France tests anti-drone laser weapon for use at 2024 Olympics

France’s military successfully completed advanced testing of its anti-drone laser weaponry, and said the country plans on deploying the tech around the country within a couple years. Officials said they hoped to have drone-blasting energy defense systems up and running in time for the France-hosted World Cup of Rugby in 2023, and the Paris Summer Olympics the following year.

New system to decrease French vulnerability to drone attacks

The trials took place Wednesday on an army site in southwest France, featuring the High-Energy Laser for Multiple Application – Power (HELMA-P) unit that we first wrote about in May. Its creator, Compagnie Industrielle des Lasers (CILAS), has muscled up the weapon since then, with the unit now capable of detecting and identifying drones from as far as three kilometers away, and blasting them from of the sky from a distance of one kilometer.

The latest successful trial occurred on the same day French legislators issued a report warning France is insufficiently equipped to deal with the threat of military or weaponized consumer drone attacks on domestic targets.

Development of HELMA-P is not only important for France in defense terms, but also those of its tech credibility. The advanced anti-drone prototype is the only one of its kind in Europe, with the US and Israel the only other nations in the world known to be working on similar cutting-edge technologies. One of the primary assets of the weapon, officials say, is smart applications that increase its accuracy in identifying the type of drone spotted, and analyzing its potential as an active threat.

“We must be able to detect drones, which at times are no larger than a bird, differentiate them, and be able to neutralize them,” said French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly ahead of the HELMA-P trial. “In other words, we need to have good eyes to see, a brain for analyzing, and a weapon to destroy the threat.”

In addition to the generally augmented defensive capabilities the system would provide French forces and society, Parly added, the anti-drone cannon will also allow France “to ensure the safety of thousands of people in the same place while our country is hosting the World of Rugby in 2023, and the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.”

In addition to continued development of HELMA-P, Parly said France has also launched tenders to companies for the creation of magnetic-wave weapons. That technology, along with microwave systems, is considered better suited for combatting the rising risk of enemy forces using drone swarms for attacks.

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