back to article We're getting that fry-day feeling... US Army gets hold of drone-cooking microwave rig

The US Army has taken delivery of its first drone-cooking weapon designed to knock unmanned aerial systems (UAS) out of the air using high-powered microwave beams. We're told this hardware, developed by defense contractor Epirus, can even take care of entire drone swarms. With this gear in hand, the Army's Rapid Capabilities …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Countdown ..

    .. for large amounts of sausages to be shipped.

    Joking aside, given what these things do I give it at most a day before someone decides to "accidentally" aim it at human targets :(.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Countdown ..

      Joking aside, given what these things do I give it at most a day before someone decides to "accidentally" aim it at human targets

      The amount of power required to zap unshielded electronics is orders of magnitude less than the power necessary to cause lasting damage to humans. This might be a concern if there's a future upgraded model that has rad-hard electronics designed to mitigate ECM threats. If you wanted to take out humans it would be far cheaper and easier to aim a laser beam at their eyes. Even at a power level that causes no lasting damage they'll be effectively blind for a time.

      The collateral damage with a system like this is going to be a lot less than the current solution of shooting down the drones, as bullets that miss will hit whatever is behind the target (or eventually return to the ground at high speed) and missiles that miss cause even more damage than bullets. Assuming this thing is only aimed "up" it shouldn't be too much of a problem, though obviously in urban areas you either need to site it at elevation or program it so it waits until there aren't occupied buildings in the background when it takes its "shot" at the drone (if you care about not frying the electronics in those buildings)

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: Countdown ..

        "This might be a concern if there's a future upgraded model that has rad-hard electronics designed to mitigate ECM threats"

        The second this system was announced, I *guarantee* various actors around the world immediately started hardening their drone electronics. It's cheap and easy to do, so I would expect this to be a short-term solution at best, intended for low-tech disposable drones whose operators are either too uninformed to know about Leonidas, or too poor to afford the pennies needed to put a bit of Faraday shielding around their sensitive bits.

        1. tyrfing

          Re: Countdown ..

          When hardening drone electronics, you do run into the problem that drones are usually radio-controlled. Hardening the antenna is basically impossible.

          If you have an uncontrolled drone it becomes a lot less threatening.

          GPS also requires antennas. Inertial guidance is a possibility, but it's less accurate, and the drone then becomes more susceptible to damage that would make the guidance not work.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Countdown ..

            "When hardening drone electronics, you do run into the problem that drones are usually radio-controlled. Hardening the antenna is basically impossible.

            If you have an uncontrolled drone it becomes a lot less threatening."

            It wouldn't be too hard to put up a drone that runs a programmed path and fetches back the video. If the video shows there isn't one of this types of units deployed, they can pop up other drones that are constantly communicating with the operator. Super cheap drones that rise up and communicate down to a limited footprint would eliminate the usefulness of this. That drone's problem is that it can show the operator's location, but if that's already known it doesn't matter.

            Without much time I can think of a few different ways of defeating this unit for small observation drones. For bigger drones such as a reaper or Global Hawk (World Chicken), it get harder.

            Yes, GPS receivers must have an antenna, but if the drone isn't radiating, the zapper is robbed of a way to find and track.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Countdown ..

          I admit I know nothing about electronics (shame on me) or drone comms, other than what I see (and listen to) in reference to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Currently, according to the Ukrainian side, on the fpv/kamikaze drones, the Russians are using devices that communicate via analogue links, allegedly easy (relatively) to disrupt and knock down, they claim to be doing that 'a lot', though it's obviously hard to see the ratio against successful (delivered) hits. My gut feeling is that, although the Ukrainians are not telling, they use exactly the same (analogue) and the reason is simply 'because it's there', both sides use components produced for home market, cheap and cheerful, comms via analogue link. I imagine, that 'digital' comms are rare, because there's no widespread (consumer) demand, thus expensive, though large, war-related demand for such solutions might bring the price down. Though, as I can see, the Ukrainians at least are trying (at least make an impression, and I'm not talking about official statements, but other... hints and suggestions) to stop relying on Chinese components and internalise the production.

          In any case, this behemoth is way too impractical to be of any importance to influence the current trends, the path of the least / cheap resistance. Obviously, I'm talking about those 'cheap' solutions, rather than fancy-shmancy kit with an absurd price tag and rarer than (...)

          1. tip pc Silver badge

            Re: Countdown ..

            can you elaborate what you mean between analogue and digital.

            digital signals are sent via radio waves. the same as analogue signals would be.

            in my view digital is just encoding of the signal which is trivial in todays world and i would be surprised if anyone is using anything like this that isn't using encoded signals.

            Commercial off the shelf stuff uses encoded signals, even the £10 things off online market places uses encoded signals akin to bluetooth for short range or wifi like wireless for longer with dji claiming upto 12km with low interference likely uninterrupted line of sight..

        3. SCP

          Re: Countdown ..

          ... rad-hard electronics ...

          I thought rad-hard was the term for electronics hardened against ionizing radiation (which tends to turn usual semiconductor substrates into conductors leading to internal short-circuits that cause thermal damage to the device circuitry). Hardening electronics against RF/EM is different - and creates different design considerations and generally does not require rad-hard (e.g. SoS) devices.

      2. Nifty Silver badge

        Re: Countdown ..

        "The amount of power required to zap unshielded electronics is orders of magnitude less than the power necessary to cause lasting damage to humans."

        https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russia-extends-eligibility-military-call-up-by-least-five-years-2023-07-18

        Russia's parliament on Tuesday extended the maximum age at which men can be mobilised to serve in the army by at least five years - in the case of the highest-ranking officers, up to the age of 70.

        So how many in the Russian army will have pacemakers?

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Countdown ..

        "The collateral damage with a system like this is going to be a lot less than the current solution of shooting down the drones"

        Maybe. Yes you don't have lead going down range, but that doesn't mean if it's tracking something it doesn't go across a telephone or other comms relay tower and toast the electronics. They also have to be very careful about 'friendly fire'. It may not injure troops, but with all of the gadgets they load soldiers up with, any radio, IR googles and other stuff they have operating might suddenly go poof.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Countdown ..

          I would assume the vast, vast majority of equipment typically used by ground units is already EMF and rad hardened to an inch of it's life.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Countdown ..

            Umm, we were talking about Russia, no?

            Somehow I doubt it.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Countdown ..

      .. for large amounts of sausages to be shipped.

      [Sucks teeth]

      Only barbarians cook sausages in a microwave! No delicious, cancer-causing [1] Maillard reaction! No - frying (or at the very least, baking - preferrably in a nice Yorkshire pudding batter) is the way to do it! Surprisingly, the air-fryer does a nice job with sausages..

      [1] Allegedly. Feed enough mice enough of the compound and Bad Stuff (TM) will happen!

    3. aregross

      Re: Countdown ..

      "Joking aside, given what these things do I give it at most a day before someone decides to "accidentally" aim it at human targets :(."

      Exactly, to wit: "Leonidas is mounted on a 360-degree gimbal allowing it to rotate to ***face targets***, and..."

      Hopefully not *my* face target.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Trick

    Cue in the incoming shortage of microwave cookers.

    Just attach a microwave door to the drone. Job done.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Trick

      ... and we're back to the classics (at least in cartoons): dropping an anvil.

      :)

      1. EricB123 Bronze badge

        Re: Trick

        "Meep-Meep"

  3. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

    Obvious Countermeasure

    Step 1. Send a continuously-transmitting drone unit toward the relevant military base.

    Step 2. Drone unit carries a spectrum analyzer, and sends the data from the analyzer continuously.

    Step 3. Drone is fried by anti-drone microwave transmitter.

    Step 4. Note time of "drone death", use d = t * r to determine distance from launch point to death point.

    Step 5. Determine distance between launch point and relevant military base by optical observations and trigonometry.

    Step 6. Using data from Step 4 and Step 5, calculate maximum effective range of anti-drone microwave transmitter.

    Step 7. Use data from Step 2 to determine anti-drone microwave transmitter frequency (frequencies).

    Step 8. Construct drone using radar-absorbent materials and minimally-radar-reflective shape.

    You now have a drone which can surveil the relevant military base, though constructing such a anti-drone-microwave-resistant drone will be expensive and time-consuming (as are many military devices). It's not a thing where you can use COTS technology, but if you are a nation-state, you can afford to develop such an anti-drone-microwave-resistant drone.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obvious Countermeasure

      Once you're past step 5 you can also use the acquired coordinates to launch a couple of rockets, thus converting your problem into a smoking hole in the ground.

      After that you can use "regular" drones.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obvious Countermeasure

      It's a little known fact that El Reg commentards are much smarter than the entire US defense industry. It's a pity that their engineers didn't think of the "Obvious Countermeasures" and the d = r * t formula.

      1. stiine Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Obvious Countermeasure

        What better way to insure a constant stream of orders...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Obvious Countermeasure

        Don't discourage them, to misquote from a film

        I really love listening to your little piss-ant commentards trying to talk tech. They make me laugh. If Matrix was here, he'd laugh too.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obvious Countermeasure

      "Step 8. Construct drone using radar-absorbent materials and minimally-radar-reflective shape."

      This might be somewhat self-defeating — the clue being in the use of the word "absorbent".

      Also tin-foil Faraday cages might not work as well as one might hope for shielding. Consider —BUT DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME— what happens to one in a microwave oven.

      Of course there will be countermeasures and counter-countermeasures and so on; don't be so sure of any technological solution to a political problem.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Obvious Countermeasure

        The problem with coating the drone with radar reflecting materials is those materials will block all communications - meaning no GPS or cellular. Pretty much all drones require either a human operator or GPS, or both.

        If you make drones more difficult to use - i.e. not being able to use cheap off the shelf commercial drones - you've pretty much solved the problem this solution is intended to solve. They aren't expecting to be able to take down drones made by a major military power who design them with ECM in mind. They want to take drones off the battlefield in asymmetric warfare against e.g. terrorists.

        1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          Re: Obvious Countermeasure

          1. I wrote "radar-absorbent materials", not "radar-reflecting materials".

          2. Somehow, radar-absorbent-materials-coated stealth fighters manage to use radios to communicate with their bases and also use GPS-based navigation aids, so clearly, the materials do not "block all communications".

          3. I think you're presuming the drone built in Step 8, above, uses standard drone radio frequencies for control and data transport (video, etc.). That doesn't necessarily have to be the case.

          4. Your last paragraph above is correct. The issue as I see it is whether or not the asymmetric warriors can develop working radar-resistant drones sufficiently-cheaply or not.

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: Obvious Countermeasure

            Stealth fighters have very little radar absorbent material - that was only true of the first generation (the "Hopeless Diamond" type) The modern ones rely mostly on scattering, the absorption is only at certain areas where the necessity of staying aloft makes it impossible to design the surface for scattering. They also do have a small radar return, which is unavoidable specifically because of the need to have antennas for communication.

            The radar absorbing materials are also far too expensive to be used on generic drones. It would be cheaper to use rad hard electronics that wouldn't be cooked by microwaves, so there is no worry about battling such drones. Not sure if rad hard versions of modern stuff like GPS receivers are available to consumers or the only ones making them are vendors who sell only to the military. I suppose for enough money China would produce them and sell them on the open market, but whether terrorists have enough money to induce them to do that I don't know.

            Granted you could use different frequencies for control but then you are no longer using a standard off the shelf drone or a drone made with standard off the shelf parts. And there is no "different frequency" possible for GPS, so you would have to give that up.

            1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

              Re: Obvious Countermeasure

              Re your paragraph #1: I did not previously know that; my information is (was) out-of-date. Re your paragraph #2 & #3: yes, they radar-absorbent materials are way freakin' expensive. If the goal is to use as much COTS items as possible, another possibility is to use standard unhardened drones, stay out of the kill radius, but mount higher-resolution, auxiliary cameras (and possibly lenses) to make up for not being able to successfully get close to the target. Perhaps a super-zuper many-megapixel iPhone and a solenoid to activate the "take photo" feature. Such a cellphone would not need cellphone service, but the drone would have to successfully return to base for the users to obtain the photos (which in turn means the pics won't be real-time).

