Development of anti drone technology has been at the forefront of tech innovations globally. Now, Raytheon Co. has announced that it has partnered with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory on a $2 million contract to test and demonstrate high-power microwave and counter-UAV (unmanned aerial system) technologies. Dozens of unmanned aerial targets were defeated in the tests at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., a Raytheon statement declared, adding that its advanced high power microwave (HPM) and mobile high energy laser (HEL) weapons successfully brought down multiple drones.
The high energy laser system uses invisible beams of light to shoot down aerial targets, and the high-powered microwave bursts disrupt drone guidance systems. Its primary advantages are speed and a low cost per engagement. The weapons have been mounted on all-terrain vehicles specially made by Minnesota’s Polaris Industries for the military.
The event expanded on previous directed energy demonstrations, including a U.S. Army exercise in 2017 and a previous Air Force test in January.
Speaking to Military.com Raytheon spokesman B.J. Boling said that the directed-energy systems recently brought down DJI Phantom 4 quadcopters, as well as “a mix of other class 1 and 2 fixed-wing and quadcopter” drones during an Air Force demonstration at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on Tuesday. When paired with Raytheon’s Multi-spectral Targeting System, the HEL system uses invisible light beams to take down unmanned aerial vehicles. Together, the systems can detect, identify, track and engage drones and can be mounted on a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle, officials said.
Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president, said in a news release accompanying the announcement, “After decades of research and investment, we believe these advanced directed-energy applications will soon be ready for the battlefield to help protect people, assets and infrastructure.”
The release further stated: “High power microwave operators can focus the beam to target and instantly defeat drone swarms. With a consistent power supply, an HPM system can provide virtually unlimited protection.”
Stating that Countering the drone threat required diverse solutions Stefan Baur, Raytheon Electronic Warfare Systems vice president was quoted saying, “HEL and HPM give frontline operators options for protecting critical infrastructure, convoys and personnel.”
According to the company HEL and HPM were the only directed-energy systems tested in the Air Force demo. In 2017, Lockheed Martin Corp. tested similar technologies. The company said its Advanced Test High Energy Asset, or ATHENA, prototype weapon brought down five Outlaw drones, which have a wingspan of 10.8 feet. Last week, the Air Force said it has been working on a Tactical High-power Microwave Operational Responder, known as THOR, to take out smaller drones at the speed of light. The non-lethal THOR concept is currently in developmental testing.
Experts estimate that counter-drone technologies — both for civil and military use — are on the rise and will see an increase over the next decade.
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