The United States Air Force has rapidly developed a new microwave weapon called THOR that can take down swarms of drones, officials have announced. The weapon was unveiled on June 20 by the Air Force Research Laboratory to local reporters who were given a demonstration of THOR in action. The weapon system cost $15 million and was developed in only 18 months.
The drone market has experienced explosive growth only a few years, presenting both new potential benefits and dangers. Commercial airspace concerns aside, drones present a possible national security issue — they could potentially be used to carry small explosives or to conduct surveillance on critical infrastructure, for example.
Though we still lack a single effective, standardized method for taking down drones, a number of systems and concepts have been developed ranging from wireless disruption fields to net launchers and even trained eagles. The US Air Force isn’t bothering with any of those systems and has instead developed a weapon that blasts drones with an electromagnetic wave.
THOR stands for Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder, and it is designed to send unwanted drones spiraling to the ground nearly instantly. Officials described the weapon as operating in a manner similar to a flashlight beam — that is, when THOR is turned on, the electromagnetic wave is spread outward from the weapon. Any drone that flies within the “beam” will instantly fall from the sky.
This particular weapon system was designed to protect military bases from drone swarms that may be used by enemies to remotely attack the facilities. Unlike other systems, which are designed to target individual drones at once, THOR can take down dozens of drones at the same time by hitting them with a large electromagnetic wave.