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AIM Defence to supply ADF with Australia’s first laser-based counter-drone system

Melbourne-based AIM Defence has won a $4.9 million contract from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to build a world-first, deployable Directed Energy (DE) System, Fractal:2, for ongoing counter-drone testing and evaluation. AIM Defence expects Fractl:2 to be in the hands of ADF operators by mid-2024.

This is the first time the ADF has acquired a directed energy prototype for ongoing field-based counter-drone trials; AIM Defence is the creator of Australia’s first laser-based counter-drone system.

AIM Defence’s Fractl:2 DE system is powerful enough to burn through steel, and precise enough to track and shoot down a drone travelling at 100km/hour — from kilometres away, the company says. Fusing AI-enabled precision tracking with novel, directed energy laser technology, the Fractl suite of counter-drone systems deliver millimetre target accuracy at a distance of 1 kilometre while being more than 10 times smaller, lighter, and safer than current defensive directed energy systems being trialled.

“Countering drones and other autonomous weapons systems has emerged as one of the most critically needed capabilities for militaries worldwide,” AIM Defence Co-founder Jessica Glenn said. “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.”

Portable and battery powered, Fractl:2 can shoot down over 50 drones per charge and can be plugged into a wall socket for continuous operation. It has the added advantage of near-zero usage cost as light-based energy replaces ammunition.

The Fractl:2 relies on AIM Defence’s novel, enhanced eye safety tactical DE laser which limits the blinding risk associated with typical one-micron (1µm)  wavelength systems, making it vastly safer in the field than comparable High Power Laser (HPL) systems

Typical military DE systems rely on 1µm infrared lasers which present a serious blinding risk at distances even beyond 50km if not properly managed. The novelty of AIM’s Fractl:2 system is its ability to deliver kinetic effects using ‘enhanced eye-safety’ laser light. By moving to this new laser type, as well as other system improvements, personnel hazard distances can be limited to around 1/100th  of a 1µm beam.

To date, DE systems have had limited adoption due to the difficulty of safely using high-powered lasers in proximity to personnel and civilians. AIM Defence’s focus is on reducing those risks so that directed energy systems can be safely used in built-up environments and operational theatres.

“We have successfully demonstrated over 200 drone defeats both indoors and outdoors over the last two years, each time improving the Fractl capabilities and learning how to safely deploy directed energy,” AIM Defence Co-founder Dr Jae Daniel said. “By having this focus we’ve been able to engineer our 1-micron Fractl:1 system to be orders of magnitude safer than other DE systems. The evolution of Fractl to the Fractl:2 variant reduces the collateral hazard again, by a factor of 100. This makes it the safest and most deployable High Power Laser system in the world, by quite a margin

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