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A French soldier with an anti-drone rifle. Photo: Chesnot/Getty

Weapons that down threatening drones — by scrambling their electronics or just plain shooting them out of the sky — are flooding the market, even though most are still illegal in the U.S.

What's new: Just in the last year, hundreds of new products were released, in a scramble to head off an urgent unsolved menace. But off-the-shelf drones are evolving apace, threatening to make a thorny problem even worse.

The big picture: As I wrote this summer, plenty of roadblocks still lie ahead for the counter-drone industry. Fundamentally, many anti-drone systems don't work well — and even if they did, most are illegal in the U.S., except if used by federal agencies.

Driving the news: A new report from the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College is a comprehensive census of counter-drone technology.

  • Altogether, Bard researchers found 537 systems for sale — hundreds more than they found in last year's sweep.
  • More than 350 of these products are billed for intercepting and disabling drones; the rest simply detect them.
  • Radio jamming is the most popular method for taking down drones. But other creative approaches involve lasers, nets or even a "sacrificial collision drone."

The report raises two new problems. One is the limited range of many detection systems.

  • "The response time for successfully shooting down drones is incredibly short if the drone is even moderately fast," says the report's author, Arthur Holland Michel.
  • Even with a 1 km detection range — which may seem far — several steps remain after an incoming drone is detected: a second check, a decision to intercept, a scramble to ready the relevant weapon…
  • "By that time, the drone is right over your head," Michel says. "You don't hear this discussed in the marketing materials."

The second problem is the rapid progress of consumer drones, which is creating a "vicious feedback loop," Michel says. Advances that make the devices safer can also make them impervious to some counter-drone systems.

The bottom line: "There's nothing on the horizon that will cut the line on this [cycle]," says Michel. "There's nothing that just ends the game. … Until there is, it's going to be like this: a game of cat and mouse."

Go deeper

Senate Armed Services chair dismisses Trump threat to veto defense bill

Sen. Jim Inhofe poses with Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Oct. 21. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters Wednesday that he plans to move ahead with a crucial defense-spending bill without provisions that would eliminate tech industry protections, defying a veto threat from President Trump.

Why it matters: Inhofe's public rebuke signals that the Senate could have enough Republican backing to override a potential veto from Trump, who has demanded that the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Scoop: Uber in talks to sell air taxi business to Joby Aviation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Uber is in advanced talks to sell its Uber Elevate unit to Joby Aviation, Axios has learned from multiple sources. A deal could be announced later this month.

Between the lines: Uber Elevate was formed to develop a network of self-driving air taxis, but to date has been most notable for its annual conference devoted to the nascent industry.

Setting the Biden-era cybersecurity agenda

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Biden administration will face a wide array of cybersecurity challenges but can take meaningful action in at least five key areas, concludes a new report by the Aspen Cybersecurity Group.

Why it matters: Cybersecurity policy is a rare refuge from Washington's hyperpartisan dysfunction, as shown by the recent work of the bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission. President-elect Joe Biden should have a real opportunity to make progress on shoring up the nation's cybersecurity and cyber capabilities without bumping up against a likely Republican-controlled Senate.

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