Drone defence system
Radar and thermal image cameras spot rogue drones, then radio waves are fired to block the target's controls and disable it Press handout

Drones flying over sensitive locations will be targeted and shot out of the sky using a high-powered radio signal which blocks commands from their pilots. The system could be used on hobbyist drones dropping drugs into prisons, but also for thwarting larger unmanned aircraft operated by the military.

Described as a "death ray" by the British team behind it, the defence system can block all radio commands to drones, effectively switching them off, from up to one mile away. The so-called Anti-UAV Defence System (Auds) is distributed by Liteye Systems and is designed to make target drones act as if they have malfunctioned, encouraging their owner to retrieve them for investigation.

Drones flying in sensitive locations, such as near parliament buildings or over airports, are first detected by the Auds' radar, then sighted via a thermal imaging camera; once in sight, a high-powered radio signal is focused on the drone, overriding any instructions being sent to it by its pilot, reports the Guardian.

'If I can see it, I can kill it'

When some drones lose connection with their remote they return to where they took off from, which would be the ideal outcome for any hit by the paralysing "death ray". A system which forcibly crashed the drone or broke it in some other way would no doubt be frowned upon by the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) community – at least this way the majority of intercepted drones would be forced away from where they were being flown without being lost or suffering permanent damage.

"If I can see it, I can kill it," said Rick Sondag, executive vice president of Liteye Systems, which showed off the Auds at the Commercial Unmanned Aerial vehicle Expo in Las Vegas.

This is just one of many new systems being developed to combat illegal drone use in the UK and abroad, following a number of incidents where UAVs have come within feet of commercial aircraft landing at airports. A second system, developed by scientists in Korea, uses certain sound frequencies to upset a drone's balancing gyroscope and knock it out of the sky.

Initial experiments focused on rendering a drone inoperable by attaching a speaker to the drone itself. The researchers said that major weapons manufacturers would be able to develop a tracking system that could direct sounds at a drone from a distance.