The U.S. Army and America’s law enforcement agencies are about to get a new laser weapon developed by Boeing which is designed specifically to target and disable drones.
Various drone incidents have involved near miss collisions, including those at U.S. airports as well as the many stories this summer of drone operators interfering with California firefighters’ efforts. Guidelines for civilian drone use have been issued by the FAA with commercial laws expected to be issued next month. Boeing’s new device will put an enforcement capability behind such regulations, as well as provide a key tool for forward deployed U.S. forces who increasingly see drones hovering around them.
Although no one has been killed in a drone accident as of yet, one of the fears is the eventual case of a weaponized drone in a terrorist attack. Such an attack could employ whatever cargo the assailant decided to attach including guns, explosives, and chemical weapons.
Other technologies and strategies have been tried to achieve the same effect as Boeing’s laser, but the new system has the advantage of unlimited ammunition, pinpoint accuracy, and the ability to disable a drone in two seconds using its two kilowatt laser.
The precision of the device enables it to target non-vital parts of an aircraft in cases where salvaging the drone’s cargo is desired. Boeing offered no specifics on the range of the device except to say it would be able to destroy any target that one could spot with binoculars.
While other laser systems are so large they require vehicle transport, this device is small enough for deployment by two soldiers in less than ten minutes.
Targeting is accomplished by the operator using an Xbox 360 controller up until target acquisition. At that point the system will enter an automatic target and track mode.
Unlike a projectile-based weapon system, Boeing stated that theirs would be a one-time purchase, requiring only electricity and basic maintenance in order to achieve a multi-year lifespan.
The device still has one or two years of development to go before it is on the market.