Lockheed shoots drones out of the sky with it’s newest laser weapon

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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

  • Laser weapons are coming of age and it won’t be long before they’re deployed on the battlefield, and that’s bad news for drones and drone fans


 

Remember when you were growing up and every sci fi film you watched, from James Bond to Star Wars, showed leaser weapons blasting things out of the sky? Well, if Lockheed Martin’s latest demonstration is anything to go by then soon, as soon as 2020, you could be living in that sci fi world.

 

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Last week Lockheed Martin teamed up with the US Army Space and Missile Defence Command (USASMDC) to show off its prototype laser weapon, dubbed ATHENA (Advanced Test High Energy Asset) to blow five Outlaw drones out of the sky.

 

Lasers 5 – Drones 0
 

“The tests at [White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico] against aerial targets validated our lethality models and replicated the results we’ve seen against static targets at our own test range,” said Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin’s CTO, “as we mature the technology behind laser weapon systems, we’re making the entire system more effective and moving closer to a laser weapon that will provide greater protection to our war fighters by taking on more sophisticated threats from a longer range.”

 

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The ATHENA weapon is currently powered by a compact Rolls-Royce turbo generator, and what makes it, apparently, extra special, is the fact that it boasts a “smart modular design” that allows its operators to vary the amount of power it wields by adding or taking away laser modules. For example, the base model is capable of shooting a 60 kW beam, which could easily be upped to 120 kW if required.

As to why it’s being used in demonstrations to shoot Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) though the explanation is easy, once deployed it’ll likely be used to protect forward operating bases and soldiers at the front from swarms of drones, like the ones the US trialled recently, and one of the big advantages of lasers like ATHENA is that they offer greater speed, flexibility, precision, and lower cost per engagement when compared to alternative weapons. And if the lasers fail, then soldiers could always just use another new technology called “MESMER” to take them over.

 

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However, while all of this drone killing might sound great, if you’re a soldier, or horrible, if you’re a drone fan, drone’s are already starting to fight back against these next generation laser systems before they’re even in the field thanks to nanotechnology and new materials that absorb and disperse the laser’s energy, and, if you’re a drone fan and a sci fi fan then there’s even more wonder in store – deflector shields. Yes, recently BAE announced they’d finally figured out how to make them – awesome!

Following the test, Lockheed Martin and the US Army will now carry out a post mission review and, using the data they collected, they plan on building a bigger better laser. Lasers 5 – Drones 0.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the 311 Institute, a global futures think tank working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future.” Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, CNBC, Discovery, RT, and Viacom, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring several Education and Lunar XPrize teams, building the first generation of biological computers and re-envisioning global education with the G20, and helping the world’s largest conglomerates ideate the next 20 years of intelligent devices and machines. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, BOA, Blackrock, Bentley, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, Du Pont, E&Y, HPE, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, UBS, and many more.

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