Radio-beam device can disable car and boat engines from 50m

E2V has developed a non-lethal weapon that can disable the engines of motor vehicles and small boats at a distance of up to 50m in under three seconds.

Dubbed RF Safe-Stop, the unit, which weighs approximately 350kg, has so far been integrated into Nissan Nevara and Toyota Land Cruisers and is designed to temporarily disable a vehicle’s electronic systems and bring it to a halt. Such non-lethal systems are said to be particularly suited to stopping vehicles suspected as being used as car bombs.

Andy Wood, product manager at e2v, told The Engineer that RF Safe-Stop can be fitted also into ground, fixed base installations, rib-type boats and that there are ‘blueprint’ ideas to integrate it into a helicopter.

Such non-lethal systems generate intense RF (radio frequency) pulses and Wood euphemistically said these pulses ‘confuse’ a vehicle’s electronics, rendering them temporarily inoperable.

RF Safe-Stop works differently on different vehicles although the principle of coupling electromagnetic waves into the target’s wiring looms remain the same.

‘At the weight of frequencies we’re taking about – L and S-Band – the wiring loom of, say a metre…is almost the perfect aerial,’ said Wood.

The electromagnetic blast travels through the wiring loom as a series of pulses, arriving at the vehicle’s engine management system or immobiliser to halt it.

‘Basically the ECU (engine control unit) or immobiliser…once affected, will try and reset. As long as you keep it ‘confused’ the engine won’t restart.’

The RF generator is driven by a solid state modulator designed and built at Chelmsford-based e2v and Wood explained that a UPS unit has been added to systems designed for use on vehicles.

‘What we’re assuming at the moment is if, for instance, you had a fully charged set of batteries you’d get about two hours of operation, use about a 10 per cent RF energy burst from it …So [with] two hours stand-by, you get 12 minutes of RF operation,’ he said.

‘If you’ve got it on a vehicle, or a boat…you could be trickle charging that all the time. Unless you exceed the 10 per cent duty cycle with something like a 100A (amp) alternator at 24V you should…not run out of power.’

Operators of RF Safe-Stop won’t need specialist training as e2v is aiming for a system that that allows the user to do nothing more complicated than push a red button when the target is in range.

‘So long as he’s got a green light on his display he knows he can push the red button and typically, in one operation, get a five second burst,’ said Wood. ‘Normally, the effect happens in three seconds. You should be pretty certain that with one shot you’re going stop whatever engine it is you’re trying to stop. Then you repeat as and when – if you see the person in the vehicle is trying to restart it you just give it another shot and demobilise the vehicle again.’

The company recently demonstrated RF Safe-Stop at DSEi and Wood said the technology has stimulated interest from 17 nations and five UK government bodies.

Wood believes orders for the system will be taken in the coming weeks, adding that e2v’s dedicated applications team can tailor RF Safe-Stop according to requirements.