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Credit: Epirus

Drone-killing microwave weapon can disable swarms of aerial attackers

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Apr 30, 2021, 4:46 PM EDT

Zapping swarms of hostile drones out of the air like there's no tomorrow, a new directed energy weapon from Epirus might become the front-line defense against clusters of hovering enemy machines.

With consumer-grade drones all the rage, smart defensive tactics will be of the utmost importance as models become larger and more sophisticated, potentially being used for ill intent. Autonomous swarms pose a terrifying risk, with coordinated flight patterns and navigation systems that will seem like science fiction not too far into the future.

The Epirus Leonidas is a mobile, high-energy microwave weapon and multi-target counter-electronics system that can smack down a whole flock of annoying drones or strategically pluck one from the menacing group with pinpoint accuracy. 

Credit: Epirus

The weapon is aptly named after the fierce King Leonidas of Sparta, who led the historic stand of 300 Spartans clashing with the imposing Persians at the Hot Gates of Thermopylae. Even though some anti-drone weapons like radio-frequency jammers do exist, they have limited effectiveness and can only be deployed for low-grade, commercially marketed models.

Epirus’ design goals for Leonidas are a game-changing advancement in the arena of transportable, directed energy machines offered in a manageable package you can hook up to a vehicle or hoist onto a flatbed for delivery to military hot spots. The tech firm is also working on a miniature variant of the weapon that can be easily transported by ground-based operators.

“While existing microwave weapons occupy a shipping container, Leonidas fits in the back of a pick-up truck, and can be controlled with great precision,” explained Epirus CEO Leigh Madden in an interview with New Scientist. "Our systems allow us the capability to widen or narrow the beam and put a null in any direction to disable enemy targets and nothing else.

“In a demonstration for a U.S. government customer in February – the company would not disclose exactly which – Leonidas brought down 66 out of 66 drone targets. In some tests it took out several drones at once, in others it targeted one while leaving an adjacent drone untouched.”

Credit: Epirus

Leonidas is equipped with solid-state, software-linked microwave to neutralize buzzing electronic targets, Digital beamforming enables pinpoint accuracy so that users disable threats by generating an invisible "force field" no electronic device can travel through unharmed.

“The technology promises to provide protection for both military and civilian infrastructure, for example defending airports and sports stadiums. It could counter mass drone attacks like the one which disabled the Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing facility in 2019,” Madden added.

Per Digital Trends, defense contractor Northrop Grumman has observed the Leonidas in action and has inked a long-term deal last year for Epirus to supply them with a number of units. Also, the US Defense Department will begin deploying the digital-age deterrents for actual operational use this year after that impressive demonstration nailed a perfect score.