The U.S. Navy has used a a laser weapon to shoot down four unmanned aerial vehicles in a test that rings up memories of Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" missile defense shield in the 1980s.
The successful test of the Laser Weapon System off the coast of California was announced during the Farnborough International Air Show, which is taking place this week in England.
The technology, jointly developed with Raytheon, used industrial strength lasers, is more than just your run-of-the-mill PR exercise. In its write-up of the technology, Scientific American correctly notes that the shoot-down of the drones over water constitutes an advance over previous Raytheon tests which focused on static targets.
Mike Booen of Raytheon gave USA Today the money quote for the day: "The targets came in over the ocean, and it was a good day for lasers, bad day for drones."
Still, don't expect deployment any time soon. Even if the follow-up tests come through with flying colors, the technology is likely going to take several more years before it's ready for combat situation. (Coincidentally, the breakthrough made the rounds on the anniversary of the day that U.S. astronauts in 1969.