Popular Science lauds AFRL weapon as among ‘best of what’s new’

Air Force Research Laboratory’s THOR team, pictured with the portable counter-UAS system, capable of destroying drones at the speed-of-light, at long range, in its base defense mission. (AFRL courtesy photo)

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Air Force Research Laboratory’s THOR team, pictured with the portable counter-UAS system, capable of destroying drones at the speed-of-light, at long range, in its base defense mission. (AFRL courtesy photo)

An anti-drone weapon developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has proven to be very popular with Popular Science magazine.

A weapon developed by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base-headquartered AFRL — a counter drone weapon, the Tactical High-power Operational Responder (otherwise known as “THOR”) — has been named the Popular Science “Best of What’s New” in the security category.

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Small, expendable drones can spy on soldiers, or worse, attack them with explosives, the magazine noted in a feature published Tuesday.

“With the Air Force’s THOR, the military has a new tool to fry an entire swarm” of drones, Popular Science said. “The system emits high-powered microwaves that hurt electronics, but not people or wildlife. Compact enough to fit on in a shipping container or a C-130 cargo plane, this electrically powered weapon can be set up in a few hours — ready to protect anyone nearby.”

In 2019, scientists and engineers, working in AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate in New Mexico, were tasked with creating a technology that would provide additional layers of base defense against drones, AFRL said.

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Air Force Research Laboratory headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The AFRL has a workforce of more than 10,000 worldwide, with most based at Wright-Patterson.TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Air Force Research Laboratory headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The AFRL has a workforce of more than 10,000 worldwide, with most based at Wright-Patterson.TY GREENLEES / STAFF

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Air Force Research Laboratory headquarters at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The AFRL has a workforce of more than 10,000 worldwide, with most based at Wright-Patterson.TY GREENLEES / STAFF

“In record time, the system was designed and built, with a source that uses high-power electromagnetic bursts to instantly disable swarms of small drones — and they named it THOR,” the lab said.

As the dangers from drone swarms evolve, leaders from across the Department of Defense are working closely to ensure emerging technologies like THOR, will be ready to support the needs of warfighters already engaged against these threats, the lab said in a release Tuesday.

“We couldn’t have come this far without the perseverance and professionalism of the entire THOR team,” said Dr. Jeffry Heggemeier, who leads AFRL’s High Power Electromagnetics Division. “Our scientists, Airmen, and contractors worked nights and weekends to make this all possible, and they’re still doing it every day. The real reward will be when we see a THOR defending our service members on the front lines.”

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