Boeing's weapon against drones: Think laser, think welding torch

Boeing’s weapon against drones: Think laser, think welding torch

Consider a contest of unmanned aerial vehicle versus energy. And one where energy wins. Boeing has a compact laser weapons system to pull the win off. The system directs energy on its targets, focusing energy on a spot in order to damage the target. Think of it as a welding torch, said Isaac Neal, Boeing engineer, but from many hundreds of meters away.

No esoteric alphabet and number strings need recall, as Boeing refers to it directly as the "Compact Laser Weapons System." California-based Wired reporter Jordan Golson described it as "a laser cannon specifically designed to turn into flaming wreckage."

The system made news this month in reaching "a milestone," in a test in California. It tracked and disabled a moving, untethered .

Lee Mathews of said in past Boeing demos, the laser was taking down drones that were resting on the ground or tethered, much easier targets. "For this latest test," he noted, "Boeing ditched the wire."

Earlier this month, IHS Jane's 360 newsletter carried a story from Daniel Wasserbly in Washington, DC, which said, "Boeing's Compact Laser Weapon System (CLWS) used a 2 kW laser to disable an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) during Exercise 'Black Dart', representatives from Boeing announced on 11 August."

He said at an August 3 event, the system shot down an airborne UAV at Point Mugu in California by holding the laser beam on the UAV's tail for 10 to15 seconds. David DeYoung, director of Boeing Laser and Electro-Optical Systems, spoke about it during a media roundtable.

A video, meanwhile, shows a demonstration of the compact laser's precision. The system disabled the at a tactical range—it took down the UAV in seconds.

Neal said once they turned the laser on, it was about 15 seconds, until the drone was disabled. He also said that if you were on the receiving end of the laser energy, you would have no idea where it was coming from or what was even happening.

The system is portable; it sets up in minutes and directs in seconds. It's four boxes with simple interconnects. The video identified the system's four parts as a water-cooled chiller, battery power supply, fiber laser and beam director.

Golson said, "Instead of a massive laser mounted on a dedicated truck, the compact system is small enough to fit in four suitcase-sized boxes and can be set up by a pair of soldiers or technicians in just a few minutes. At the moment, it's aimed primarily at driving drones away from sensitive areas."

Wired said the is controlled with a standard Xbox 360 controller and laptop with custom targeting software. "Once in range," wrote Golson, "the system can take over from the human operator and control targeting and tracking automatically."

Boeing, said the BBC, is one of many companies "working to develop high powered lasers that can be used in military or defense scenarios."

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Aug 30, 2015
Will it work against mirror finish on drone?

Aug 30, 2015
Exactly, Vlisivka. All too often these demonstrations of potency are pure theatrical performances.

Aug 30, 2015
It comes down to the optics and tracking. If they make that work, I want it for my observatory!

Aug 30, 2015
can hit from several hundred meters away, yet it took 15 seconds to take it down. How many thousands of meters will the Boeing fly before it takes it down? My guess is the jet will pass the drone before putting it down.

Aug 30, 2015
Will it work against mirror finish on drone?

Yes it will work on chrome. Chrome isnt as reflective as you think. It will burn right through it very quickly. It is possible to make a surface that is close to 100% reflective (especially if you know the wavelength), but it is not cheap. If the laser wavelength can be changed then it makes it even harder to defend against. Scary weapon.

Aug 31, 2015
Just how gullible are Americans becoming. No one ever bothered with what they call "physics" it's the study of physical reality. Heating up the column of air between the laser and the target requires more than suitcases.

Aug 31, 2015
nilbud claims
Heating up the column of air between the laser and the target requires more than suitcases
What wavelengths ? eg O2/N2 are transparent to many & one can choose a wavelength which is not absorbed by humidity *and* CO2*and* O2&N2 - so therefore just what wavelengths are you claiming nilbud ?

Eg. In respect of the irrefutable Physics of many gas absorption/radiatio spectra - this specific issue re greenhouse gases has been experimentally verified and is based on foundational physics never refuted...

Which is based upon

Which leads to a staggering number for CO2

We are so lucky the oceans have 4000x the specific heat of our atmosphere and also so lucky that water's latent heat of fusion is so high.

What wavelengths nilbud *will* heat air that boeing avoids then ?

Aug 31, 2015
" If the laser wavelength can be changed then it makes it even harder to defend against. Scary weapon."

The other alternative (which is one thing that can be employed to harden e.g. ICBMs against laser weapons) is to rotate them in flight.

If your drone is e.g. a quadcopter then you can get stable flight even while the thing is spinning about its axis. This will disspiate the heat quite effectively and prevent any one place bein welded through.

As for this part
"you would have no idea where it was coming from or what was even happening."

If you have know the wavelength you can add a reflective cat's eye finish to your drone and send the laser right back to its origin - no matter which direction it's coming from.

Aug 31, 2015
Read Daniel Suarez' Kill Decision.

Aug 31, 2015
I wonder what would happen if you covered a drone in retro-reflectors, and hit it with this. Wouldn't the laser light that bounces directly back to the emitter, damage the laser, even if it still managed to take out the drone? lol

Aug 31, 2015
There are more than a few problems left. Simple, and cheap, detectors already exist to let you know if you're being painted by a laser. At tactical ranges, merely bringing the drone down is valuable information that a real target is present. That's useful for dropping mortar rockets and/or artillery shells on that section. And if it doesn't have flexibility on what frequencies are available, each use is like a big US (or ally) sign as well. Nice idea, especially on breakdown and setup. Going to be a PITA to hump around in the field, though.

Sep 01, 2015
This reminded me of the following:


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