The U.S. Army Plans to Destroy Drones Midair Using High Powered Microwave Systems

In a public press conference held on August 7th, 2018, the U.S. Army announced that plans to purchase a high-powered microwave system to be used to destroy drones. Lockheed Martin was the company awarded the contract to supply the microwave system which will be mounted on planes. The system is able to destroy both fixed wing and quadcopter drones using a beam of focused energy.

The need to develop countermeasures against drones was made apparent by the assassination attempt against Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan president. Two drones fitted with explosives that can be detonated remotely launched the attack. Experts who have seen public videos of the attack have concluded that the drones that carried out the attack were similar to DJI’s Matrice 600. A statement released by the Venezuelan security forces said that each drone was loaded with one kilo of C4 explosive.

The anti-drone microwave system is not the only project the U.S. has awarded to Lockheed Martin. In November 2017, the company was awarded a project called the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD). The SHiELD system is to be used against incoming missiles, and designing the project alone cost 26 million dollars. The unmanned aircraft systems under review include explosives, nets, and high-powered microwave devices.

In the assassination attempt against Venezuelan president, the security forces neutralized the drones by shooting them down with guns. Apart from using high-powered microwave radiation, other sophisticated and safer methods of warding off drone attacks exist compared to shooting them down. For instance, targeted radio jamming can neutralize most drones by making the craft break connection with the pilot and crash to the ground. Some agencies even employ trained hawks to attack the drones midair.  The Bard Center for the Study of the Drone carried out a recent study that found 235 unique anti-drone systems that are either in use or in active development.

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