The Ministry of National Defense said that it plans to develop laser technology capable of shooting down North Korean drones by next year.
South Korean military officials have estimated Pyongyang has some 300 drones capable of surveillance and around 10 that could conduct attacks with weapons, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
The ministry said in a statement that it has begun work on a laser weapon system that could intercept small drones along with a wireless power transfer system to improve operational capabilities.
A ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the interception technology would be ready by next year while the overall system would be completed by 2021.
South Kore claims several unmanned aerial vehicles sent by the North have been found in recent years south of the heavily fortified border that divides the peninsula. North Korea has denied ownership.
Drones raise concerns because their relatively small size and ability to fly low allows them to more easily avoid radar detection or interception.
The announcement comes as tensions over North Korea’s weapons programs have rolled over into the new year.
Leader Kim Jong Un said Sunday that his country was close to test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile that could potentially target the U.S. mainland.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump responded with a tweet that declared “It won’t happen!”
However, many experts believe North Korea already could mount atomic warheads on short- and mid-range missiles. Fears rose after Pyongyang conducted two underground nuclear tests and tried to launch some two dozen ballistic missiles last year.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that the North has demonstrated a “qualitative” improvement in its nuclear and missile capabilities despite the fact that many of the missile tests failed.
Photo: North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency photo shows a drone during a military parade in Pyongyang.
Source: Stars & Stripes