an anti-drone laser will watch over the public of the Olympic Games

Drone attacks worry law enforcement, so much so that a laser turret will intercept these aircraft during the Olympics.

The prospect of seeing the Olympic Games return to France in 2024 is extremely exciting for French sports fans, deprived of the Olympic flame since Albertville in 1992. But for the police, these announced celebrations will not be all rest. To help them in their tasks, they can count on a somewhat special machine; in an article spotted by Presse-Citron, CNN explains that they will have an antidrone laser that will allow them to quickly intercept a threat from the sky.

Ensuring peacekeeping when so many people are concentrated in the same place for an extended period of time requires constant vigilance, and above all the ability to respond quickly to a possible threat. And drones are just one of those threats. In addition to being easy to access, autonomous, fast and agile in the hands of an experienced pilot, they can also carry weapons, such as a homemade explosive.

Bake a drone remotely

To deal with any eventuality, the General Directorate of Armaments has put the small dishes in the big ones; it ordered a prototype of HELMA-P. It is specialized defense equipment produced by the French SME Cilas, in collaboration with ArianeGroup. The army made the first demonstration in July 2021 (see our article).

It is a device that takes the form of a large box mounted on a support capable of pivoting. It embeds several distinct subsystems. The first is a drone detection program that allows you to see them coming from afar. The second is a pointing system that allows you to follow the machine in flight to aim it with a precision immensely superior to that of a human.

The last and most important element is a laser with a power of 2 kW. It offers several types of possible responses depending on the level of threat that the targeted object represents. If they are dealing with an indiscreet pilot, the authorities can simply “dazzle” his aircraft by pointing the beam straight at his camera.

But if the target poses any threat, HELMA-P can immediately take action; by increasing the intensity of the laser and aiming at the drone’s sensitive points, such as the battery compartment, it is possible to neutralize it in just a few seconds, even in motion, with extreme precision.

The other advantage of this approach is that HELMA-P does not fire any physical projectiles that could fall back into the audience — an obvious plus point for spectator safety. It is also a considerable logistical advantage since the operators do not have to manage ammunition stock.

Still obvious limits

But this concept is not perfect. As it stands, this delay of a few seconds before interception still seems relatively long; in any case, it would leave plenty of time for a small racing drone to dive towards a crowd with an explosive. And even if successful, the drone could still be dangerous once intercepted.

To take the example of an explosive cargo, the pilot could very well integrate a second initiation system independent of the drone itself; the charge would therefore always be likely to explode at the time of the crash, or even later, once the public has gathered around this object fallen from the sky.

The final operational tests to be carried out by 2024 may allow the army to exceed these limits. But the ideal would still be that the police do not need to use it and that the event takes place in a peaceful atmosphere!

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