The Army is looking to develop a high-energy laser system that will be able to detect and shoot drones out of the sky, in order to protect Department of Defense (DoD) operations.

In a special notice posting on, the Army expressed the recent growth of drones – also known as small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) – has created new risks for the DoD and drones are “capable weapons in the hands of state actors, non-state actors, and criminals.”

“The primary opportunity and purpose of this effort is to integrate a government-owned High Energy Laser (HEL) subsystem with a power and thermal subsystem and sensor package to demonstrate increased lethality in negating sUAS,” the notice reads.

The Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) is currently accepting whitepaper submissions detailing how one would design, prototype, and deliver two laser weapon systems, titled the Counter Small Unmanned Aerial System High Energy Laser (C-sUAS HEL).

The C-sUAS HEL laser system is expected to:

  • “Detect and characterize Class 1 and 2 UAS threats at standoff ranges.
  • Possess hard-kill capability against Class 1 and 2 unmanned aerial systems using a high energy laser at standoff ranges with high reliability.
  • Be agnostic towards laser technology, have a modular open system design, and interface with Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control (FAAD C2)
  • Possess the capability to defend fixed and semi fixed sites.
  • Reach Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 7 and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) 5 when demonstrated as a prototype at the end of this effort.”

The Army states successful prototypes have the possibility of rolling out for production, with the expectation that “the system will be ready for demonstration in April 2022.” The whitepaper submissions are due no later than Feb. 24 at 1 p.m.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.