              1. DS999 Silver badge

                Re: Obvious Countermeasure

                but the drone would have to successfully return to base for the users to obtain the photos

                I doubt they are overly concerned with drones taking pictures. They are worried about drones carrying explosives, like the ones being used in the Ukraine war.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Obvious Countermeasure

              It's worth noting that radiaiton hardened electronics will almost certainly be covered by ITAR. i.e. unfriendly nations (in theory) need to build their own chips rather than being able to buy them off the shelf. (Items covered by ITAR *should* be traced all the way from manufacture through the supply chain to end use.)

              1. DS999 Silver badge

                Re: Obvious Countermeasure

                That's true but I guess I'm assuming that China does not have similar controls on their rad hard CPUs, which would allow for terrorists across the world to obtain them. How well they might work for a DIY drone in terms of price, performance and ease of slotting the no doubt out of date CPU into DIY drone plans is another matter, but it only takes one person to figure it out and post clear instructions on the internet.

          2. tip pc Silver badge

            Re: Obvious Countermeasure

            1. I wrote "radar-absorbent materials", not "radar-reflecting materials".

            Radar absorbent materials will heat up, possibly catching fire or resulting in failure of structural integrity, either way a waste of money & effort. Microwave reflecting material would be better, also cheaper. Better still would be some way to use the microwaves to charge the drone’s batteries.

            2. Somehow, radar-absorbent-materials-coated stealth fighters manage to use radios to communicate with their bases and also use GPS-based navigation aids, so clearly, the materials do not "block all communications".

            The microwaves are sent from the ground up so shielding only needed for the bottom, leaving the top free for antenna

            Im sure this has been thought about by the designers and it’s effective enough to be deployed to destroy drones, nextgen may be able to destroy shells or rockets but looks like that type of system is already deployed.

            1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

              Re: Obvious Countermeasure

              The microwaves are sent from the ground up so shielding [for stealth fighters] only [is] needed for the bottom, leaving the top free for antenna

              The U.S. has a thing called "AWACS"; it (and its smaller-scale brothers) fly around in circles way up in the sky, with their radars looking down on various jets and other objects.

              The Soviets have a similar thing, the Beriev A-50 [NATO codename: Mainstay].

              Thus, if a stealth aircraft is to remain stealthy in the presence of such recce aircraft, it would need to be anti-radar coated on its topside, as well.

      2. HMcG

        Re: Obvious Countermeasure

        Any “obvious countermeasures “ that are going to have a hope in hell of blocking high power microwaves are (and let’s just ignore the obvious weight issues and blocking of airflow) also going to completely block any RF signals for GPS positioning, remote control and data transmission, thus rendering the drone effectively useless. The thing about faraday cages is they work in both directions.

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: Obvious Countermeasure

          Have the electronics in a microwave-frequency Faraday cage, only components outside the cage are the motors and a GPS antenna on top (just the antenna, not the electronics) - where it will be largely protected from a ground-based transmitter anyway despite being outside the cage.

          1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

            Re: Obvious Countermeasure

            The point is not the antenna, but the sensitive receiver connected to it. Fry the input diode/stage 1 amplifier and the receiver will be deaf. So remote comms and GPS will de deactivated, so only an autonomous drone with inertial navigation will keep going. So DGI's will be on the ground.

        2. stiine Silver badge

          Re: Obvious Countermeasure

          As long as the payload has an impact fuse, you still have a chance for it to have a positive impact even if it doesn't elminate the radar van.

      3. Dagg Silver badge

        Re: Obvious Countermeasure

        tin-foil Faraday cages

        Consider the use of tin-foil (actually Aluminium foil) in a microwave over parts of the food such as the end of a drumstick to control the heating process. People do try this a home all the time.

      4. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Obvious Countermeasure

        Consider —BUT DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME— what happens to one in a microwave oven.

        Nothing very much, as long as it doesn't form a ring, After all, the inner casing of a microwave oven is a Faraday cage ...

