Using Kinetic Energy Non-Lethal Weapons to Neutralize Low Small Slow Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

  • Cyril RobbeEmail author
  • Alexandre Papy
  • Nestor Nsiampa
Original Paper


Low, small, slow unmanned aerial vehicles (LSS UAV) are the smallest and cheapest category of aircraft without a pilot in command on board. They are either remotely controlled or programmed and fully autonomous. Typically, these are used for entertainment or as a means for filming events or activities. The development of all these LSS UAV goes with an increased risk of seeing them used for military or terrorist actions. Indeed, because of their versatility and current technical capacities, using LSS UAVs to carry small caliber weapons or to deliver an improvised explosive device (IED) to a potential target in an urban environment becomes feasible with relatively low expertise and means. Already, many recent news report the presence of LSS UAV in situations where they could represent serious threats. Due to a technological gap on detection technologies, these potentially harmful LSS UAVS are currently likely to be visually spotted very late by the security teams, typically a few dozen meters from their potential target. Such a conclusion makes the use of capture solutions such as drone-chasing drones, or even using birds of prey, inadequate. Besides, in the context of urban environment, fancy technologies such as jammers, lasers, or other high-energy devices are potentially unsuitable due to possible strict regulations concerning the use of wave emitting devices and a high potential of collateral damage on other equipment. The following study discusses the potential suitability of kinetic energy non-lethal weapons (KENLW) to neutralize LSS UAV in such conditions as the last line of defense. These weapons are designed to minimize permanent or unnecessary injuries when used against human targets. The study is divided into five parts. Firstly, LSS UAV and KENLW are defined and the market is analyzed in order to focus the work on representative candidates of these two categories. Secondly, impacts of KENLW projectiles on LSS UAV are performed in a controlled environment in order to highlight the effect of the impact on the target. The results are presented in terms of V50, which is defined as the velocity characterized by a probability to produce the desired effect of 50%. The projectiles show good potential to break the propellers or even the hull of the LSS UAVs. Thirdly, a theoretic study which objective is to discuss the probability to hit the target is proposed. The results show reasonable probabilities to hit the propellers or the hull with a perfect aiming. Besides, the aiming problem is discussed and highlight the need of dedicated aiming systems to reach the presented results. Fourthly, the potential collateral damage occurring when such projectiles impact human targets is studied. The selected projectiles give mixed results. The most efficient projectiles on the LSS UAV are also the most harmful when impacting the human body. Finally, conclusions concerning the suitability of KENLW systems for neutralizing LSS UAV threats are drawn.


Unmanned aerial vehicles Non-lethal weapons Ballistics Impact measurement Human vulnerability Biomechanics 


