News | Feb 5, 2019

US Army invents 40mm grenade that nets bad drones

Sgt. Daniel Young fires an M320 40mm grenade during a field training exercise at Fort Bragg in 2015.

Christopher Freeman/Army

U.S. Army researchers have packed a net into a 40mm grenade so they can take down enemy drones.

The new invention, which was patented on Tuesday, brings high-tech engineering to the tried-and-true grenade launchers common among U.S. military and law enforcement units.

Enhanced illustration of U.S. Patent 10,197,365, showing the net strings under the proximity detector which detonates a small charge, springing the 40mm grenade apart and spreading the net out six to nine meters from the target. (Troy Carter/TechLink)

“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,” according to the patent (a PDF of the entire patent is linked at the bottom of this story).

The new warhead was invented by Tomasz Blyskal, Richard Fong, and LaMar Thompson of the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.

Initial testing showed that their round outperforms other net-centric counter-drone tactics like dragging a net from another larger drone, according to the Army, because that requires trained pilots and doesn’t work when trying to “ensnare many, or swarms of drones.”

Disabling small, unmanned drones, which are now widely available to the public, is a problem for civilian officials and military commanders.

Last month, takeoffs and landings were delayed at Newark Liberty International Airport after two pilots observed a drone in the airspace. And unauthorized drones caused major delays for three days at London’s Gatwick Airport, the UK’s second largest airport, in December 2018.

Army officials are preparing tactics, techniques, and procedures for field units that encounter such drones. Using conventional surface-to-air weapons like shoulder-fired missiles designed to target piloted aircraft may be overkill and are relatively expensive.

But small, mobile ground units already include grenadiers equipped with M320 launchers who could easily carry dozens of the new 40mm rounds to take out small drones from hundreds of yards away. Cavalry units, anti-tank sections, and heavy weapons companies that employ the Mk-19 grenade launcher could also use the new round from even greater distances.

News Article Image of US Army invents 40mm grenade that nets bad drones

U.S. Army soldiers from the New Jersey National Guard’s Delta Company, 1-114th Infantry Regiment, prepare to load a Mk-19 grenade launcher with belted 40mm practice grenades in 2018. The Mk-19's maximum effective range is about 1,600 yards.

Matt Hecht/Air National Guard

TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer, can help businesses interested in productizing DoD technology learn more about patent licensing. Through technology transfer, DoD inventions are made available to businesses and entrepreneurs for use in new products and services.

The Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center has over 400 available technologies.

An invention license or patent license agreement confers the right to practice the invention for commercial purposes and often includes related data and technical knowledge. License fees paid to the Army are typically negotiable.

To receive more information on this technology, interested parties can contact Brian Metzger, senior technology manager at TechLink, at brian.metzger@montana.edu or 406-994-7782.


Correction: an earlier version of this story identified the nomenclature of the Army’s portable grenade launcher as M302. It has been corrected to M320.