      5. aregross

        Re: Obvious Countermeasure

        My impression is that a Faraday cage needed to be GROUNDED to work as designed.

    4. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Obvious Countermeasure

      "Step 8. Construct drone using radar-absorbent materials and minimally-radar-reflective shape."

      I take it you know what tends happen to objects that "absorb" microwave energy?

      1. Dagg Silver badge

        Re: Obvious Countermeasure

        Water based gel or finely powered ferrite works nicely.

    5. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Obvious Countermeasure

      "When hardening drone electronics, you do run into the problem that drones are usually radio-controlled. Hardening the antenna is basically impossible.

      If you have an uncontrolled drone it becomes a lot less threatening."

      That's assuming that RADAR is being used to acquire the target as opposed to using the drone's own emissions. My DJI P4A is very small to start with to be detectable on RADAR. An Inspire is much bigger, but it's also much more skeletal. Multi-faceted surfaces to reflect RADAR in other directions is easier to do on a drone since they aren't relying on aerodynamics to fly (other than the propellors). The propellors can be made from RADAR absorbing materials or just stuff that doesn't have much of a return to start with.

      A drone like mine used in conjunction with a BDB (big dumb bomb) can be more of a threat than a weapons equipped drone on the battle field. This sort of thing is mainly useful for over-the-horizon bomber/suicide drones.

    6. SCP

      Re: Obvious Countermeasure

      Some obvious problems with this:

      A quality spectrum analyzer is going to make the drone more expensive, and dependent on special components - so less suited to being considered disposable.

      A spectrum analyzer requires a sample period of data to carry out the analysis on, and that analysis takes a little bit of time to do, then the results have to be transmitted - unfortunately its electronics may well be fried before this can be completed.

      The data from step 6 appears to be unused.

  4. Rattus
    Pirate

    Soled

    This is the one time the tin foil would work. Shield your electronics :-)

    1. james 68

      Re: Soled

      Pretty much what I was thinking.

      Has it been tested against a drone that has had its body wrapped in a layer of tinfoil? If not, they might want to start this kind of test sharpish. Preferably before so much money changes hands that they're stuck with another boondoggle.

      1. Jan 0 Silver badge

        Re: Soled

        just how is your blind drone, with it's rotors inside a "tinfoil" bag going to navigate to it's target? Perhaps you could just launch it with a catapult?

        1. james 68

          Re: Soled

          You seem confused about what exactly a drone is.

          A drone is a vehicle which can be controlled remotely and may or may not have autonomous functions.

          You stated rotors, plural, inferring a quadcopter design, most of the drones used in conflict tend to be of the typical airplane design due to the fact that it is much more efficient for both range and loitering.

          Regardless, either design could easily have the BODY wrapped in a tinfoil layer, note that I have used caps this time since apparantly that flew right over your head first time around, there would be zero need to cover the propeller or rotors in tinfoil.as if the drone is relying on electric motors (doubtful) the foil would only need to reach the motor casing. If the drone is using a gas engine (probable, because increased range and flying time) then the foil covering would only need to extend to and cover the bulkhead to which the engine is attached.

          Pinholes in the foil layer which would allow wiring through for the aerial, camera etc would be functionally sealed by said wires filling the aperture.

          Sure, any exposed camera would get borked, but that's not going to stop an explosive suicide drone from completing its mission by GPS.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Hello this is DARPA calling

            We're currently developing nano drones. The size of bees. We would like to hire you to take care of the wrapping. Can you please reach out at 675 N Randolph St, Arlington, VA 22203, United States.

          2. AVR

            Re: Soled

            Assuming the microwaves need to be focused in order to not waste too much energy the actual likely next counters are to use a lot of drones and space them out so it'd be hard to get them all, or to drop an anti-radiation missile on the source which is too fast to easily kill this way. Trying to seal a GPS receiver away and still use it seems like a problem, and an aerial outside the faraday cage is asking for issues.

            1. james 68

              Re: Soled

              Not really.

              You ever stand right in front of your microwave while you wait impatiently for your food to heat?

              You ever do that and have your face right at the door watching the food?

              You ever wonder why you don't get cooked and your eyeballs don't pop?

