PARIS (Reuters) - The French military used a laser-powered canon on Wednesday to destroy a drone in a test of technology that the government hopes will be used to protect the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The Armed Forces Ministry said the test, conducted near the Atlantic coast in southwestern France, was a first for Europe, adding that the United States and Israel were also working on similar "Star Wars"-inspired weapons.
France plans to use the system, developed by local startup firm Cilas with public funds, to protect military bases and nuclear plants, as well as major events, against small low-flying drones that can escape radar detection.
"We aim to have a fully operational system in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics", a ministry spokesperson said.
The prototype tested on Wednesday can detect lightweight commercial drones from a distance of up to 3 km (1.8 miles), track them and destroy them once they approach within 1 km of the canon.
Its laser ray is one million times more powerful than the one used by QR code readers, the ministry said.
"We need to adapt to a constantly changing threat and the increasing ability of drones to escape jamming devices or conventional missile shields," the ministry spokesperson said.
The ministry said it had also launched tenders for the development of a magnetic-wave canon and interceptor drones due to the growing threat of attacks using swarms of drones.
(Reporting by Tangi Salaün, editing by Richard Lough and Gareth Jones)