Directed Energy Devices: What Are They?

Directed energy weapons, also known by the brand name Active Denial System, are a new technology developed by the U.S. Military. This technology delivers a very high frequency millimeter wavelength electromagnetic rays that heat skin on contact, causing a painful burning sensation. These weapons are actively in development for crowd control purposes, marketed to both military agencies and law enforcement. Directed energy weapons project a focused beam of electromagnetic waves at a high frequency and short wavelength, making them capable of penetrating superficial skin layers to cause pain and burning without causing ionizing radiation that can alter cellular structure. The electromagnetic beam is invisible and can travel distances of up to one kilometer. There are truck mounted versions and portable versions. Little is known about the health effects of directed energy weapons because of limited publicly available data about their military testing. However, based on the little data that is available, there are some serious concerns with the capabilities of the technology. Testing on military volunteers identified several cases of skin burns, blisters or prolonged pain. Directed energy weapons have not yet been transparently and appropriately tested, and there are serious concerns about their short and long term medical impacts. For more info, see Physicians for Human Rights and INCLO, “Lethal in Disguise: The Health Consequences of Crowd Control Weapons.” (March, 2016).