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WP: Frying Drones With Lasers, Microwaves
387 1 2017-11-30
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Mark The Droner
Flight distance : 2917 ft
United States

This article was in this morning's print edition of The Washington Post on page A12.  I'm using the print edition headline which is different than the online version's headline.  The online article is dated Nov. 24, but it's the same article.  Scroll down for a link to the entire article.


Largely a preoccupation of hobbyists and experimenting companies, [drones] are beginning to become a menace on the battlefield, where their benign commercial capabilities have been transformed into lethal weapons and intelligence tools.

Instead of delivering packages, some have been configured to drop explosives. Instead of inspecting telecommunications towers, others train their cameras to monitor troops and pick targets. Instead of spraying crops, they could spread toxic gas, commanders worry. Military strategists envision the day when they will be deployed in robot armies capable of swarming defenses in kamikaze raids.


In response, the Pentagon is attacking what it sees as a potentially major threat, working to develop lasers and microwaves to blast drones from the sky. Tucked away in a nondescript office park, JIDO’s headquarters is the nerve center of the effort, tracking incidents around the world and working with academia, start-ups and venture capitalists to stay on top of the latest in drone technology.

Some soldiers already carry specially outfitted “anti-drone” rifles that, instead of firing bullets, use pulses across radio frequencies that interfere with the vehicles’ controls. France and other countries have trained eagles and other birds of prey to attack enemy drones.

“There is definitely a sense of urgency,” said Luis Hernandez, a senior staff member at BAE Systems, which recently participated in the Hard Kill Challenge, a Pentagon-sponsored anti-drone competition. “We don’t want this to become another issue like the roadside bombs, the IEDs. Let’s attack this now.”

At the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington recently, anti-drone technology was on display on the floor of the convention center. Nammo, a Norwegian company, showcased a drone that had been blown apart by an “air burst” round — programmed to explode as it reaches its target.

Raytheon is taking a different approach, mounting a high-energy laser weapon on top of a militarized dune buggy that it says can be used to take out drones. “Basically, we’re putting a laser on a dune buggy to knock drones out of the sky,” said Ben Allison, director of Raytheon’s high-energy laser product line.

The company also has developed what it calls the Phaser, a high-powered microwave cannon that can scramble a drone’s avionics.

Lockheed Martin has a laser it calls Athena that is capable of frying the tail off a fixed-wing drone. And at an Army exhibit, officials showed a small quadcopter with what looked like a small bullet hole in it — that was caused by a laser, not a gun.

CACI, a defense contractor based in Arlington, Va., is developing a technology it calls SkyTracker that can find and track drones using radio frequencies. If a drone enters a restricted airspace, whether over a military base or a commercial airport, the system could force the drone to land. Or it could commandeer the vehicle and send it back to its operator, a technique that could help law enforcement authorities or soldiers locate the bad guys.


Officials are not just concerned about drone use on the battlefield. Airports worry about drones interfering with planes. Prisons have seen the vehicles buzz over fences to smuggle in contraband. In 2015, a wayward drone crashed into empty seats at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, and a quadcopter flew by the Secret Service to crash on the White House grounds. And on Oct. 12 in Quebec City, a drone hit a small airplane in what officials said was the first such collision in North America. The plane, which was carrying six passengers, landed safely. But the incident raised alarms in Canada and the United States.

“There are a lot of drones flying, and there are a lot of people flying drones thinking they’re toys,” Greg McConnell, national chairman of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association, told CTV.


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Second Officer
Flight distance : 426375 ft
United States

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