JERUSALEM — Rafael Advanced Defense Systems recently tested its counter-UAS system Drone Dome, during which the system identified and intercepted moving targets using a high-powered laser beam.
Drone Dome consists of electronic jammers and sensors to detect, identify and neutralize both micro and mini-UAVs. The demonstration by the Israeli company was carried out in a desert area with several types of drones, including commercially available quadcopters. A high-powered laser beam mounted on a jeep, along with the other Drone Dome sensors, detected the threat and enabled the crew to monitor its activity. A three-drone swarm was then neutralized using the lasers. One by one the drones fell from the sky.
Rafael exhibited seven drones that were destroyed by the laser. Burned impact areas showed their rotors and motors charred.
Swarms of small drones have proven to be a challenge for advanced militaries. In 2018, drones shut down Gatwick airport in the U.K. for about 30 hours. Small drones have also been used by militant organizations, such as the Islamic State group. And more than a dozen drones damaged oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia in September 2019.
Drone Dome is one of Rafael’s numerous multilayered air defense systems. It also makes the land-based Iron Dome and a naval variant, C-Dome, as well as SPYDER, a surface-to-air missile system designed to counter aircraft, helicopters and UAVs.
Lasers are a key focus of Israel as it seeks to counter threats to its homeland. In August 2019, Hezbollah attempted to launch what Israel called “killer drones” near the Golan. A drone launched from Syria also penetrated Israeli airspace in February 2018 and was shot down by an Apache helicopter.
Israel’s Defense Ministry and the Directorate for Defense Research and Development are designing new laser solutions, and its new Momentum multiyear plan for the Israel Defense Forces envisions the increased use of laser technology to stop threats such as drones.
Seth J. Frantzman is the Israel correspondent for Defense News. He has covered conflict in the Mideast since 2010 for different publications. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.