The Athena. Source: Lockheed MartinThe Athena. Source: Lockheed MartinThe United States Air Force, along with defense contractor Lockheed Martin, said they have completed testing a laser-based anti-drone system.

The Athena (advanced test high energy laser) system is a fiber laser beam composed of a network of low powered lasers.

Testing of the Athena system, which took place at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, demonstrated that under a simulated threat, the laser was capable of shooting down both fixed wing and rotary drones.

Instead of exploding the devices, the laser burns through the exterior layers of the drones, either destabilizing them or making them vulnerable to breakup.

This capability is considered to be important as concerns grow over the potential for errant drones and drone swarms — particularly those operated with malicious intent — encroaching on commercial and defense air space.

Based on the results of this and other trials, the Athena system has proven itself capable of also disabling improvised rockets, small boats, trucks and other vehicles, according to the system's developers.

The race to develop weaponry for removing the threat these drones pose has increased in step with the number of reported drone incidents worldwide. Russian defense contractor Almaz Antey has created a drone equipped with a Vepr-12 shotgun to shoot suspicious drones from the sky. And researchers from Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University have designed a system that is capable of “highjacking” suspicious drones without destroying them.

Likewise, researchers from Michigan Technological University have devised a "robotic falcon" to capture rogue drones operating around military installations, sporting events and airports.

To contact the author of this article, email