              But you can see through the microwave door right? the metallic screen behind the glass has all those little holes after all.

              Now, lets propose an experiment. Put your mobile phone in your microwave, and get a buddy to call you.

              That fancy little box that blocks microwave leakage won't stop your mobile from ringing, why? It's the frequencies.

              You can even take your microwave outside, load up GPStest and watch it run through the closed door, the signals will be attenuated but it will still connect to enough sats for a location.

              Hell you could even leave the top of the drone uncovered and only wrap the sides and bottom - the weapon is directional and unless they mount it on a plane it will never be looking down on a drone.

              A faraday cage is unnecessary when the microwaves aren't coming from every direction, they only need to be reflected away from the electronics and that doesn't require a sealed cage just a material which can reflect those particular frequencies covering the directions from which the "beam" could possibly strike.

              1. HMcG

                Re: Soled

                Your microwave oven analogy is is specious, Microwave ovens have a very specific single frequency, thus they can, as you say, be blocked by a mesh of the correct pitch . But assuming that a drone defence system won’t have variable, or even multiple frequencies is unrealistic.

                As to your claim that a mobile phone will still receive a call inside a microwave, I suggest you try that experiment while the oven is on at full power….

                1. james 68

                  Re: Soled

                  Microwaves are a specific range of frequencies, it's right there in the name. Note that the emitter is microwave only, not longwave, shortwave, millimeter wave etc. other frequencies can pass through materials which block or reflect those microwave frequencies. Which is why the microwave oven analogy is not specious. GPS, cellular and many other wireless coms will happily keep working inside a microwave blocking layer or box. Now as to your actual specious suggestion, why don't you turn on your microwave at full power and place your phone right up next to any of the surfaces, you'll notice how the phone is perfectly safe and unaffected. Almost as if those microwave frequencies can by easily blocked. And yet a phone will still get signal inside a closed microwave oven.

                  Egads, what foul sorcery could this be? The magical mysterious microwaves have been defeated. Oh noes!

  5. John Hawkins
    Devil

    Frying Tonight!

    To quote the late, great Kenneth Williams

  6. Radek
    Holmes

    Tinfoil hats on...

    ...said the drone operator :)

  7. JimC

    Hurrah, at last a real death ray!

    What else needs saying?

    1. Phones Sheridan Silver badge
      Alien

      What else needs saying?

      ULLA!!

  8. JohnMurray

    Hmmmm..

    Inverse square law.... ?

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: Hmmmm..

      Inverse square law applies to an unfocused point source, not a focused beam.

      Nevertheless I expect that this machine probably does not really 'fry the electronics' of drones as if they were in a microwave oven, but rather fries just the LNA (receiver amplifier) of their data-links, because that is the part attached to an antenna. I.e. it may just be an extremely loud signal jammer that makes your (radio) ears bleed, and so works no matter what frequency band you are using.

      Autonomous killing machines that operate without a radio data-link (and with reasonably well-shielded electronics) may not be affected.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Hmmmm..

        And the frequencies that such a drone is actively listening to are well-known.

        Wiping out the amplifier stages of both the GPS and controls receivers would make pretty much any drone useless.

        Although it wouldn't drop out of the sky unless specifically designed to do that. Which does raise some questions about the demo.

        1. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Terminator

          Re: Hmmmm..

          For most military drones, it's probably an end-user configuration, rather than a design decision, regards what to do in the event of total CnC/GNSS signal loss.

          1: Drop out of the sky / 2: fly in circles / 3: attempt to continue to last designated target based on dead reckoning

          Option 1 is only useful when demonstrating your shiny Counter-UAS system

          But my point was, fully-autonomous systems can have an option 4: Automatically search, identify and engage new targets using "AI". This is where it becomes a potential genocide machine. Anyone with <insert ethnic identifying features here> beware.

          Ok, I am a cynic, but another "nice feature" of this microwave blaster is "plausible deniability" i.e. Oops sorry we didn't mean to put our drone into Kill All Arabs / Kill All Humans mode, the signal was jammed / "the controls were fried"

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Hmmmm..

