The British military is one step closer to deploying lasers onto the battlefield after a successful test of its new anti-drone DragonFire directed energy system.

The British Ministry of Defense announced the successful firing of the directed-energy weapon system on Friday, Jan. 19. The DragonFire system took out an aerial drone while it was in flight, the first time it had done so.

An image shared by the British MOD even gives a striking look at DragonFire in action, with a bright beam of light taking out the drone. It looks less like Star Wars or Star Trek and more like an actual beam of fire.

The British military is pursuing this project as an effective and cost-efficient way to counter the growing threat of drones and drone swarms. The exact range of DragonFire has not been announced, but according to the British MOD it can hit a coin a kilometer away and function as a line-of-sight weapon. More importantly, it’s cheap. Much cheaper than any missile that would currently be used. According to developers, the operation cost is “typically less than £10 per shot.” 

“This type of cutting-edge weaponry has the potential to revolutionize the battlespace by reducing the reliance on expensive ammunition, while also lowering the risk of collateral damage,” British Defense Secretary Grant Shapp said in a statement

The laser program is a joint venture between the British MOD and British industry, with more than $100 million invested into it. The DragonFire project was publicly announced in 2017, but it’s taken years of tests and experiments to reach this achievement. Last year there were a series of trials of the system, which this week’s test built on. The project still has extensive more testing to do before any DragonFire system is fitted to a Royal Navy ship out on deployment, however. 

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Militaries around the world have been developing strategies both for using drones in combat and countering them. The United States has tested everything from hand-held anti-drone jamming riffles to conventional weapons (and used the latter in the Red Sea). In Ukraine, where commercial and military-grade drones are used by both Ukrainian and Russian forces, the two armies have tried jamming them, shooting them with rockets and bullets and even using drones to crash into each other. 

The United Kingdom isn’t alone in exploring directed-energy weapons for anti-drone purposes. The U.S. military has been developing its own programs, although more focused on microwave emitting devices. Those include the Air Force’s Tactical High-power Operational Responder (THOR) and an Army program that’s moving ahead. 

The British meanwhile have a working laser that looks like a beam of dragon fire when fired. All of the systems are still in development, but show just how much militaries are focused on finding cheaper ways to take out drones and drone swarms. But the DragonFire test suggests that the most cost-effective way to take out high-tech drones might be a high-tech laser. Modern problems require modern solutions.

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