery and exploitation of an unmanned system once it is captured. The demonstration was a major event with 55 multinational observers in attendance. Additionally, Sgt. Kiara Perez became the first female U.S. service member to operate the SkyWall Patrol during the demonstration. Sarah Conner would be proud. "The SkyWall Patrol system aligns with the U.S. Army's modernization strategy, which focuses on making soldiers and units more lethal," the Army's Combat Capabilities Development Command said in a press release.

As technology evolves, so too does the battlefield. The implementation of new technologies in warfare also prompts further technological research and development in the pursuit of countermeasures. While this means increased capabilities for our troops, it also means more mission essential tasks to train on and more sensitive items to keep track off.