QinetiQ launches center for military and commercial high-energy laser applications

Nov. 27, 2017
Dragonworks is a new center of excellence for the development and testing of laser directed energy weapons.

IMAGE. Full-scale model of the Dragonfire beam director at QinetiQ Dragonworks. (Credit: QinetiQ)

QinetiQ (Farnborough, England) has opened Dragonworks, a new "centre of excellence" for the development and testing of advanced laser technology. The facility will serve as a testbed for all technologies associated with high-energy lasers for military or commercial applications.

Dragonworks includes a cleanroom and the UK’s only reflective hazard assessment tool (RHAT) designed to examine how laser energy is reflected from different surfaces. Further additions to the Farnborough building in the coming months will create an environment in which customers can conduct full-scale testing of high-energy lasers.

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The first project to be undertaken at Dragonworks will be the assembly and testing of the laser directed energy weapon (LDEW) currently in development by the UK’s Dragonfire consortium, led by MBDA (Paris, France), an integrated missle systems company jointly owned by Airbus, BAE Systems, and Leonardo. Components will arrive in early 2018, when QinetiQ will begin building the weapon’s laser source in the purpose-built cleanroom. Over the following months, the laser source will undergo a process of evaluation and adjustment before being integrated with Leonardo’s beam director.

The project will culminate in operation at full-power under test conditions inside the facility in summer 2018, before it is transported to MOD Shoeburyness for long-range outdoor trials later in the year. Data collected using the RHAT will inform the safety case for these and future trials, ensuring that the reflectivity of targets is fully understood and any risk mitigated.

Steve Wadey, QinetiQ CEO, said: “Dragonworks introduces a brand new sovereign capability, which will significantly enhance the UK’s ability to operate and characterise high-energy lasers. It will help our customers to understand the opportunities and challenges associated with this disruptive technology, informing their critical strategic and tactical decisions. We are investing in this asset as part of our strategy to modernise the UK’s test and evaluation services, which will ensure our customers can keep pace with rapid technological advances and maintain their competitive edge.”

Source: QinetiQ

About the Author

Conard Holton | Editor at Large

Conard Holton has 25 years of science and technology editing and writing experience. He was formerly a staff member and consultant for government agencies such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and engineering companies such as Bechtel. He joined Laser Focus World in 1997 as senior editor, becoming editor in chief of WDM Solutions, which he founded in 1999. In 2003 he joined Vision Systems Design as editor in chief, while continuing as contributing editor at Laser Focus World. Conard became editor in chief of Laser Focus World in August 2011, a role in which he served through August 2018. He then served as Editor at Large for Laser Focus World and Co-Chair of the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar from August 2018 through January 2022. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, with additional studies at the Colorado School of Mines and Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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