Pesky drones bothering you? China may have just the thing

Updated: 2014-11-05 09:16

By Chris Davis(China Daily USA)

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The New York Times reported on Tuesday that over the past month, a mysterious flock of small, private drones has been spotted sporadically flying over 13 nuclear power plants throughout France.

A French government official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Times that they were not military drones, but security officials' main concern was that the drones were taking photographs or videos of the sites.

On Nov 1, France's Secretariat-General for National Defense and Security called the drone flights an "organized provocation" and concerns deepened even further whenan investigator said that after a month now, they have no leads on who might be piloting the buzzers, or why.

Pesky drones bothering you? China may have just the thing

Le Figaro quoted another anonymous French official who said that police officers had standing orders to shoot down any aircraft that might threaten a nuclear power plant, which are probably not endangered by anything a private drone could do.

In a case that can be described as nothing short of perfect market timing, China has just unveiled a laser gun specifically designed to destroy small low-flying drones.

The China Academy of Engineering Physics, one of the co-developers of the system dubbed the Low Altitude Sentinel (LAS), said the land-based, wheel-mounted camouflaged weapon can shoot down small aircraft within a 1.25-mile radius and five seconds after detection.

In a recent test, the LAS dropped more than 30 drones - a 100 percent kill rate. A veritable high-tech fly-swatter.

"Characterized by its speed, precision and low noise, the system is designed to destroy small unmanned drones flying within an altitude of 500 meters and at a speed below 180km per hour," Xinhua reported.

No military in the world has weapons that are quick and detailed enough to defend effectively against small, low-flying drones, so the Low Altitude Sentinel should be a game changer, Wu Peixin, an aviation industry observer in Beijing told Xinhua.

Cheap, easy to use and replace and hard to shoot down, drones have become a weapon of choice for battlefield opponents and terrorists alike.

Last April, the US deployed its Laser Weapon System (LaWS) aboard the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf as part of an at-sea demonstration.

In a prepared statement at the time, Peter A. Morrision, program officer for the Office of Naval Research's Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation Program, said: "The future is here. The solid-state laser is a big step forward to revolutionizing modern warfare with directed energy, just as gunpowder did in the era of knives and swords."

In a statement that seems to resurrect former president Ronald Reagan's 1983 proposed Strategic Defense Initiative, National Public Radio reported at the time that one of the big advantages of the system was that "a laser moves at the speed of light and in the future it may be able to disable an incoming missile".

Back in 1983, the concept of weaponized satellites keeping watch high above the Earth and zapping missiles in flight was considered far-fetched and mocked alike by scientists and the media, who sarcastically nicknamed it "Star Wars", because the sci-fi technology did not exist.Things seem to be changing.

Researchers at China's academy said they were working on systems with speed, range and accuracy greater than the LAS.

Xinhua reported that China's LAS was expected to "play a key role in ensuring security during major events in urban areas" and address concerns on unlicensed mapping activities.

The website lists the five top drones (with camera) that are perfect for beginners with prices ranging from $50.49 to $1,229 and quality, maneuverability and durability depending on price.

Xinhua cited Yi Jinsong, a manager with China Jiuyuan Hi-Tech Equipment Corp, which co-developed the LAS with the academy, as saying that intercepting small, slow, low-flying drones was "usually the work of snipers and helicopters, but their success rate is not as high and mistakes with accuracy can result in unwanted damage".

Youtube has a video taken by the top of the line DJ Phantom 2 over Great Falls on the border of Washington and Virginia, an air space no doubt touchy about having hobbyists' UFOs buzzing about. The video's sweeping, bird's-eye-view captures dramatic shots of the rapids, as well as two kayakers trying unsuccessfully to paddle upstream against the current.

The clip is entitled Attacked by Police Helicopter and ends after four minutes with a patrol chopper first trying to use its down wash to force the drone into the river and finally forcing it to land.

When the US' LaWS system was deployed in the Persian Gulf, Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of Naval Research, pointed out that one of the beauties of the laser weapons system was that a laser shot cost about $1.

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