  1. 1.
    Franke U Flying IEDs: the next big threat? Press article,, October 2016 (consulted on September 2017)
  2. 2.
    Abbott C, Clarke M, Hathorn S, Hickie S (2016) Hostile drones: the hostile use of drones by non-state actors against British targets, Remote Control project (Oxford research group) reportGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Leonnig C, Rupar T. When a drone crashed in front of Gernamy’s Angela Merkel, Press article, The Washington Post, January 2015 (consulted on September 2017)
  4. 4.
    Fackler M. Drone, possibly radioactive, is found at office of Japan’s Prime Minister, Press article, The New York Times, April 2015 (consulted on September 2017)
  5. 5.
    drone-hunter,, commercial product, consutled on September 2017
  6. 6.
    Castle S. Dutch firm trains eagles to take down high-tech prey: drones, Press article, The New York Times,, May 2016 (consulted on September 2017
  7. 7.
    NIAG Study Group 170, Engagement of low, slow and small aerial targets by GBAD, Study Report, NIAG-D(2013)0015 NATO, Sept 2013. Restricted accessGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    "Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)", International Civil Aviation Organization, Montréal, Canada, 2011Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    NATO (2014) NATO glossary of terms and definitions, AAP-6, ed 2014Google Scholar
  10. 10.
  11. 11.
  12. 12.
    NIAG Study Group 188, GBAD sensor mix optimization study for emerging threats, study report, NIAG-D(2015)0020-REV1, NATO, Jul 2015. Restricted accessGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
  14. 14.
  15. 15.
  16. 16., consutled on Feb 2017
  17. 17., consulted on March 2016
  18. 18. , consulted on March 2016
  19. 19., consulted on March 2016
  20. 20.
    Badham A (2013) UK ATM and UAS operations, in IET Seminar on UAVs in the Civilian Airspace, pp 1–28Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Davison N (2009) Non lethal weapons. Global Issues, ISBN 1349306568, 9781349306565Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    AAP-06 (2013), NATO glossary of terms and definitions,, 2013 (consulted on September 2017)
  23. 23.
    Hubbs K, Klinger D (2004) Impact munitions data base of use and effects, disponible sur internet en mars 2013:, U.S. Department of Justice
  24. 24.
    C Bir. The evaluation of blunt ballistic impacts of thorax. PhD thesis, Wayne State University, 2000Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    De brito D, Challener K, Sehgal A (2001) The injury pattern of a new law enforcement weapon: the police bean bag. Annals of Emergency Medecine 38(4):383–390. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Mahajna A, Aboud N, Harbaji I, Agbaria A, Lankovsky Z, Michaelson M, Fisher D, Krausz MM (May 2002) Blunt and penetrating injuries caused by rubber bullets during the Israeli-Arab conflict in October, 2000: a retrospective study. Lancet 359(9320):1795–1800. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Suyama J, Panagos PD, Sztajnkrycer MD, FitzGerald DJ, Barnes D (Aug. 2003) Injury patterns related to use of less-lethal weapons during a period of civil unrest. J Emerg Med 25(2):219–227. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Luyer MDP, Hoofwijk AGM (Dec. 2008) Blunt liver trauma from bean bag ammunition. Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg 35(5):503–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Rezende-Neto J, Silva FD, Porto LB, Teixeira LC, Tien H, Rizoli SB (Jun. 2009) Penetrating injury to the chest by an attenuated energy projectile: a case report and literature review of thoracic injuries caused by ‘less-lethal’ munitions. World J Emerg Surg 4(1):1–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Khonsari RH, Fleuridas G, Arzul L, Lefèvre F, Vincent C, Bertolus C (Jan. 2010) Severe facial rubber bullet injuries: less lethal but extremely harmful weapons. Injury 41(1):73–76. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Voiglio EJ, Frattini B, Dörrzapf J-J, Breteau J, Miras A, Caillot J-L (Apr. 2004) Ballistic study of the SAPL GC27 gun: is it really ‘nonlethal’? World J Surg 28(4):402–405. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Shaw J (Dec. 1972) Pulmonary contusion in children due to rubber bullet injuries. Br Med J 4(5843):764–766. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Millar R, Rutherford WH, Johnson S, Malhotra VJ (Jun. 1975) Injuries caused by rubber bullets: a report on 90 patients. Br J Surg 62(6):480–486. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Rocke L (Apr. 1983) Injuries caused by plastic bullets compared with those caused by rubber bullets. Lancet 1(8330):919–920CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    A. J. Ritchie and J. R. Gibbons, Life threatening injuries to the chest caused by plastic bullets, BMJ, vol. 301, no. 6759, p. 1027, Nov. 1990Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Chute DJ, Smialek JE (Sep. 1998) Injury patterns in a plastic (AR-1) baton fatality. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 19(3):226–229. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Steele J, Mcbride S, Kelly J (1999) Plastic bullet injuries in Northern Ireland: experiences during a week of civil disturbance. J Trauma 46(4):711–714. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Dickson B (2003) BATON ROUNDS a review of the human rights implications of the introduction and use of the L21A1 baton round in Northern Ireland and proposed alternatives to the baton round. Omega founcdation, MarGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Hughes D, Maguire K, Dunn F, Fitzpatrick S, Rocke L (Feb. 2005) Plastic baton round injuries. Emerg Med J 22(2):111–112. