If Sci-fi has told us anything, it's that the future is filled with robots that may or may not want to kill us and lasers, lots and lots of lasers. While we might be still a few years away from developing some form of sentient life form from the internet, lasers are much more applicable today, so much so in-fact, that the US military is looking to invest millions in developing drones that can use them to shoot down missiles.
The name of the scheme is Project Endurance and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) just awarded $14.6 million (£9.2 million) to Northrop Gurmman and another $11.4 million (£7.2 million) to Lockheeed Martin to develop these laser based defence systems on manned and unmanned aircraft. Regardless of the eventual solution the companies come up with though, they will both be working on miniaturising the laser defence systems, some of which can already be found in ground based systems, like Lockheed's ADAM laser defence truck.
While laser based defences are still quite short range (one to two kilometres) compared to missile based anti-missile defences (Patriot has a potential range of over 100km), they use much less energy and are far quicker, since the laser hits its target nearly instantly. On top of that, it is far more accurate since the laser need only actively track the missile for a couple of seconds. In comparison, missile-based counter-measures take minutes to intercept an enemy missile.
In miniaturised form, these laser defences could be used to project not only drones from ground based attacks and missiles from other aircraft, but also manned jets and specialised aircraft like transport helicopters and potentially even at-risk civilian craft.
KitGuru Says: This reminds me of those laser defence systems you could research in CnC Generals: Zero Hour. Remember those? So handy.