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Misbehaving hobby drones are an issue. They and their operators have continuously endangered fans at sporting events, came too close to politicians, nearly caused havoc for airplanes, and interrupted personnel attempting to thwart the impact of wildfires.

Mo Rastagaar, an associate professor at Michigan Technological University, decided that something had to be done after watching a World Cup soccer game where snipers had been hired to protect the crowd from drones, a practice that he thought was completely misguided.

“I thought, ‘If the threat is a drone, you really don’t want to shoot it down—it might contain explosives and blow up. What you want to do is catch it and get it out of there,’” he said, according to a report from the university.

Rastagaar began working on the “Robotic Falcon,” a drone capturing system that corrals misbehaving drones in a rather straight forward process. The drone catching system, which is a modified drone in itself, hovers, waiting for a renegade drone. Once trouble is found, the drone gives chase and launches a large net, which can reach the target from as far as 40 feet. The system can work autonomously, under the control of a pilot, or in a combination of both.

“What makes this unique is that the net is attached to our catcher, so you can retrieve the rogue drone or drop it in a designated, secure area,” Rastgaar said. “It’s like robotic falconry.”

 Once inside the net, the trespassing drone is a goner.

“It gets really entangled,” Rastgaar said. “It’s not going anywhere.”

For the last step, the Robotic Falcon easily carries its prey to a designated location.

Rastgaar was assisted on the project by research engineer Evandro Ficanha, PhD student Guilherme Ribeiro, and Ruiyu Kang and Dean Keithly, both recent mechanical engineering graduates. Fichanha and Rastgaar, who have filed for a patent for the Robotic Falcon, believe that the system could serve various purposes ranging from law regulation to counter-terrorism practices.

“The FAA has just announced that drones must be registered, and we think the catcher could help enforce the law by catching unregistered drones,” Rastgaar said.

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