Although the first applications that come to mind for microwave technology are food preparation and wireless communication, it could begin to play a crucial role in national security efforts.
First, as reported by NBC News, a non-lethal microwave-based cruise missile is being developed that could knock out advanced electronics systems, like the nuclear missile launching systems in North Korea, without causing casualties.
The Boeing AGM-86B is part of the Counter-electronics, High-power, microwave Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP. The missile’s payload doesn’t carry explosives, but instead electronics-disabling devices that attack everything with an electronic signature. The design specializes in individual devices, networks, and structures.
This technology differs from an Electromagnetic Pulse Weapon (EMP), as it wouldn’t detonate at a higher altitude and emit radiation. Oversimplifying it - EMPs are grid killers, CHAMP takes out networks.
The main hold-up appears to be the Pentagon’s reticence to embrace a completely new and unproven strategy. Additionally, CHAMP needs to be close to the target to work, meaning the chances of it getting shot down before reaching the target are higher than with other, messier missile options.
Getting even more narrow in its focus is an application from PatriotOne called the Patscan CMR. Currently being evaluated by the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino, it uses microwave technology to scan visitors, luggage, and deliveries for the presence of weapons and bombs.
Unlike the body scanners used in airports, these units can be placed on walls or doorways and deliver scans as people and objects pass by it.
Each unit consists of a service box and two antennae that emit 1,000 pulses of electromagnetic radiation per second at microwave frequencies between 500 MHz and 5 GHz. This frequency range ensures they won’t interfere with personal devices, but also limits their detection range to 2 meters.
Once these microwaves hit an object, they emit signals based on shape and composition – all of which are unique. These signatures are fed into a database used in distinguishing weapons from non-threatening items. The goal is to prevent events like the shooting earlier this year when the man responsible for the death of 58 people had more than 20 firearms in his room.