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Boeing's laser canon burns drones in seconds

29 August 2015

The US government and military have identified a new threat in modern day warfare - commercial drones doubling up as carriers of explosives or chemical weapons.

Protecting troops as its primary goal, Boeing said its laser system could also be on the front lines defending against the newest form of spying drone aircraft, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The portable device aimed a silent, invisible laser at a target and tracked it as it moved, heating it until it burned a hole a process that took about 15 seconds.

Like any laser weapon system, it had an unlimited magazine as long as there was energy to power it either via generator or battery pack.

Also, the cost-per-shot was incredibly low. Once assembled, it resembled sub-woofer speaker on a tripod.

The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (or aptly named HEL MD), is operated with an Xbox controller and a laptop, and snugly fitted into four suitcase-sized boxes.

Equipped with a sophisticated tracking system,  the laser can lock on to small targets. Though currently it requires a static position, with upgrades it could be used on a moving vehicle or ship.

''There will be times where it makes sense to use a missile and there will be times where it makes sense to use a laser'', Boeing's lasers and optical systems director David DeYoung told Wired.

The compact system is small enough to fit in four suitcase-sized boxes and a pair of soldiers or technicians can set it up in a few minutes. Its current use was driving drones away from sensitive areas.

What is particularly impressive about the laser is its precision.

Not only could it hone in on a drone, it gave operators the ability to target specific portions of the drone to within an inch.

Whether one wanted to destroy a drone completely or perhaps just burn off a wing to capture it, Boeing's laser could do it.

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