If you’re worried about surveillance drones cruising over your neighborhood, then this new technology from Boeing will have you running for your microwave shielded shelter. Last week, defense company Boeing conducted the first successful test of a drone called the Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) that can emit a powerful burst of microwaves and fry every piece of electronics in its path — from personal computers and cameras to high-tech hospital equipment and flight control computers.
CHAMP approached its first target and fired a burst of High Power Microwaves at a two story building built on the test range. Inside rows of personal computers and electrical systems were turned on to gauge the effects of the powerful radio waves.
Seconds later the PC monitors went dark and cheers erupted in the conference room. CHAMP had successfully knocked out the computer and electrical systems in the target building. Even the television cameras set up to record the test were knocked off line without collateral damage.
“This technology marks a new era in modern-day warfare,” said Keith Coleman, CHAMP program manager for Boeing Phantom Works. “In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive.”
These drones are being touted as non-lethal weapons, aimed at taking out an enemy’s “electrical systems,” like say targeting systems or maybe their intelligence databases. But to say that this is a non-lethal weapon seems a bit disingenuous, since so many lives depend on electricity. Knocking out the computers in a hospital, or the technology in computer-guided vehicles, could lead to fatalities. And losing databases of information could lead to many more deaths in the long term. Imagine one of these drones taking out a stock exchange or a water management system. Or a computer-controlled dam. The consequences could be quite dire.
So thanks, Boeing, for bringing us into the era of indirectly lethal weapons. Things are about to get interesting, as they say.
So, here we are. And we haven’t even had the “should we be using drones?” debate yet. “Just close your eyes and jump. Trust me, there’s water down there.”