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Shark Technology

Boeing Demonstrates Drone-Killing Laser 125

An anonymous reader writes: Boeing has successfully tested a new weapon system that tracks unmanned aircraft and shoots them down with a laser. The system is surprisingly small — it can be transported in a few medium-sized boxes, and two techs can set it up in minutes. The laser needs just a few seconds of continuous [contact] to set a drone aflame, and the tracking gimbal is precise enough to target specific parts of a drone. "Want to zap the tail so it crashes and then you can go retrieve the mostly intact drone and see who is trying to spy on you? Can do. Think it's carrying explosives and you want to completely destroy it? No problem." The laser is controlled with custom targeting software that runs on a laptop, with help from an Xbox 360 controller. Boeing expects the laser system to be ready for sale in the next year or two.
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Boeing Demonstrates Drone-Killing Laser

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 28, 2015 @09:30AM (#50409291)

    You are all Drones. Drones make Rrrrrrrrr. Rrrrrrrrrrrr Drones rrrrrrrrrrr! Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr make the drones. YOU DRONES!!!

    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      OK...now that's funny.

    • ...can be transported in a few medium-sized boxes

      Is that a metric or US "medium-sized box"?

      Are we using large or small values of "few" this summer? I can never remember.

  • But... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    can you mount it on a shark?

  • it can be transported in a few medium-sized boxes"

    How big is a medium-sized box?

    Rosanna Arquette or John Edwards

    • The laser needs just a few seconds of continuous to set a drone aflame

      I'd give it a few minutes of continuous just to be safe.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The laser needs just a few seconds of continuous to set a drone aflame

        I'd give it a few minutes of continuous just to be safe.

        I'm not sure that's a good idea. We only have a limited amount of continuous. Now we seem to have more intermittent on hand so you could use intermittent for a few minutes

      • Re:small? (Score:4, Funny)

        by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh.gmail@com> on Friday August 28, 2015 @12:56PM (#50411053) Journal

        If you give it too much continuous you could accidentally the whole thing.

    • Re:small? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dotancohen ( 1015143 ) on Friday August 28, 2015 @09:41AM (#50409413) Homepage

      it can be transported in a few medium-sized boxes"

      How big is a medium-sized box?

      Rosanna Arquette or John Edwards

      This device seems to be an adaptation of the mostly-failed experiments to knock down mortars and grad-style rockets with lasers. Those systems only worked if the projectile was following a previously-known flight path and the laser was set up to protect that specific path, because they couldn't target fast enough. Real-world mortars are less predicable, but drones are slow enough that the targeting seems to work on them.

      It is rather convenient for the researchers that a slower, more media-visible target for their mortar-laser was developed!

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Which has me wondering just how much unpredictable manoeuvring a small autonomous aircraft would have to do to defeat it.

        What color is it? What about highly reflective surfaces? Many cheap products have "chromed plastic" surfaces. How about ablative surfaces? This is only going to work for a while, as it's going to be easy to design around. But at least it might help keep drones from dropping pistols into prison courtyards for a while.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          People keep bringing up "reflective" surfaces into laser weapon discussions. Think more "energy" than "light". Surfaces: aren't as reflective as you think; particularly at the wavelengths used; and the amount of energy being dumped is enough to change the properties of the surface from the state it was a microsecond before.

        • Which has me wondering just how much unpredictable manoeuvring a small autonomous aircraft would have to do to defeat it.

          The fine article states that the laser must stay on target for 2 seconds. I don't know if this is to target the plastic (melt, warp, or burn) or the metal (penetrate) components. When targeting mortars the system would heat them until the explosive ignited, when targeting rockets they would be heated until the vehicle failed structurally. I find it hard to believe that these differing applications would all need the same 2 second time period, though.

          Notice that the targeted devices in the video seem to ha

        • by timelorde ( 7880 )
          Serpentine Shelly. Serpentine!

          http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079336/quotes?item=qt0136887/ [imdb.com]
      • The optics, software and servos that make up this kind of system are evolving rapidly- I doubt it is really an adaptation of anything

        • The optics, software and servos that make up this kind of system are evolving rapidly- I doubt it is really an adaptation of anything

          Sure it is, nobody starts a project like this from scratch. I even recognize the body of the device from infrared cameras from over a decade ago, not identical but very similar.

          • There are tens of similar projects the mortar experiment was just one of them

            • There are tens of similar projects the mortar experiment was just one of them

              That makes a lot of sense. The four basic components (threat identification systems, targeting systems, laser and related gimballing robots, and field power systems) all have many applications in other fields as well.

    • About .1 Libraries of Congress.

    • by fey000 ( 1374173 )

      it can be transported in a few medium-sized boxes"

      How big is a medium-sized box?

      Rosanna Arquette or John Edwards

      Bigger than a small box but smaller than a large box.

