Directed energy weapons (DEW) use focused electromagnetic energy in place of a projectile. They can be used to protect military installations and bases as well as civilian targets such as critical infrastructure against drone threats.
Counter-UAS (unmanned aerial systems) directed energy weapons stop drone threats either by physically burning through the airframe and critical components or by disrupting electronic systems.
DEWs used in C-UAS typically fall into two categories: high-energy lasers and high-power microwaves. Anti-drone lasers are usually employed to take on one target at a time, whereas microwaves have a larger beam size and are thus more effective than lasers against drone swarm threats.
Directed energy weapons provide a number of advantages over traditional kinetic counter-drone solutions. They are long-range, travel at the speed of light and provide a precise aim trajectory, being unaffected by factors such as gravity and wind. They provide an essentially infinite number of shots as long as there is sufficient power, and depending on their wavelength may be invisible and thus extremely difficult to detect.
DEWs are known for their ability to keep collateral damage to a minimum, reducing the risk to nearby structures or personnel.
C-UAS laser and microwave weapons may be fixed or transportable. Smaller systems may be mounted on armored vehicles, trucks and helicopters, and larger ones may be containerized and transported by aircraft. They may have scalable power levels that can be adjusted depending on the type and size of drone threat.
C-UAS directed energy weapons may form part of a layered multi-tier anti-drone system that also includes camera tracking systems, RF detectors, jammers and kinetic effectors. They may be able to integrate with and receive slew-to-cue from existing radars and C2 systems, as well as other sensors such as EO/IR gimbals.