Anduril’s Interceptor: The Counter-UAS System Giving Ethicists a Headache

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We’ve seen plenty of counter-drone technologies emerge in recent years, from lasers and nets to remote hacks and actual eagles.

Anduril, a technology startup founded by Palmer Luckey – the man who sold Oculus to Facebook in 2014 and then left the social media giant under a cloud in 2017 – has a novel approach to the problem of rogue drones.

Anduril’s Interceptor Drone

Rather than seek to jam or take control of drones that are flying where they shouldn’t, Anduril’s Interceptor takes a brute force approach. Its aim is to collide, Kamikaze style, with the drone in question.

The Interceptor can reach speeds in excess of 100mph and harnesses the company’s computer vision technology to home in on its target. There’s usually only one outcome.

Currently, Anduril’s AI system, Lattice, and its related surveillance towers are used along the U.S.-Mexico border and on military bases. The company also has a contract with the UK’s Royal Marines.

All of which makes Anduril a rare thing: a Silicon Valley startup with absolutely no qualms developing technology that will be put in the hands of the Pentagon. Employees at Amazon, Microsoft and Google have all taken a stand against the militarization of their technology in recent times.

It’s no stretch to imagine further applications for an autonomous drone that can locate and home in on targets. At the moment those targets are limited to rogue drones and attacks require permission from human operators on the ground. But this is a slippery slope.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Marta Kosmyna of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a group opposed to autonomous weaponry, said, “You’ve already developed this technology, opened the so-called Pandora’s box,” adding that technologies such as the Interceptor are “very rarely used as intended.”

Anduril says it has already started shipping Interceptors to military clients in the US and the UK.

How does the Interceptor work?

There are plenty of scenarios in which shooting a rogue drone out of the sky isn’t the best option available. When it’s flying over a crowd, above a congested area or strapped with explosives, for example.

But in some cases direct and immediate action is the best way to deal with the situation. Whether it’s controlled by Anduril’s Lattice AI or triggered manually, a human operator can verify targets and launch Interceptor drones to take down drones autonomously – in any environment, day or night.

The Interceptor has been designed to strike hard and fast before landing safely, ready to be deployed again.

“Unmanned aerial systems have long been notoriously difficult to defend against: they are widely available, inexpensive, and dangerous in the wrong hands,” said Brian Schimpf, Anduril CEO.

“Our counter-UAS solution applies automated target acquisition to give human operators the capability to quickly and effectively neutralize these growing aerial threats.”

In a statement, the company says Interceptor prototypes have been rapidly developed and deployed, with developments continuing to improve the system with feedback from multiple end-users.



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