            "But my point was, fully-autonomous systems can have an option 4: Automatically search, identify and engage new targets using "AI". This is where it becomes a potential genocide machine. Anyone with <insert ethnic identifying features here> beware."

            Riiiiiiight. You'd need to fit a computer with appropriate software into the drone that might be too massy or expensive.

            A good IMU (Inertial Management Unit) is very accurate these days and much less expensive than ones I was working with 12 years ago. Using GPS is very good to nullify the drift you get with an IMU, but that drift is part of the spec with a min/max that is known and it's a function of time. If you lost a satellite module and don't have those corrections anymore, your drone could continue on and not be as accurate or there could be a list of alternate targets and it could redirect to the closest before the IMU error bars are much of an issue.

            1. cyberdemon Silver badge
              Terminator

              Re: Hmmmm..

              Yes that was what I said was option 3: attempt to continue based on dead reckoning, i.e. using the IMU/AHRS. But that only gets one target. What I am more worried about are machines (air/ground based drones with guns) that could wage war without humans needed to identify targets. These DO exist, have done for several years now.

              And that technology is not nearly as expensive or heavy as you assume. For example, we already have body-wearable cameras that can do live offline facial recognition against a fairly large database, on a chip designed for mobile phones.

      2. Dagg Silver badge

        Re: Hmmmm..

        Need to use radiation hardened MilSpec electronics. This stuff has been around before the 70s when I first used it.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Re: Hmmmm..

          Indeed you can design a drone to resist frying tonight, but then you are not getting the cheap off-the-shelf parts to build from and suddenly thay are $M+ a pop, not $1-10k a pop and that makes a massive difference to the tactics and options to supply. That alone makes this sort of defence valuable.

      3. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Hmmmm..

        Inverse square law applies to an unfocused point source, not a focused beam.

        No, it applies to anything in the far-field zone. Depending on your beam source that can be from few mm to several km distance, but eventually it always is square-law.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Hmmmm..

        "does not really 'fry the electronics' of drones as if they were in a microwave oven, but rather fries just the LNA (receiver amplifier) of their data-links, because that is the part attached to an antenna"

        That might not do the business. One could fit what might be described as a fuse inline with an antenna and seeing that fuse blow could tell the drone to go into autonomous mode and either carry out a mission or divert back to base and when close, activate a backup comms link that was kept physically disconnected for just such a situation.

        For every measure, there can be a counter measure. The exception is when one side is reduced to lots of little pieces. Not much can be done at that point.

    2. wub
      Happy

      Re: Hmmmm..

      "Inverse square law.... ?"

      Ah, Tom Swift had to deal with a similar problem when building his Megascope Space Prober. From http://www.tomswift.info/homepage/prober.html:

      """

      How practical is it to build a Megascope Space Prober? Not very practical, to say the least. The entire invention hangs on Tom's "anti-inverse-square-wave" -- a wave that defies everything known about physics by exceeding the speed of light and not diminishing over distance. I know of no bylaw that would permit such a wave to exist. Maybe Tom invented a machine that could send waves through the imaginary realm of hyperspace or maybe he found a way to easily generate exotic nuclear particles (such as neutrinos) that can exceed the speed of light. At any rate, with our current knowledge of physics, building a space prober is entirely out of the question.

      However, it might be possible to build a Megascope Space Prober that works with normal radio waves. Such a device, though, would be expensive, rather costly, and practically useless. After all, if the images aren't in color and aren't real-time why bother with all the expense? Ordinary light reflected from objects is good enough for most people.

      What are the properties of Tom's "anti-inverse-square-wave"? The unique and mind-boggling wave that Tom invented has some interesting properties: it can exceed the speed of light; it is invisible; it can be generated fairly easily; it can be used to generate full-color real-time images of very distant objects; it does not cope very well with certain types of gases and radiation, and it does not diminish in power over long distances.

      """

      In a nutshell, problem solved!

  9. mevets

    star wars II ?

    Now a couple of generations past, David Parnas delivered his scathing evisceration of Rayguns STARWARS defence system using the corporate jet as a metaphor.

