8 January 2013
The German defence firm used the high-energy laser equipment to shoot fast-moving drones at a distance.
The system, which uses two laser weapons, was also used to cut through a steel girder a kilometre away.
The company plans to make the laser weapons system mobile and to integrate automatic cannon.
The 50kW laser weapons system used radar and optical systems to detect and track two incoming drones, the company said. The nose-diving drones were flying at 50 metres per second, and were shot down when they reached a programmed fire sector.
The weapons system locked onto the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by using radar for a rough approximation of the location of the targets, then fine-tuned the tracking using an optical system.
The high-energy laser system was used to cut through a 15mm-thick steel girder, and to shoot out of the air a steel ball designed to mimic a mortar round.
The company has tested the laser system in a variety of weather conditions, including snow, sunlight, and rain.
Rheinmetall plans to test its laser weapons mounted on different vehicles and to integrate a 35mm revolver cannon into it.
A number of governments and defence firms are in the process of developing
weapons that use or incorporate lasers. For example, Raytheon
unveiled a 50kW
anti-aircraft laser at the Farnborough Airshow in 2010, and in June 2012
the US Army released details of a weapon that can
fire a laser-guided
lightning-bolt at a target.