The UK’s DragonFire laser is designed to burn drones out of the sky

The UK’s DragonFire laser is designed to burn drones out of the sky
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Researchers tested a new laser at a range in southern England. This brought it closer to military use. DragonFire, which was developed for the Ministry of Defence, is a long-range solution to incoming threats. It can be used to destroy projectiles in midair using the concentrated power of intense laser light. The Ministry of Defence (MOD), announced that it had conducted long-range laser tests at the Porton Down location on November 8. The laser struck and neutralized a small drone at a range 2 miles . during the live fire test.

The laser was designed for the MOD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. It is a composite technology. This means that multiple systems are combined into one functional package. This included controls and image processing from defense contractor MBDA, a beam directory to track and point at targets made by defense contractor Leonardo, and a 50-kilowatt laser built by QinetiQ. The future plans call for the laser to be able “scale fire-power levels,” allowing the user to increase or decrease the power to match the target. This saves energy and allows the laser to defeat more difficult targets.

” The trials involve firing the UK DragonFire demonstrator on a variety of targets at a variety of ranges, requiring pinpoint accuracy from the beam driver,” DSTL stated in a . release.

To develop the laser, the Ministry of Defence and industry have spent “around PS100 million,” or roughly $118 million dollars. Laser weapons are expensive and heavy front-loaded. The research and development costs for creating a weapon that can kill targets quickly, in comparison to high-caliber rockets or missiles, is a significant expense.

“Laser-directed energy weapons have the potential for lower cost lethality and reduced logistical burden – this technology could have a huge impact on the future of defense operations,” stated DSTL in the release.

[Related: What it’s like to fire Raytheon’s powerful anti-drone laser]

Laser weaponry works by combining and focusing strong light and holding that light steady on a target so that the heat of the laser does not damage it. The effectiveness of a laser depends on many factors. These include the power that is being used and how well the tracking system can keep it focused on the same area of an object. The speed at which a laser is directed on a drone can be affected by its location: A laser directed at plastic casing or circuits will disable it much faster than one aimed at igniting an .battery.

This means that simply creating a powerful laser will not be enough to eliminate a drone or missile or other threats such as mortar rounds or rocket fire. Laser weapons can be reduced in time by using automated tracking systems and sensors. A laser can focus on one object at a range without distraction. However, in a real combat scenario, the laser may only have a few seconds for a projectile to be destroyed before moving onto the next.

The Ministry of Defence has been looking to develop a laser weapon since at least 2015. Particulates in the atmosphere can reduce the effectiveness of a laser weapon’s beam, such as smoke, dust, or moisture. The 2015 request stated that the goal was for a laser which can “detect, acquire and track targets at range and in varying weather conditions, with sufficient precision.”

Some conditions, such as thick fog or billowing dust, can also be obstacles to drone flight and sensors. However, laser weapons can also play an anti-projectile role. This could make a combat day more difficult.

[Related: The UK’s solution for enemy drones? Lasers. ]

DragonFire has been in the works since at least 2017, as a way to defeat and disable aerial targets, like drones. Drones are a great target because they fly at a slow speed that lasers can track and because there is no pilot onboard that a laser could blind. Laser weapon use against people is governed by the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, part of the Geneva Conventions on Certain Conventional Weapons, which entered into force in 1998. Both the United States and the United Kingdom are among the treaty’s 109 signatories, agreeing to not use lasers specifically to blind people in war.

This makes DragonFire, similar to other laser weapons, a modern way to deal with a modern threat. It protects humans from inanimate attackers by stopping flying robots.

Watch a short video about it:

YouTube video

Kelsey D. Atherton

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