I can’t for the life of me understand why the U.S. Air Force is looking at an anti-drone solution that is clearly inadequate for the problem at hand.
Drones pose a real security problem for law enforcement. They are relatively small and easy to hide, can quickly be deployed, allow for surveillance, and can carry a payload. And once in the air, how do you quickly take them down?
An order placed in late January by the U.S. Air Force gives us a good idea of how law enforcement drone defense is probably going to work. The Drive reports that a Notice of Contract Action was submitted by the Air Force to evaluate 600 12-gauge SkyNet Mi-5 shotgun shells supplied by AMTEC Less Lethal Systems (ALS).
The Mi-5 shells are anti-drone rounds and contain a five-foot wide capture net. When fired, five tethered segments spin and extend to create the net which travels towards the targeted drone, wraps around it, and raises it to the ground. The only damage caused will be from the impact with the ground, which should offer a chance to inspect and collect evidence from the drone.
The Air Force will use the shells with its Remington Model 870 shotguns after modifying them with a “choke tube” on the muzzle which will allow the shell to spin and extend the net properly. The types of drones these shells can target are classed as Category 1 & 2 by the Pentagon. They weigh up to 55 pounds and typically fly at heights of no more than 3,500 feet.
The test footage shows a drone almost right on top of the shooter, no more than 15-25 yards overhead.
We know that these drones are capable of flying much higher and further away than the 300-foot maximum range of the Mi-5, as the article notes these drones can fly at up to 3,500 feet.
Theses bolas-inspired loads are clearly inadequate to engage drones flown well above their engagement range, and would not (for example) be able to hit drones used to drop improvised explosives such as those used by ISIS in Iraq and Syria from much higher altitudes.
I think the Air Force should probably give up on these very questionable bolo-inspired shotgun rounds, and instead probably look at using existing radio-jamming technologies already used by the military to create jamming devices that would interrupt the control signals of any unfriendly drone flown into a given airspace, bringing them down before they are overhead and a threat.
The only practical use I could see for these bolas-inspired rounds is perhaps for very limited domestic law enforcement use, and I’m not sure that is currently enough of an issue that agencies are going to spend much of their budgets for a singe purpose shell of limited value.