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The US military has taken another step forward with its research into "non-lethal crowd control systems" after reaching back into the disco era for inspiration.

The US Army is looking to deploy a powerful strobe searchlight mounted in a pilotless drone aircraft. The strobe is intended to cause "immobilisation to all those within the beam".

Earlier this year the US Marines tested a vehicle-mounted directed microwave cooker which is intended to lightly grill the outer skin layer of troublemakers, causing an "intense burning sensation" which is nonetheless harmless – or anyway, less harmful than other things which the US Marines might do.

So-called "photic stimulation" with strobe lights, which the US Army is playing with, can cause epileptic fits in some people, which could be the effect that the US forces would like to achieve.

However, the technique has also been used to treat pre-menstrual tension and to mitigate migraines, suggesting that the new aerial riot robots could produce some startling, even pleasurable side-effects – perhaps merely pacifying the crowd rather than leaving it jittering in the dirt.

It is also possible to speculate that angry anti-US mobs who have had the foresight to equip themselves with some form of reflective eyewear might be able to avoid some or all of the effects.

The contract to develop the technology has been awarded to Peak Systems, and the program includes medical research as required into how to achieve the required effects. ®

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