The US Army has developed a new weapon to ensnare enemy drones – a net packed into a 40mm grenade.
Patented earlier this week, the grenade can be fired from a common grenade launcher used by US military and law enforcement units.
The patent explains how the system works: “As the round nears the target, a signal from a control board activates a servo. The servo pulls on a central lock plunger to release a ball mechanism. This releases the ogive section, which in turn allows the ejection spring means to eject the petals and weights along with the net stowed there within.”
US Army engineers Tomasz Blyskal, Richard Fong, and LaMar Thompson invented the grenade at the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) in New Jersey.
Preliminary testing of the device showed that the new grenade is an improvement on existing net-centric counter-drone techniques, such as using a large drone to pull a net behind it, which requires a trained pilot.
The new grenade net launcher system also benefits from being able to “ensnare many, or swarms of drones” unlike the larger drone technique, according to the US Army.
The US Army has noted the difficulty of disabling small unmanned aerial vehicles that are commercially available to the public in recent years. Last week, the US Army awarded a contract to SRC specifically for technology to take down smaller drones, which are much more difficult to detect than larger craft.
More research is being done to find new techniques that will disable drones without the need for expensive or explosive counter-measures. Older methods, such as using conventional air-to-surface weapons or shouldered missile launchers, are considered too expensive for this type of task.
The new grenade net concept is simplistic in that mobile ground units who already have trained grenadiers with M302 launchers can use them to ensnare small drones from hundreds of yards away.
If using the Mk-19 grenade launcher, attached to cavalry or anti-tank units for example, studies show that the grenade net can be fired much farther.
The team at ARDEC has been working with TechLink – the US Department of Defense’s tech partnership hub – to develop the patent for the grenade net.