The problem with today's stun guns is that you can unload a can of electrical whoop-ass only on one person at a time. But that's starting to change, New Scientist says.Militaries and their contractors are getting closer to putting the hurt on a whole bunch of people at once, according to the magazine, with "weapons that can incapacitate crowds of people by sweeping a lightning-like beam of electricity across them."Currently, stun guns like the Taser "work only at close quarters," and only effect one person at a time, the magazine notes. That's because the Taser uses a pair of darts, tethered to a wire, to deliver its electric shock. Range is limited to less than 25 feet.If they work as planned -- a big if -- "the new breed of non-lethal weapons can be used on many people at once and operate over far greater distances," by ditching the wires.A weapon under development by Rheinmetall, based in Dsseldorf, Germany, creates a conducting channel by using a small explosive charge to squirt a stream of tiny conductive fibres through the air at the victim.Meanwhile, Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems (XADS), based in Anderson, Indiana, will be one of the first companies to market another type of wireless weapon. Instead of using fibres, the $9000 Close Quarters Shock Rifle projects an ionised gas, or plasma, towards the target, producing a conducting channel. It will also interfere with electronic ignition systems and stop vehicles."We will be able to fire a stream of electricity like water out of a hose at one or many targets in a single sweep," claims XADS president Peter Bitar.The gun has been designed for the US Marine Corps to use for crowd control and security purposes and is due out next year. It is based on early, unwieldy technology and has a range of only 3 metres, but an operator can debilitate multiple targets by sweeping it across them for "as long as there is an input power source," says Bitar.XADS is also planning a more advanced weapon which it hopes will have a range of 100 metres or more. Instead of firing ionised gas, it will probably use a powerful laser to ionise the air itself. THERE'S MORE: Slashdot is suspicious of XADS -- "So, this company has a free-hosting website and and a free-email address for their 'president,' and the photo looks like cardboard tubes wrapped with green camouflage tape. Hmmmm."AND MORE: The company does have a small business contract with the Navy for a "Personnel Neuromuscular Disruptor Incapacitation System" -- awarded November '02.AND MORE: Defense Review interviews XADS' president here.
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