Boeing’s laser hunts for drones


Boeing's compact laser weapons system disables a moving, untethered unmanned aerial vehicle in a test on August 3, 2015. Credit: Boeing

Boeing’s portable drone-destroying laser system is one step closer to the battlefield after a recent test.

Earlier this month in California, Boeing’s second-generation, compact-laser weapons system disabled a moving, untethered drone. That’s important because enemies can easily acquire commercially available drones — also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — and use them to deliver explosives or perform reconnaissance. 

Using a laser of up to two kilowatts, the weapons system can focus on a target located at a tactical distance up to many hundreds of meters away, according to a Boeing video of the technology. 

It took only a few seconds for the drone to ignite and crash. The laser is typically aimed at the tail of the drone because, once that section of the drone is disabled, it becomes impossible to control the drone, according to Dave DeYoung, director of laser and electro-optical systems at Boeing.


Boeing's two-kilowatt compact laser weapons system is fired at a target in a lab causing it to almost instantly ignite in a test on August 26, 2015.

Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to fire a missile, which may range in cost from $30,000 to $3 million, at a drone that may cost a few thousand dollars, he said in an interview.

It costs “a couple of dollars” for each firing of the new laser weapons system, he said. 

“It’s not an either-or situation,” he said. “There will be instances when missiles make sense.”

One of the drawbacks of using lasers, DeYoung said, is that light, unlike a missile, keeps going. The Boeing weapon uses a safeguard to make sure there is a clear line of sight both to and beyond the target. 

For more information and the original story plus more images and a video follow this link to Computerworld.


CNN and Georgia Tech want drones for news coverage


Drones are proving themselves useful in multiple ways: from delivering packages to acting as lifeguards to being spies for the military to providing Internet coverage. It’s no surprise then that media outlets are now looking at the use of drones for their reporting, especially since drones can get into areas that people, or helicopters, cannot. This summer, CNN and Georgia tech are teaming up to research the usage of drones for news coverage.

The CNN/Georgia Tech team will be looking at not just access to airspace via drones, but also at personnel and safety issues. They’ll be sharing their findings with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is currently developing new regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles. Considering the FAA has banned the use of drones for all commercial purposes, including news gathering, a large news organization like CNN wants to have some say in any rules that regulate them.

David Vigilante, CNN’s Senior Vice President, Legal, said:

“Our hope is that by working cooperatively to share knowledge, we can accelerate the process for CNN and other media organizations to safely integrate this new technology into their coverage plans.”

Drones could cover certain stories for media outlets much more effectively than humans. In areas where transportation is all but impossible, drone coverage could provide valuable information. For example, a drone could fly into a major disaster area and record video footage of the damage. Drones could also be used for investigative journalism. Of course, for that to happen, the FAA has to approve it first, so we’ll see if CNN and Georgia Tech’s research affects any rulings the agency makes.

Source: DVICE