    • There's a picture in the article. Looks about the size of a small microwave oven, less than 2 feet long. (Plus the tripod)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Medium Box [uhaul.com] dimensions: 18" x 18" x 16" (W x L x H)

  • While this sounds like a great way to take down those pesky drones that interfere with firefighting, planes landing and taking off, etc. what sort of safeguard does this thing have against something that suddenly occludes its view? Drones can fly up to several hundred, even a thousand feet. Even though it can be controlled via a laptop, reaction time as well as latency in communications would mean anything that happens to get in between the laser and the drone could get severely hurt or damaged. Don't we ha
    • I don't want to shoot down the drone. I want to shoot the person piloting the drone. Triangulate the signal controlling the drone to locate the pilot, and then shine your own laser at the pilot.

      Wow! We don't have a nuclear arms escalation race anymore. But we have a drone arms escalation race. Armaments manufacturers will make a bundle on drone/anti-drone selling weapons.

      • I don't want to shoot down the drone. I want to shoot the person piloting the drone. Triangulate the signal controlling the drone to locate the pilot, and then shine your own laser at the pilot.

        Wow! We don't have a nuclear arms escalation race anymore. But we have a drone arms escalation race. Armaments manufacturers will make a bundle on drone/anti-drone selling weapons.

        Triangulating is an arms race too. A drone on autopilot doesn't need to be controlled and even if you needed to control it, you could control it with a burner phone so the only thing you would be triangulating on would be the nearest cell tower. There are plenty of other technologies like multiple repeaters, multiple channels, public channels, etc... that could also very easily prevent triangulation.

        • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

          The other issue is triangulating kinda relies on either continuous or multiple transmission. It mostly boils down to you observer the transmission form multiple points, and measure the received energy at each. Next you do a bunch of math to figure out where the transmission likely originated from based on the different energy detected at the receiving stations. Doing that with accuracy to handful of meters as would be needed to quickly id a drone operator and respond is kinda hard when

          1) the detection st

          • Already some consumer drones can proceed to a set GPS coordinates by themselves. If you don't need to be in constant or even frequent contact with the drone but only need to occasionally send a quick "GOTO $lat,$long,$altitude" it might be very hard to track you down.

            Exactly. It would probably be easier to jam the GPS signal and/or all radio transmissions but even this isn't foolproof as image recognition is improving as well as multiple ways of counting steps which could easily allow a drone to complete the voyage without GPS or any guidance.

    • 4931m [youtube.com], 16,000 feet.
    • While this sounds like a great way to take down those pesky drones that interfere with firefighting, planes landing and taking off, etc. what sort of safeguard does this thing have against something that suddenly occludes its view? Drones can fly up to several hundred, even a thousand feet. Even though it can be controlled via a laptop, reaction time as well as latency in communications would mean anything that happens to get in between the laser and the drone could get severely hurt or damaged. Don't we have enough problems as is with just "common" lasers being pointed at aircraft?

      My guess is that this will be mostly used in restricted air spaces like above the white house, above the prisons, and other places like that. It could possibly be used in airports and other restricted areas but it sounds like it's accurate enough so it's not going to mistake a full size aircraft with a small drone and even if it does, it's not going to do real damage to a full size airplane.

      • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

        it's not going to do real damage to a full size airplane.

        I'm sure that's comforting to the pilots that are blinded right before they crash the plane. Pilots already frequently report encountering laser incidents, on average 10 a night [laserpointersafety.com] and those incidents aren't using lasers specifically designed to destroy things.

        • it's not going to do real damage to a full size airplane.

          I'm sure that's comforting to the pilots that are blinded right before they crash the plane. Pilots already frequently report encountering laser incidents, on average 10 a night [laserpointersafety.com] and those incidents aren't using lasers specifically designed to destroy things.

          You're talking about a $10 laser pointer owned by a punk kid versus a multi thousand dollar device and the technical knowledge to modify it to target a full size aircraft instead of a drone. Even if you could buy one the limited number of these sold would make them trivial to track. This is FUD. The odds of someone buying one of these and using it on a commercial aircraft is pretty much nil as there would be a dozen easier ways to harass an aircraft.

  • perfect idea, until the drone thats built with reflective, ceramic-composite materials shows up.
    • perfect idea, until the drone thats built with reflective, ceramic-composite materials shows up.

      Then you hire the Kentucky redneck with a shotgun loaded with bird shot.

  • Counter measures (Score:4, Interesting)

    by leathered ( 780018 ) on Friday August 28, 2015 @09:38AM (#50409371)

    Mirrored surfaces on the drone?

  • If it takes this laser 2 seconds to drill through a tough drone body, how long would it take this laser to cause serious injuries to a human being if the drone were protected by mirrors (say mirrors camouflaged by a thin film that the laser can destroy instantly) that reflect the beam downward towards a crowd on the ground?

