China is the world leader in the production and use of drones. Around the world, 2024 will be written down in the history books as “the year of the drone,” says expert Matt Sloan of Skyfire Consulting.
All the blade runner predictions made 10 years ago about “flying cars” cutting through the sky and parcel delivery taking place within 73 seconds from the moment of order have never come true.But what will begin to emerge in 2024 is a picture of what the future of drones will actually be like.
Unmanned delivery of packages will begin to be carried out to more places, but with a realistic time frame, not in a matter of seconds. Flying cars will appear in many places, but their number will be limited.
But drone manufacturers (and primarily Chinese) will offer a variety of products for specific markets. For example, for rescuers, doctors, veterinarians. And, of course, for the military.
You can weld microchips of any weapon, just like in Star Wars
Before the start of the “Year of the Drone,” a team of Chinese scientists presented a system for protecting drones from electromagnetic attacks. The idea is simple: an invisible curtain consisting of plasma (that is, electrically charged particles – ions) appears in front of the drone.
When inventing a plasma-based energy shield, scientists were inspired by the philosophy of the ancient martial art – taijiquan. In this case, the attacker’s momentum turns into the defender’s strength.
It is believed that military microwaves were first tested in 2016 against employees of the US embassy in Cuba. Dozens of diplomats and members of their families suddenly developed the same symptoms: dizziness, vomiting, ringing in the ears, weakness.
The latest drones and cruise missiles are vulnerable to powerful microwaves. Military chips reinforced with special circuitry cannot withstand multi-kilowatt attacks at close range.
Such microwaves disrupt the electrical currents inside the microchip and increase its internal temperature. In fact, the chip is “cooked”, like in a microwave in the kitchen.
Scientists from different countries have tried to create protection for electronic devices from microwaves. For example, a special protective coating that “filters” incoming electromagnetic waves. However, such coatings have difficulty coping with the problems of heat and electronic interference at the same time.
The ion mirror will reflect a microwave attack of any power
The “plasma screen” for Chinese drones was created by a team led by Chen Zongsheng, a researcher at the State Key Laboratory of Pulsed Laser Technology at the National University of Defense Technology.
Chen’s team first mathematically proved that their hypothesis did not violate the fundamental laws of physics. They then implemented his ideas in the laboratory.
The “plasma” shield can protect drone chips from electromagnetic weapons with a power of up to 170 kW at a distance of just 3 meters. Laboratory tests have fully confirmed the effectiveness of this unusual technology. Moreover, a negligible amount of electricity is needed to create a stable layer of cold plasma.
When microwaves come into contact with ions, the particles simply become more active, absorbing excess energy. If the enemy continues to attack or even increases the power of the microwave weapon, the plasma will simply increase the density in space, reflecting more of the microwave energy like a mirror. When the attack on the drone ends, the particles simply return to a calm state.
“The thicker the plasma, the better the protective effect,” Chen and his collaborators write in a scientific article published in the Journal of the National Defense University. “And we are already in the process of developing miniature devices to bring this technology to life.”
The device itself that generates plasma energy must withstand powerful microwave attacks, while also consuming as little energy as possible.
The US has already microwave guns and missiles
Moreover, Chinese scientists do not hide the fact that their research was stimulated by the Americans. The US has already fielded the Vigilant Eagle microwave countermeasures system and the AGM-86 cruise missile with a microwave warhead.
Pentagon is testing an ADS microwave gun that instantly heats water on human skin, causing terrible pain. The weapon was developed by the US Air Force Research Laboratory for riot control. In addition, such a gun can destroy unshielded electronics.
“If the electronic “core” of the army is destroyed by microwaves, even the most powerful weapons will turn into a pile of scrap metal. And this will potentially change the very nature of a future war,” Chinese scientists write in the article.
In parallel, Chinese scientists are also developing microwave weapons, a super-powerful 1 GW cannon that can remotely incinerate the electronic brains of high-altitude drones or even low-orbit satellites like SpaceX’s Starlink.
All this, of course has long been known. However, we should not forget that the re-radiation of this supposed shield will occur in different directions and towards its carrier. With proper synchronous radiation and after pumping the shield, this radiation will also be amplified by it itself.
It is possible, of course, to create an ion mirror, but for this it will be necessary to create certain conditions for the generation and retention of this mirror, and this is not easy at all.