Drones vs. anti-drone laser cannons for fun and profit.

People, prepare to be dazzled—if unsurprised—by my astonishing prescience.

On a Monday I was dining out with my partner, so of course the topic of drones naturally came up. We were discussing a recent article by The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock; thanks to a whistleblower at FAA, we now know about the 700 near-collisions between planes and drones this year (so far).

“But don’t worry about it!” I scoffed. “Drone manufacturers will surely come up with a perfect solution to the very drone menace they created! Then our tax dollars will not only pay for drones themselves, we’ll also happily pay America’s Owners for the technology to neutralize them! WIN-WIN!”

Then lo and behold, on Wednesday morning Boeing debuted its exciting new compact drone-blasting laser cannon!

Image: Jordan Golson/WIRED

Image: Jordan Golson/WIRED

Isn’t it cute? It looks like the infant spawn of R2D2 and the girl robot from WALL-E!

^These two are working for Boeing now, OBVIOUSLY.

The adorable little laser weapon is designed specifically for turning drones into flaming piles of wreckage. The device is controlled with a standard Xbox 360 controller, and no, I did not just make that up. (“If it breaks, just head to the barracks to get a replacement!”)

In the demo, Boeing used the laser to burn holes in a stationary, composite UAV shell, to show how quickly it can compromise an aircraft. Two seconds at full power and the target was aflame…the compact system is small enough to fit in four suitcase-sized boxes and can be set up by a pair of soldiers or technicians in just a few minutes.

What could possibly go wrong shooting high power laser beams at drones buzzing around commercial aircraft? FLAMING WRECKAGE FTW.

And what a business opportunity! The market is huuuuge, and I’m not just talking about every single airport in the U.S. (and beyond), or even the military. Last month, drones chased away firefighting helicopters from burning cars on a California highway, which means that every municipal fire department now requires a laser cannon, too. There has been a rash of drones dropping all sorts of contraband—weed, weapons, heroin, porn—into prison yards in Ohio, Maryland, South Carolina and probably other places where they went undetected. Boeing blasters on top of every guard tower, anyone? Hundreds of stadiums also need laser beam drone exploders, amid growing concerns about all those drones flying overhead. Better to have flaming drone wreckage falling on football fans and players than take any chance on nefarious jihadi plots involving unmanned aerial vehicles, amirite? It would certainly make watching the games more interesting, that’s for sure! And last year a 400 pound military drone crash landed at a Pennsylvania elementary school. There are a hundred thousand or so public schools in the U.S., and all of them now require an advanced laser weapon. And a working Xbox controller.

And why stop there? The Second Amendment surely guarantees that anyone in the market for a drone blasting laser cannon should be able to get one from Boeing. I’ll certainly need a few of these babies myself. I’ll be a one-woman well-regulated militia, necessary to the security of a free state! Whoo-hoo!



Now that you are utterly in awe of my psychic prediction powers, here are some super fun facts about The Boeing Company:

Boeing’s Unmanned Little Bird H-6U drone under laser attack by Boeing’s new Compact Laser Weapon System.
(Author’s rendering.)

  • Boeing paid no federal taxes from 2008 to 2010, instead receiving $178 million in tax rebates on profits of $9.7 billion. It spent $52.29 million on lobbying during the same period, when the Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress and the White House.
  • In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama “was by far the biggest recipient of campaign contributions from Boeing employees and executives, hauling in $197,000 – five times as much as John McCain, and more than the top eight Republicans combined.”
  • Since 1995, Boeing has paid over $1.3 trillion (<—not a typo) in penalties for 60 instances of misconduct, including $615 million in 2006 in relation to illegal hiring of government officials and improper use of proprietary information. Just since Obama took office, new charges against the company have included breach of contract, fraud, kickbacks, labor law violations, overbilling, whistleblower retaliation and multiple incidents of toxic water pollution.

Aren’t those super fun facts about Boeing? For your continued infotainment, here are some super fun facts about drones!

  • The Washington Post reports that the CIA and U.S. Special Operations forces have just launched a “secret” drone bombing campaign against terrorism suspects in Syria. Yes, it’s true: several anonymous, high-level officials in the Obama administration leaked extensive details of the new targeted killing program (and a classified letter from the Senate Intelligence [sic] Committee) to a reporter at the Post, who then dutifully “reported” every word. I’m sure the Justice Department is busy drawing up indictments against these treacherous traitors. National Security!
  • A study by an adviser to the U.S. military's Joint Staff found that in a single year in Afghanistan drones caused “10 times more civilian casualties than strikes by manned fighter aircraft.” Somebody really should leak this information to high-level officials in the Obama administration, because everyone from the president to the CIA director to Senator Dianne Feinstein says exactly the opposite.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says that if elected, he will not end our drone assassinations and bombings. But he will try to limit the number of innocent civilians killed. I think a good benchmark would be to get that number down to 5 times more civilian casualties than strikes by manned fighter aircraft, essentially cutting the innocent civilian casualty rate in half. Think of all the extra innocent civilians who will be alive to thank us!
  • It turns out you don’t need a Boeing laser cannon to take down a drone after all: chimpanzees with sticks can get the job done quite nicely. Plus, you have to admit it would be so awesome having a bunch of chimps hanging around all our airports, prisons, schools and stadiums.

Boeing’s Unmanned Little Bird H-6U drone under attack by chimpanzees with sticks
(Author’s rendering.)

Anybody know whether the chimps have a lobbyist yet? Asking for a friend...

*Okay, anyone with even a minimal understanding of how U.S. capitalism works could have predicted the drone blasting laser cannon development. But my partner sure seemed quite impressed with me as I jumped around animatedly, shrieking “Didn’t I JUST SAY this would happen?! Huh? Weren’t we JUST TALKING about this?!” All right, so maybe “impressed” isn’t exactly accurate. But that is what I’m going with, people.

[a version of this post appeared at perry street palace.]