Cannon-fired shock wave could stun, kill people

Thunder Generator
The Thunder Generator produces shock waves that result in a loud sonic boom and extreme air pressure, which can be heard and felt by people up to 100 meters away. Image credit: Army Tec.

( -- Police and military forces around the world may soon have a new non-lethal weapon at their hands. Called the Thunder Generator, the device is a cannon that fires shock waves that pass through people and objects. Although the shock waves are harmless, they give people the impression of standing in front of a firing squad, according to the cannon's developers.

Originally, the Thunder Generator was used by farmers in Israel to scare away birds that might eat their crops. Recently, Israel’s Ministry of Defense has approved a license for the Israeli technology company ArmyTec to market military and paramilitary versions of the Thunder Generator. The company hopes that the cannon, which was originally developed by Israeli company PDT Agro, could have applications in crowd control and border security.

"Anyone within 30 to 50 meters from the cannon will feel like he's standing in front of a firing squad," said Igor Fridman, president of PDT Agro, who developed the system. "He'll feel and hear the blast, but he won't be hurled to the ground. He'll be able to run away unharmed … and that's the point of this application."

Maintaining a safe firing distance is important, though, since if a person is standing within 10 meters of the cannon, the shock wave could inflict permanent damage or even kill them. Rather, the device is intended for longer distances. Fridman estimates that by increasing the current five-inch diameter of the barrel, the cannon could have a range of up to 100 meters.

To generate the , the cannon uses a mixture of liquefied petroleum, cooking gas, and air. As the fuel travels through the cannon barrel, it detonates and intensifies until it exits, producing a series of rapid-fire, high-velocity shock bursts. The shock bursts can be calibrated and programmed for different purposes. According to the company, the system can generate 60-100 bursts per minute, with each burst traveling at about 2,000 meters per second and lasting up to 300 milliseconds. The resulting extreme air pressure and sonic boom effect create a double deterrent to rioters and intruders.

"It's all done in a controlled and safe manner, using the cheapest, cleanest fuel available,” said Fridman, noting that a standard 12-kilogram canister of liquefied petroleum can produce about 5,000 shock bursts at a cost of about $25. “The trick is to cause it not to burn, but to explode.”

In agriculture, the shock waves have provided a cleaner alternative to hazardous chemicals that farmers might use to keep pests away. For police and military uses, the system could offer a safer, cheaper and more politically acceptable weapon than other explosive materials or lethal force. Over the past two years, about a dozen systems have been operating at Israeli farms and fisheries, with no accidents.

ArmyTec plans to modify the single-barrel cannon for different applications. The company has proposed a multi-barrel design and synchronized networks of multiple cannons to simulate a battlefield experience. The cannons could also be mounted on vehicles and operated via remote control. Plus, by using a curved barrel design, the could produce shock waves at 90-degree angles to bend around walls or other obstacles.

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via: Defense News and Gizmodo

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Jan 19, 2010
You know, if police start deploying these things very often, people are going to think that they're being shot at. And they'll shoot back. And then a lot of people are going to die.

I really hope they scrap this. It'll lead to a disaster.

Jan 19, 2010
scary, is the word. I can see this in the military arsenal right alongside the drones. Send one out under remote control and use it to control the populace. Not so much for use against an equally armed enemy but against an unarmed or under armed enemy.

Jan 19, 2010
That's it, go on, give the cops more weapons. Oh! Boy are they not going to love that. Can you imagine the fun they'll have with this?

Jan 19, 2010
I guess that it may be cheap to fire, but fireing one in the middle of a city would break so many windows that the govenrment would have to pay, that it would be really expensive in the end.

Jan 19, 2010
Plus the fact that if it's potentially lethal at 10m (30 feet!!!) means that anyone nearby is pretty much guaranteed to have permanent hearing loss, probably including the police officers operating it. Devices like these usually effect everything in a 60 degree angle, meaning that at a range of 100 feet they'll be hitting a very wide area with no precision whatsoever.

They may as well be throwing grenades into the crowd. Anybody remember those nasty fire hoses they used to use on black people? This is much much worse. There's no excuse - I think Tasers are reasonable, but this is totally different.

Jan 19, 2010
Any other law-abiding citizens out there hope that this doesn't see widespread adoption?

Jan 19, 2010
Civilians can easily construct and deploy these weapons,
themselves. A compressed air and a propane supply, two
solenoid valves, a spark igniter, and a simple sequencing
circuit are all it takes.

Jan 20, 2010
i only see one use for this... spud cannon!!!

Jan 20, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Jan 20, 2010
... and the latest news on the Chinese food riots... cleaning crews discovered 20,000 pounds of mashed potatoes on the streets of Shanghai earlier today...

Jan 20, 2010
Without offering any opinion on the merits or wisdom of such a device..

I've accidently ended up approx 35 ft directly in front of an old style powder cannon being dry fired. Assuming this is anything like that..yes its loud but not deafening .. what you feel more than hear is the percussion of the shockwave. It certainly got my attention :-)

Jan 23, 2010
Wouldn't rioters (who often put a lot of preparation into their "protests" like storing up urine in jars to throw at cops and making their own riot sheilds) learn pretty quickly that the shock wave is not leathal or even painful and is more of a percussion, leading them to just ignore it?

Jan 24, 2010
if a person is standing within 10 meters of the cannon, the shock wave could inflict permanent damage or even kill them.

Interesting performance for a non-lethal weapon. And we are supposed to believe that the police/military will actually ensure you are at least 10 meters away before using this?

If the British had had this, there would have been no American Revolution.

Jan 24, 2010
I agree that this probably isn't the best idea in the world all it needs to do is create disruption in a crowd. It is not like Taser's have no negative effects, often they cause future health problems and yet they are used frequently as a deterrent. This may lead to a more effective form of crowd control and research has to have some dead ends.

Jan 24, 2010
there's a never ending stream of these types of devices being made but they never seem to improve the quality of life

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