    • The mirror coating is barely reflective to a laser, and will burn off just about as quickly as the camouflage coating which you propose. What is needed to have any real effect is an ablative laser coating which continues to be reflective as it is burned away. AFAIK no such material exists as of yet, in spite of being prophesied in roll-playing games (i.e. Battletech.)

      However, yes, there will be some reflections while the target is being cooked, and if it is at low altitudes that could be quite dangerous to any spectators.

      • The mirror coating is barely reflective to a laser, and will burn off just about as quickly as the camouflage coating which you propose. What is needed to have any real effect is an ablative laser coating which continues to be reflective as it is burned away. AFAIK no such material exists as of yet, in spite of being prophesied in roll-playing games (i.e. Battletech.)

        Hm. It seems to me that the ideal way to handle this is to have the material ablate in such a manner that it leaves a cloud of particles hanging in the air, forcing the laser to burn through the cloud as well.

  • by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Friday August 28, 2015 @09:38AM (#50409377)

    mozzies are way more annoying than drones

  • Now we need someone to make a Laser-Killing Drone.
  • Mirrors (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 28, 2015 @09:40AM (#50409407)

    Cue the knuckleheads with their "just put mirrors on the dronze herp derp!"

    Mirrors aren't 100% efficient reflecting all wavelengths. Mirrors are heavy; a mirror covered drone won't work very well.

    • And it has to be a front surface mirror lest the substrate or any protective coverings or coatings absorb the laser energy and negate the point of having a mirror in the first place... I.E. the most difficult kind of mirror to keep as clean and flawless as it has to be to provide the desired protection.

    • Aluminized mylar has 95% IR reflectivity and 90% visible reflectivity. At .001" thickness I don't think you can call it "heavy". It might not make the drone "laser proof" but it sure can't hurt. Have the drone wobble or spin when it gets lased, and you are going to have a bitch of a time keeping the laser on one spot long enough to burn through.
       
      signed A. Knucklehead

      • That 0.001" is going to get melted instantly by the percentage that isn't reflected.

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        I don't think you could make the reflective surface perfect enough to make the drone positively laser-proof, but I think a reflective coating would certainly reduce the laser's effective range. Analogously you can't nuke-proof an aircraft, but in the Cold War they were often painted "anti-flash white" to help them survive a bit closer to a detonation.

      • Going to make interesting cases when someone gets blinded or dazzled so that they have an accident by the light reflecting off the drone.

        This will make a lot of lawyers rich deciding whom to sue.

  • by rjune ( 123157 ) on Friday August 28, 2015 @09:44AM (#50409453)

    I'll stand by my previous post that #4 birdshot is still more fun, plus it it mirror resistant.

    • by rjune ( 123157 )

      Should read: I'll stand by my previous post that #4 birdshot is still more fun, plus it is mirror resistant.

  • by Rambo Tribble ( 1273454 ) on Friday August 28, 2015 @10:13AM (#50409647) Homepage
    ... when they figure out how to make it into a bug zapper.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Lol. I would just put mirrors on my drone and destroy the laser.

    Idiots.

  • Can't wait until this makes it to the open source community!
  • Are we talking about those relatively small drones with multiple propellers that cost $1k or so and fly at a few hundred feet altitude or are we talking about the big ones the CIA and military use in places like Syria and Iraq? The big ones may have GPS guided bombs able to be flown at night or through clouds and fog and can be effective weapons in bad weather. Lasers aren't very useful in bad weather situations because of light scattering. Would this anti-drone device be useful for, maybe, shooting down A
  • So this is all they can come up with, just mirror coat the drone and the laser is of no use. We coat glass with compounds that create perfect mirrors, you could do the same with drone covering... My 8m old baby could do better than this.
  • "The laser needs just a few seconds of continuous to set a drone aflame"

    That continuous is bad news! Who knew? I wonder if Amazon sells it?
  • When this tech gets simple enough that any suicidal mass-murderer can get ahold of one, no low-flying aircraft will be safe - which means no aircraft taking off or landing in a populated area will be safe.

  • When they get to shark helmet size let me know. I still want my sharks with fricken laser beams.

  • Drone Wars (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Begun, The Drone War has!

  • So they finally invented something that would make me seriously consider buying an Xbox. I hope they have it in the stores in time for Christmas. I can think of a dozen great uses for it -- killing flies, drilling holes through would-be burglar's shoes (feet inside), a new way to light the barbecue grill. In fact, who needs the grill? Next summer I can reprogram it to keep the squirrels out of my peaches at the same time it prepares me a tasty laser-grilled peach-fed squirrel for dinner out of the ones

  • That is all it would take, a team of drones with the first one being a decoy that will damage the laser. Sorry Boeing but there is a smarter way of taking out drones, without projectiles or lasers.

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