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Wahl P, Schreyer N, Yersin B (2006) Injury pattern of the flash-ball, a less-lethal weapon used for law enforcement: report of two cases and review of the literature. J Emerg Med 31(3):325–330. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Maguire K, Hughes DM, Fitzpatrick MS, Dunn F, Rocke LGR, Baird CJ (Feb. 2007) Injuries caused by the attenuated energy projectile: the latest less lethal option. Emerg Med J 24(2):103–105. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Kobayashi M, Mellen PF (Sep. 2009) Rubber bullet injury: case report with autopsy observation and literature review. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 30(3):262–267. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Brun P-M, Bessereau J, Chenaitia H, Barberis C, Peyrol M (2012) Commotio cordis as a result of neutralization shot with the flash ball less-lethal weapon. Int J Cardiol 158(3):e47–e48. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Patel A, Toohey S, Boysen-Osborn M (Mar. 2014) Splenic laceration and pulmonary contusion injury from bean bag weapon. West J Emerg Med 15(2):118–119. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Hiquet J, Gromb-Monnoyeur S (Jun. 2015) Severe craniocerebral trauma with sequelae caused by flash-ball® shot, a less-lethal weapon: report of one case and review of the literature. Med Sci LawGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    NATO, STANREC 4744 Ed.1 AEP-94 , Skin penetration assessment of non-lethal projectiles, edition A version 1, NATO Unclassified (available from your NATO National representative) November 2013Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    NATO, STANREC 4744 Ed.2 AEP-98 ,Precision assessment of non-lethal kinetic energy weapons and ammunition, edition A version 1, NATO Unclassified (available by your Nato National representative) April 2015Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    NATO, STANREC 4744 Ed.3 AEP-99, Thorax injury risk assessment of non-lethal projectiles, edition A version 1, NATO Unclassified (available from your NATO National representative) February 2017Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    C. Bir, S. J. Stewart, and M. Wilhelm, Skin penetration assessment of less lethal kinetic energy munitions, Journal of Forensic Sciences, vol. Vol 50, no. 6, p. 4, Nov. 2005Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    C. Robbe, Evaluation experimentale de l’impact thoracique des projectiles non-létaux—experimental evaluation of the thoracic impact of non-lethal projectiles, PhD thesis, Royal Military Academy (RMA) - Université de Liège (ULg), 2013Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    C. Robbe, N. Nsiampa, A. Papy, A. Oukara, and K. Meersman A new thoracic surrogate for assessing the impact of kinetic energy non-lethal projectiles in PASS conference proceedings, Cambridge, 2014Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Robbe C, Nsiampa N, Oukara A, Papy A (2014) Quantification of the uncertainties of high-speed camera measurements. presented at the Cafmet conference proceedings, PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    D. Mauchant, K. Rice, M. Riley, D. Leber, D. Samarov, and A. Forster, Analysis of three different regression models to estimate the ballistic performance of new and environmentally conditioned body armor, 2011Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Unknown author, Chapter 54, The probit procedure (, Jan-2013
  55. 55.
    K. Vincent, Probit analysis (, San Francisco State University, Jan. 2013
  56. 56.
    NATO, STANAG AEP 2920 ed. A version 2, Procedure for the evaluation and classification of personal armour, NATO Unclassified (available from your NATO National representative), September 2016Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    G Dyckmans. http ://, consulted in September 2017
  58. 58.
    Robbe C, Nsiampa N, Papy A, Oukara A (2013) A complete injury assessment of FN303 and FN303p impacts, in 7th Eur. Symp. Non-Lethal Weapons 2013 proceedings, 2013, EttlingenGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Robbe C, Nsiampa N, Papy A, Oukara A (2013) An hybrid experimental/numerical method to assess the lethality of a kinetic energy non-lethal weapon system, in Ballist. 2013 27th Int. Symp. 2013, Freib ForschGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Viano D, Lau I (1985) Thoracic impact: a viscous tolerance criterion. In: Tenth international conference on experimental safety vehiclesGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Oukara A, Robbe C, Nsiampa N, Papy A (2015) Assessment methods for the non-lethal projectile head impact injury prediction. In: 8th Eur. Symp. Non-lethal weapons 2015 proceedingsGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    A Oukara, Assessment of non-lethal projectile head impacts PhD thesis, Royal Military Academy (RMA) - Université de Liège (ULg), 2015Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Oukara A, Nsiampa N, Robbe C, Papy A (Oct. 2014) Injury risk assessment of non-lethal projectile head impacts. The Open Biomedical Eng medical Engineering Journal 8(1):75–83. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Weapons Systems and BallisticsRoyal Military AcademyBrusselsBelgium

Personalised recommendations