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Boeing Builds a Drone Killer

Engineers at Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) have successfully brought down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), more commonly called a drone, with a portable laser cannon. What made the laser device unit stand out is its portability: the cannon, cooling system, power supply and other gear are contained in four suitcase-sized containers.

The range of the laser cannon has not been specified, but Boeing’s engineers say it has “tactical” range, which means at least several hundred yards. And because the laser beam travels at the speed of light, aiming the cannon is simple because there is no need to lead the target. It is easier than shooting the row of moving ducks at an amusement park.

The cannon is controlled by a laptop with custom targeting software and a standard XBox 360 controller. As military hardware goes, it cannot get a whole less expensive than that. And the total cost? Here is what a report from Wired noted:

Boeing wouldn’t reveal a total price of the system, but says it’s a one-time purchase. Once you’ve got the system, the only cost is electricity. The company expects the system to run for “years” with basic maintenance (the gimbal is the only moving part) and near-zero ongoing costs since there’s no traditional ammunition.

As simple as the laser drone killer is, there may be even simpler methods. At a counter-drone exercise called Black Dart in Southern California that ended earlier this month, a U.S. Marine Corps sniper in a UH-1Y Huey helicopter brought down a drone with a sniper rifle, the first recorded instance of such a drone kill. The destroyed drone was a flying wing design with a seven-foot wingspan and was one of the smallest UAVs used in the exercise.

For the historically minded, an even more inexpensive way to bring down a drone may be with the use of raptors. The YouTube video of

in Australia illustrates the possibilities for falconers eager to get try something different.

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By Paul Ausick