According to a recent article in New Scientist, defense contractor Raytheon is working on developing a portable, reduced-range version of the crowd-dispersal military technology known as Active Denial. In its current form, it works by directing high-frequency microwaves at a crowd from a distant truck, causing the targets to experience a sensation of intense heat that prompts them to withdraw. In thousands of tests, only eight people have been burned seriously enough to require attention.
Subscribe for counterintuitive, surprising, and impactful stories delivered to your inbox every Thursday
What’s the Big Idea?
The beauty (some would say) of this non-lethal technology is that it works very well in triggering people’s own reflexes to force them to disperse. Also, there’s no warning whatsoever before it goes off, and in most cases no injuries are incurred. Its invisibility has prompted concerns from several quarters. A proposed trial of the portable “pain ray” at a California prison was canceled when fears arose about its possible use as a torture device. Currently, the National Institute of Justice is reviewing whether the Raytheon version will ever make it into civilian law enforcement.