Drone Killer Boeing’s Compact Laser Weapons System
Bothered by the neighbour’s remote-controlled drone flying over your garden?
Boeing’s developed a laser cannon specifically designed to turn unmanned aircraft into flaming wreckage.
The aerospace company’s new weapon system, which it publicly tested this week in a New Mexico industrial park, isn’t quite as cool as what you see in Star Wars—there’s no flying beams of light, no “pew! pew!” sound effects. But it is nonetheless a working laser cannon, and it will take your drone down.
People keep flying their drones where they shouldn’t. In airport flight paths. Above wildfires. Onto the White House lawn. Luckily, there haven’t been any really bad incidents—that is, no one has been killed by a civilian quadcopter or plane, yet.
But governments and militaries around the world are terrified by the prospect of drones carrying explosives or chemical weapons (and now, pornography) into places where they shouldn’t.
Wednesday morning, the company showed off its Compact Laser Weapon System for media in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It’s a much smaller, significantly more portable version of the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) Boeing demonstrated last year. This setup looks like an overgrown camera, swiveling around on a tripod.
More impressively, it can be disassembled into four separate parts that can then be transported by a pair of soldiers.
It takes 15 minutes to reassemble and uses a 10 kilowatt beam to destroy UAVs cruising up to 22 miles away. It is, effectively, a more portable version of Boeing’struck-mounted laser (fashionably named the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator or HEL MD).
The laser is controlled with a standard Xbox 360 controller (“If it breaks, just head to the barracks to get a replacement!”) and a laptop with custom targeting software. Once in range, the system can take over from the human operator and control targeting and tracking automatically. Though current prototypes are meant to be used from static positions, the new weapon could be used on a moving vehicle or ship with minimal upgrades.
“This represents a low-cost way to deal with the threat,” said David DeYoung, director of Boeing Laser & Electro-Optical Systems. Boeing wouldn’t reveal a total price of the system, but says it’s a one-time purchase. Once you’ve got the system, the only cost is electricity. The company expects the system to run for “years” with basic maintenance (the gimbal is the only moving part) and near-zero ongoing costs since there’s no traditional ammunition.
The company hopes to have the Star Wars-inspired weapon ready for market in a year or two, with many refinements and developments to come over the next few years. But don’t expect lasers to replace traditional armaments like Raytheon’s Patriot missile defense system and Israel’s Iron Dome. “There will be times where it makes sense to use a missile and there will be times where it makes sense to use a laser,” says DeYoung.
Unfortunately, there’s no beam of light or Star Wars-style blaster sound to accompany the destruction as the emphasis here is on stealth.
Source: wired.com, mirror.co.uk