Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has developed a laser-based defense system dubbed “Light Blade” capable of destroying next-generation combat drones.
The technology is being developed and commercialized in the university’s new company, OptiDefense.
A simpler model of the drone operated by Israeli Border Police is paired with Elbit’s SupervisIR threat detection system, spokesperson of the university was quoted as saying by Globes earlier this week. It reportedly achieved “great success” last month in downing explosive balloons coming over the border from the Gaza Strip.
Current drones must still maintain some communication link – either to their handler or to GPS – and therefore electronic jamming systems can exploit that weakness. This is known as a “soft kill.” Future attack drones, however, will be completely autonomous, navigating via onboard sensors and cameras, without any sort of exploitable communication link. In order to neutralize them before they reach their target, a “hard kill” option is needed to physically target and shoot down the drone.
“In order to operate most high-powered laser defense systems, the airspace needs to be cleared for many kilometers around so that the laser will not accidentally blind anyone. Our system operates on a lower frequency which makes it safe for urban environments. Airports, for example, could station our systems to provide complete coverage without endangering any pilots or passengers,” said Prof. Amiel Ishaaya of BGU’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering Sciences is an expert on lasers.