In order to deal with the threat posed by unmanned aerial vehicles, Boeing has developed a new high-powered laser that can take them out of the sky. This is not Boeing’s first foray into drone zapping weaponry. Last year they demoed a truck mounted laser that could accomplish the same task. However, this new weapon is much smaller. Rather than requiring a truck to move it, this one can be transported in 4 suitcase sized boxes and assembled by a pair of technicians in a few minutes.
Boeing recently demonstrated this laser system in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wired reports that the laser was demonstrated on a stationary UAV hull to show how quickly it could burn a hole in a drone, and it only required 2 seconds at full power to set the target on fire. The weapon is also incredibly accurate, allowing the laser to hit within an inch or two of the targeted location. This allows specific sections of the drone to be targeted, offering a choice to the laser to either take the drone down and recover it, or destroy it completely. Boeing hasn’t publicly stated what the maximum distance this weapon can be used at but suggested that if you can see it with binoculars you can shoot it down.
The laser is controlled by an Xbox 360 controller and a laptop running special software. The laser is infrared so it is not visible to the naked eye, and it makes no sound. A drone operator is unlikely to even determine what brought down their drone if it was targeted by this weapon.
Boeing considers this a low cost solution for dealing with drones. Though they didn’t say what it would cost to buy this system, they did say it was a one time purchase, and only electricity costs would be required after purchase. It requires very little maintenance, since the gimbal is the only moving part, and no money has to be spent on ammunition. The primary customer for this weapon will be the American government; however, Boeing will also be able to sell this to foreign governments as long as it complies with export control regulations. It unclear whether civilian agencies will be permitted to purchase this weapon.
What impact will this new weapon have on warfare? Leave your comments below.