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Boeing built a laser cannon to shoot down drones

Boeing built a laser cannon to shoot down drones
image courtesy of shutterstock

Drones are quickly becoming the next big tech market. In just a few years, they've gone from a basic cheap toy, or very expensive do-it-yourself hobby, to an affordable item that anyone can get and enjoy.

Whether you're into aerial photography, air racing, or just want something large to fly, drones can do it. Read our guide that walks you through the process of buying the right drone for you.

Companies are looking at them for deliveries, emergency services, cheaper aerial photography, universal Internet and much more.

With the good, however, comes the bad. Hobby drones being flown in the wrong places are routinely threatening landing airplanes, hindering firefighting, ruining natural landmarks, getting near the White House and invading neighbor privacy. And those are flown by ordinary citizens.

With drones becoming so cheap and practical, there's the danger that terrorists could start using them to spy or deliver bombs. Hackers could use them to break into Wi-Fi. Militaries around the world are scrambling for armed drones, both the expensive military models and cheaper civilian models. There's even a drone out there carrying a handgun.

That's a worry since most military air defenses are geared toward large craft and drones are small and operate in populated areas. You wouldn't want to start firing off missiles or hundreds of 20mm bullets in downtown, assuming they could even hit a small, rapidly evading drone. Even with drone-destroying ammunition on the market for personal guns, it would be nice to have a more reliable, longer-range way to bring them down.

Defense contractor and airliner manufacturer Boeing thinks it has a solution. It recently unveiled a working laser cannon with enough juice to bring down a drone.

It's a two-kilowatt infrared laser, which means the beam is invisible, but it's still deadly to drones. Just two seconds at full power is enough to burn through the typical drone shell. And it can be precisely positioned to take out whatever part of a drone you want.

For example, you could take out the drone's motors without detonating an explosive. Or intentionally detonate the explosive before the drone gets too low.

Controlling the laser is simple. It uses a basic laptop and the controller from an Xbox 360, which a good percentage of people under the age of 30 know how to use.

Unlike the massive plane and boat-destroying laser the Navy currently has under trial, which requires the full electrical output of a military vessel, Boeing's laser is very energy efficient. It can run off a 220 volt outlet or generator. Boeing is even working on battery packs that would let it get off a couple of shots.

Drone-destroying lasers are just another step toward the future of warfare. Want to know what else is in store? Listen to Kim interview author P.W. Singer about his exciting new novel, "Ghost Fleet," which explores the terrifying future of technology in warfare. Download it from her free podcast page.

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Source: Wired
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