New anti-drone laser with near-2km range spells trouble for hobbyists

8 Oct 2015

AUDS image via Liteye

A team in the US has developed a new high-powered laser, which, if aimed at a small drone, can knock it out of the sky from nearly 2km away. But what does that mean for drone hobbyists?

Liteye Systems, the team behind the anti-drone laser, is dubbing it a ‘death ray’, saying it can effectively track, target and fire a beam of energy at the drone, disabling its flight mechanisms, according to The Guardian.

Just yesterday, it was reported that a man in the US had a grievance with his neighbour over drone activity and decided to take things to the extreme and shoot down the US$1,200 drone, as he believed he was being spied on.

With some fearing their privacy is under threat from hobbyists and governments alike, the interest in anti-drone technology is rapidly increasing.

Called the Anti-UAV Defence System (AUDS), Liteye Systems’ anti-drone laser is certainly not what you would consider portable, though it certainly looks like a weapon, with desert camouflage, a targeting system and what looks like a rifle barrel.

That is why, Liteye says, we are more likely to see the AUDS dotted around airports than at private residences. Airports, in fact, are the company’s main target market, protecting aircraft from any potential stray drones or, even worse, those flown with the intention of creating terror.

Given that powerful lasers are in play here, Liteye offers the reassurance that the radio antennas used to kill drones use a rather narrow radio spectrum, which should prevent friendly fire on other drones or the interruption of mobile phone signals.

Anti-drone lasers are not just being developed in the US. Last year, the China Academy of Engineering Physics announced it was developing its own anti-drone laser cannon, which could be attached to vehicles, with military applications envisaged.

As the battlefield changes to adopt more un-piloted vehicles, efforts to develop the technology to take them down have increased ten-fold.

“The US government, like everyone else, has critical infrastructure and, if they don’t feel like they can protect it, they’ll pass laws that will hamper progress and hamper current use,” said Liteye’s executive vice-president, Rik Sondag.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic