In recent years, small drones have evolved from toys and photography tools to a deadly threat on the battlefield. Kamikaze drones have been particularly prominent in the news due to their use by both sides in the war in Ukraine. While we haven’t seen coordinated groups actively deployed on the modern battlefield, it’s likely only a matter of time, making drone defense an active area of industry development.
The US Air Force Research Laboratory recently tested and demonstrated an anti-drone weapon that uses pulses of high-power microwave energy to fry electronics from a swarm of drones. Named Tactical high power operational responder, or THOR (presumably they chose the acronym at first), it is housed in a 20-foot shipping container with a large microwave antenna mounted on it. The form factor is important because a weapon is only useful if it can get to the battlefield, and that can fit in the back of a C130.
THOR probably functions like a shotgun, with a relatively large effective “beam”. This would add advantages such as frying multiple drones in a single pulse and the precision tracking and targeting technologies needed for projectiles and laser-based weapons. Depending on its range and direction, the THOR can have the downside of taking collateral damage to electronics close to its line of fire.
Drones are of course the other side of this arms race, but luckily they also have non-destructive uses like light shows and maybe even 3D printing.