Researchers Use Drones for Advanced Combat Laser System Tests

Researchers from the Naval Surface Warfare Center deployed a UAV for combat laser testing.
Chris Young

Researchers from the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) have carried out tests to advance the use of drones to evaluate ships' new laser weapons, a Naval Sea Systems Command press statement explains.

From a few miles off the Port Hueneme coast, NSWC Ph.D. Research and Technology Applications Manager Alan Jaeger and Cybersecurity Researcher, Ian Wilson, made a quadcopter take off, hover, and fly alongside the side of a ship, before landing.


Testing combat laser systems

Several new ship laser combat systems are currently in development, Inceptive Mind reports. These are aimed at enabling sea vessels to take down UAVs, light surface ships, cruise missiles, and light aircraft. Their relatively low cost means that these systems will likely replace many traditional artillery and missile systems.

During the Naval Surface Warfare Center, researchers made a quadcopter carry out several independent maneuvers using a specially designed software for Autonomous Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

The quadcopter, which was developed to help test laser weapons, was developed by the San Diego, Calif.-based Planck Aerosystems.

Advanced drones hold the key for laser testing

The 55-pound (25 kg) quadcopter measures approximately 50 inches from mid-propeller to mid-propeller and is fitted with an ID tag and navigation system. The drone was able to hover alongside and keep pace with the ship while it moved at up to 10 knots.

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"It kept a very nice pace, and it did a really good job staying above the landing tag (QR codes)," said Ian Wilson, cybersecurity researcher. "We had a gust of wind right before (one of the) landings, but we were able to stabilize and land, which is the hardest part."

The quadrocopter was equipped with a mass-dimensional model of a system for evaluating the parameters of laser weapons. In the future, more tests will be carried out and a completely digital system will be used to assess several of the combat laser’s parameters, including targeting accuracy and power.

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