Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey has created an autonomous battering-ram drone. As reported by Bloomberg and NBC News, Luckey’s Anduril defense company is now offering a self-piloted drone called the Interceptor, which is designed to destroy other drones midflight by ramming them head-on.
As photographed by Bloomberg, the Interceptor resembles an off-the-shelf quadcopter on the scale of a Parrot drone, but Anduril has programmed the Interceptor with a specific protocol for defending the airspace around a given building. (As Anduril sees it, that building might be a military base, an oil rig, or a prison.) Given a certain block of airspace to defend, the drone will scan the space using the company’s computer vision software and automatically ram any objects that intrude. Crucially, the Interceptor requires explicit permission before each attack.
In a demo to NBC News, the Interceptor was able to completely disable a drone hovering 100 feet off the ground, smashing into the craft from below and coming away unscathed.
“We’d like to apply this to people who are not just attacking a base with a quadcopter—maybe they’re attacking it in an ultralight aircraft, or a helicopter, or a cruise missile,” Luckey told Bloomberg.
Anduril has been the subject of significant controversy since its launch, primarily for its enthusiastic support of federal border control projects. The company’s main product, called Lattice, is a computer vision system designed to identify migrants as they cross the border between the United States and Mexico. The system reportedly identified 55 people over the course of a 10-week trial in 2018.
Lattice has already found some success in contracts with the Department of Defense, recently securing a $13.5 million contract at a border-adjacent Marine Corps base. It’s still unclear how broadly the technology is being used by US border agencies specifically, but a spokesperson told NBC News that it’s working with roughly a dozen agencies across the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.