Anti-drone technology is on the rise, and none more so than in the military market where the threat of drone-based warfare is real.
It’s a market that is likely to be worth nothing short of “several billion dollars” over the next five years, it was reported by Breaking Defence. Raytheon, global leader in defense and cybersecurity technology and innovation, are making moves to capture a large part of that market by deveoping High Energy Laser (HEL) and High Powered Microwave (HPM) air defense weapons to fill a gap in the US army’s capabilities to disable increasingly cheap and capable drones.
In a show of the technology they have developed to this end, they demonstrated both the HPM and HEL systems at Fort Sill, Oklahoma at an event known as MFIX (Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment), which brought together military and industry leaders last December to bridge capability gaps.
At the event, which as held at the home of the Army air defense corps, a total of 45 drones were blasted using the HEM and HEL technology. First, advanced high-powered microwaves were used to fry 33 drones in groups of two and three, the company said in a recent press release. Then, a dune buggy carrying high energy lasers was used to identify, track and destroy 12 Class 1 and 2 drones.
Dr. Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president said the low cost ratio per engagement and speed of deployment would be revolutionary to the military, who wish to protect their troops against drone threats.
“We have spent decades perfecting the high-power microwave system, which may soon give our military a significant advantage against this proliferating threat,” he said.
To disable the drones, the microwave fries the interior electronics. Raytheon published a video on Youtube which shows a drone just dropping out of the sky. It presents no danger to human life either, as the very short microwave pulses mean there is not enough power to kill a human, and therefore could be deployed in just about any situation.
The HPM technology has not been without considerable development costs however, having been created in collaboration with U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory under a $2 million contract to test and demonstrate high-power microwave, counter-UAV capabilities.
The high energy lasers on the other hand, are extremely accurate and simply burn a hole in the drones. Both types of weapons are powered by electricity, so the cost per shot could be very low depending on the source of that electricity.
“Our customer needed a solution, and they needed it fast,” said Dr. Ben Allison, director of Raytheon’s HEL product line. “So, we took what we’ve learned and combined it with combat-proven components to rapidly deliver a small, self-contained and easily deployed counter-UAV system.”