Last year, the company held several demonstrations of its “microwave oven” for representatives of the Pentagon. Leonidas has shown that it can withstand both helicopters and drones, and at sea even disabled the outboard engine on a boat.
A large number of relatively cheap drones armed with explosive devices and even simple automatic small arms were considered by military strategists in many countries as an ideal weapon for inflicting massive and tangible damage to the enemy without losing their troops. Indeed, it is not clear what to do with the suddenly appeared swarm of hundreds of drones that rush like bees, explode and shoot. You can’t brush aside such an attack, you can’t shoot all the drones one by one.
But there will always be an antidote for every poison. Epirus has created a weapon that destroys the entire swarm, and not its individual "individuals". In the course of the search for means of combat, many methods were considered - from hacking drone programs and jamming them to lasers installed on ships and trucks. But directed microwave radiation was the most promising option for mass destruction of robots.
Until recently, an insurmountable obstacle was the bulkiness of the equipment, which made these weapons inconvenient to transport. Epirus solved the problem by using unusual and bulky magnetron vacuum tubes, which the military has been using in radar for decades, and gallium nitride transistors.
These transistors, which produce microwaves, began to be studied by scientists in many countries around 2004. And it turned out that this semiconductor is capable of maintaining a microwave beam for a long time, although it is slightly less powerful than a magnetron tube, but the emitter can be placed in a small container. Samples of powerful microwave weapons on magnetrons, for example, the "tactical high-power operational emitter" (THOR), developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory, or the corresponding weapon created for the US Army, are placed in 20-foot containers, and this is two tons.
Leonidas has another advantage that other similar systems do not have. Its DARPA Warden (algorithms for radio frequency applications) software takes into account data coming from various army tracking and aviation sensors and distinguishes friend from foe. This allows you to remove friendly forces from electromagnetic shock.
The system is designed to deal with swarms of drones, not single threats. Such swarms are a growing problem for military forces. “The emitters installed on drones make it possible to solve various tasks of defending positions and create a multi-level protective field,” the company said in a press release. The Leonidas can fire quickly at targets with "almost instantaneous effect", does not overheat and does not need to be recharged - the batteries have an extended lifespan. The capsule has a standby mode, which makes it possible to keep the system on alert without draining the battery.
Epirus was founded in 2018 and immediately entered the rapidly growing and highly competitive anti-drone market, now valued at two billion dollars a year. Many companies and even very large ones have set their sights on these billions. In order to have an accurate picture of what is happening in this market, the US Department of Defense has even established a special Joint Office for Countering Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which is supposed to track the most interesting proposals and speed up the process of their transfer to the armed forces.
The success of Epirus is explained not only by the presence of talented designers and physicists, but also by the fact that it was supported by large companies, in particular Microsoft, as well as high-ranking officials from the Pentagon, whose representatives manage it and entered the board of directors.
This partly explains the increased attention of customers. Following the Leonidas demonstrations for the Pentagon, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) commissioned the company to develop software that should more accurately take into account the propagation of electromagnetic waves. And General Dynamics Corporation has signed a contract to carry out work on the integration of Leonidas into Stryker combat vehicles and other guided and unmanned ground vehicles that are part of the SHORAD short-range air defense system.