    Could a space based defence system reliably discriminate a lear jet full of executives from one packed with nuclear weapons.

    [ edit: not sure which is more dangerous ]

    Could this pulse weapon, meant to destroy hostial UAVs, be repurposed by positioning a UAV between the emitter and a commercial airliner?

    Surely if it destroys a UAV control system, which could be equipped with faraday cages, etc..., an airliner now sporting 5g bridges is a sitting duck...

    1. tyrfing

      Re: star wars II ?

      That's a dumb so-called "evisceration".

      The SDI was intended to shoot down ballistic missiles. As far as I know, there are no corporate jets that function ballistically. There were some plans to do things like a New York to Sydney suborbital passenger line, but that hasn't worked out.

      No need to scan the object. Although at ballistic velocities you could also tell from things like the cross-section and how hot it is, how dense it is. A capsule full of humans will be a lot less dense.

      If you wanted to kill a corporate jet full of nuclear weapons? Well, you're not going to do that by remote scanning. That's called searching people's luggage.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: star wars II ?

        "If you wanted to kill a corporate jet full of nuclear weapons? Well, you're not going to do that by remote scanning. That's called searching people's luggage."

        One of the good things about flying on a corporate jet is there isn't people out of your sight having a good rummage through your bags.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    picture

    when they shrink that to a bin-size so they can be strapped to a tank, and do that in months, they'll be hailed as heroes (no sarcasm). In the meantime...

    p.s. and how many AAs does it use?

  11. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    We get lots of pheasants straying into the garden. One of these would be very useful.

    1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge
      Pint

      Puts 'fast-food' into perspective.

      No bicycles were harmed in this delivery.

  12. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Big unit

    Looking at the photo, this is something that gets deployed in advance to meet a perceived threat given that it will have to be towed to a location and have its legs extended likely need to be leveled. It's going to need a big generator and if it's not using the emissions from the drone for acquisition, it will need additional hardware such as RADAR. I didn't see that it has onboard detection. It's also only going to be useful against larger craft such as Reaper. Small observation drones or firestarters are unlikely to get detected.

  13. MacroRodent
    Mushroom

    Just subcontract the testing

    > "As part of the contract's design, work with the RCCTO to transition Leonidas into a future program of record after successful demonstration of the prototypes," Epirus said.

    Just ship some units to Ukraine, they will field-test them for free under real battle conditions, and return quick feedback...

  14. Sparkus

    Finally

    pew-pew comes into it's own.......

  15. fostecs@gmail.com

    AGM-88 HARM and the like

    These radio emitters will be prime targets of weapons that are designed to target radio/radar emitters. Enemies will use weapons similar to the the USA's AGM-88 HARM to target these electronically noisy devices.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: AGM-88 HARM and the like

      It's a definite risk, but one presumes that these devices would be used in asymmetric warfare conditions such as counterinsurgency, wherein it's highly unlikely that the enemy would have AGMs. They could also be used in conjunction with conventional air defense systems and/or fighter jets, which would focus on neutralizing incoming missiles and fighters.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: AGM-88 HARM and the like

        "It's a definite risk, but one presumes that these devices would be used in asymmetric warfare conditions such as counterinsurgency, wherein it's highly unlikely that the enemy would have AGMs. They could also be used in conjunction with conventional air defense systems and/or fighter jets, which would focus on neutralizing incoming missiles and fighters."

        An AGM-88 is the big boy's MIC toy. Somebody working on a smaller scale could come up with something that does a similar job, maybe not as big or as well, if the need becomes great. The trailer mounted unit shown doesn't look like it lends itself for use on a fighter. If its power requirements are substantial, even a larger aircraft may have issues with it. The 747 used for Sophia, the jet mounted telescope, has a nice big door they could open to this drone killer could see out and Sophia has been discontinued so maybe the plane is available.

  16. ian 22

    Reminds me of the DEW Line

    In the previous century when the Soviet Union was considered a threat, there were large radar installations above the arctic circle searching for incoming bombers.

    The technicians maintaining the antennae would stand in the radar beam to warm up.

    I've always wondered how their health fared in later years, and whether they were able to father children after they left the service.

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