Space & Innovation

Weapon Destroys Drones with Frickin' Lasers

A portable, directed-energy weapon system can be set up in minutes and disable a flying target.

Last week, we took a look at a new anti-drone detection system designed to spot and identify unauthorized UAVs in a given range of airspace. Built with portability in mind, the Drone Tracker system is being marketed to companies, public event planners and even prison officials who want to keep drones out of their airspace.

Now comes word that the tinkerers over at Boeing are putting the final touches on a portable laser system that not only tracks those pesky drones - it shoots them out of the sky with frickin' lasers.

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The Compact Laser Weapons System - an admirably straightforward name - uses technology similar to heavier systems already being deployed in military capacities. The U.S. Navy's LaWS weapon, for instance, was unveiled in operational demonstrations last year.

Like the LaWS device and similar land-based systems, the Boeing weapon uses invisible directed energy beams to superheat any designated target in range. The laser beam follows vehicles in flight, tracking a particular spot for as long as it takes to ignite and disable the target.

The difference with Boeing's new system is that the laser weapon is designed to be portable and operated by a single person. The system has four parts: a water-cooled chiller, a battery power supply, the fiber laser itself, and upgraded beam director.

"It's four boxes with very simple interconnects," said David DeYoung from Boeing's laser and electro-optical systems team, on the company's demo video.

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The idea is that, rather than deploying a large laser on a dedicated truck or ship, the portable unit could be set up quickly in and around sensitive areas.

The newest demo video, released late last week, shows the Boeing system successfully disabling an untethered UAV in about 15 seconds, during tests in Point Mugu, California.

So there you go - aerial attack drones versus portable laser guns. Further proof, if you need still need it, that we're all now living in a science fiction novel. You can browse more videos and photos at Boeing's Silent Strike project page.

via Tech Xplore