The Active Denial System, called ADS for short, is a non-lethal weapon that has been in development for 15 years. It delivers a man-sized heat beam on a radio frequency of 95 gigahertz.
Accessing the same millimeter wave technology used in airport body scanners, the beam penetrates only 1/64th of an inch into a person’s skin and cornea, heating water molecules in the tissue and generating an instinctive urge to run from the effect.
The prototypes the military demonstrated where installed on two different vehicles — one built onto a heavy expanded-mobility tactical truck, the other onto a Humvee.
“You’re not gonna see it, you’re not gonna hear it, you’re not gonna smell it. You’re gonna feel it,” explained U.S. Marine Col. Tracy Taffola, director the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, at a recent demonstration.
Some skeptics have voiced safety concerns because the beam is often confused with microwaves. A microwave oven operates at a frequency of approximately one gigahertz, which moves faster and penetrates deeper, enabling it to cook food.
“If you open a hot oven and you get a blast of heat, your skin may feel a little tingly, a little tender,” said Stephanie Miller, chief of the radio frequency bio effects branch at the Air Force Research Laboratory. “Our lab has studied how much energy it takes to produce the repel response of running away from the beam, how much energy to produce a blink response, which protects the eye, and then on the flip side of that, how much energy would it take to produce some form of injury, whether that’s eye irritation or a skin blister.”
The military worked with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center to make sure the beam wouldn’t cause skin cancer or make an existing cancer worse. The effects from the beam are temporary and last about 10-15 minutes.
Using a simple set of controls, operators focus the beam in a certain direction.
“They have several day/night cameras that look through the middle of the invisible beam so they know what they’re targeting,” Miller said, “and there’s a simple touch-screen operation.”
Here is the video of the demonstration the military performed for the media on March 9, 2012:
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Photos: Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense