Drones? Pshaw. U.S. Navy Unveils Its Laser Weapon System

That's LaWS to you and me.

The U.S. Navy posted video footage of its LaWS, or Laser Weapon System in action on YouTube yesterday. The $30 million project, which uses a laser to destroy aircraft, disabled an airborne drone in a matter of seconds—the UAV caught fire just five seconds after the weapon was activated.

The weapon was tested from the navy destroyer U.S.S. Dewey, in the Pacific, but the system will initially be deployed on another vessel, the U.S.S. Ponce, which is currently on patrol with the Fifth Fleet, around the Horn of Africa, and will be ready for service in 2014.

One of the astonishing things about LaWS is just how little it costs to use. All it needs to work is electricity and, each time the switch is flicked, the U.S. Navy will be one dollar poorer. One hitch, according to a congressional report, is that the laser travels in a straight beam that could travel past the target, meaning satellites or aircraft in its way could be at risk. Atmospheric scattering and refraction, however, will quickly disperse the power of the beam over a bigger area meaning the probability of this occuring is low.

Oh, and the system's performance is affected by rain or fog. Otherwise, it all seems to be smooth sailing.

[Image by Flickr user AZAdam]

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