AIM to deliver Defence’s first drone-killing laser

Brandon How

Melbourne-based AIM Defence has landed a $5.4 million contract for the sale of counter-drone lasers, representing the Australian Defence Force’s first acquisition of a prototype directed energy weapon for field trials.

AIM Defence’s Fractl:2 laser is capable of burning through steel and can take out drones travelling at speeds of 100km/hour at a range of kilometres, according to the company. It can also be operated remotely.

The counter unmanned aerial system (CUAS) contract, signed with the Air Force, was initially worth $2.65 million when it began in November 2023, but was extended by an additional $2.76 million in February. With the contract running to the end of June, the systems are expected to be delivered by mid-2024.

AIM Defence’s Fractl system.

The most recent contract is AIM’s largest and takes the total value of AIM’s Defence contracts since 2019 to $12.8 million, mostly funding research and development activity.

When fully charged, the portable Fractl:2 system has enough energy to shoot down 50 drones or can be plugged in for continuous operation.

AIM Defence co-founder Jessica Glenn said that countering drones and other autonomous weapons systems is now “one of the most critically needed capabilities for militaries worldwide”.

“For the past four years AIM Defence has been working with Australia’s defence innovation ecosystem to build a cost-effective, high-precision and deployable directed energy system. Fractl:2 is the culmination of that effort”, Ms Glenn said in a statement.

The company also says Fractl:2 has a lower risk of blinding personnel and civilians than comparable high power lasers systems, a risk that has limited adoption. Personnel hazard distances for Fractl:2 have been reduced by 100 times when compared to a typical one-micron wavelength military directed energy systems.

AIM Defence co-founder Dr Jae Daniel said that the company has successfully demonstrated “over 200 drone defeats both indoors and outdoors over the last two years”.

With safety improvements made to the Fractl system after each test, the one-micron Fractl:1 variant is “orders of magnitude safer than other directed energy systems”, while Fractl:2 is “the safest and most deployable high power laser system in the world, by quite a margin”.

Later this year, AIM Defence will take the Fractl system to the Canadian government’s three-week long Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security CUAS Sandbox 2024. They will compete for a grand prize of CA$1 million.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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