Coming soon to drones: Missile-blasting lasers?

Under the name Project Endurance, DARPA, the Department of Defense’s research agency, awarded Northrop Grumman $14.6 million and Lockheed Martin $11.4 million in contracts for the effort, according to Military & Aerospace Electronics. Called “Project Endurance,” the research will “develop technology for pod-mounted lasers to protect a variety of airborne platforms from emerging and legacy electro-optical IR guided surface-to-air missiles,” according to DARPA’s 2014 budget request.

The project focuses on “miniaturizing component technologies, developing high-precision target tracking, identification, and lightweight agile beam control to support target engagement,” as well as “the phenomenology of laser-target interactions and associated threat vulnerabilities.”

Those vulnerabilities have been a particular concern when it comes to slow-moving drones, whose job it is to loiter more than it is to evade, making them a potential easy target to be shot out of the sky.