Chinese engineers have successfully tested a laser weapon that can shoot down low-flying, slow-moving drones, state media reported Tuesday.
The Low Altitude Sentinel system can detect a small aircraft within a 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) radius and shoot it down within five seconds, the newspaper China Daily said, citing a statement from the China Academy of Engineering Physics.
The system is designed to destroy small drones flying below 500 meters (1,600 feet) at a speed less than 180 kilometers per hour (110 mph), the China Daily said.
The system could be installed in vehicles and help guard against flying objects during major events in urban areas, the China's Xinhua News Agency said.
Laser weapon technology is being pursued by several countries, including the United States, which has deployed a prototype laser on a navy ship that would defend against drones and small aircraft. Lasers run on electricity and have been billed as lower-cost alternatives to missiles. Also, unlike missiles, laser weapons can be fired continuously.
Such a weapon must concentrate enough energy on one spot for long enough to burn through any surface material, and do so without burning out any of its own surfaces, Andrew Davies, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said in an email.
"Whether you can shoot down a maneuvering, robust drone with a hard surface, perhaps with heat dissipation designed in, is something I'm not sure about, but it's at least plausible," Davies said.
June Teufel Dreyer, a professor of political science at the University of Miami who specializes in military affairs, said there may be an urgency in developing a defense against drones because of their wider use. For example, demonstrators in Hong Kong have used personal drones to capture images of the massive protests, and a drone was seen cruising around a nuclear power station near Paris earlier this week, she said.