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A new generation of non-lethal weapons – and the advent of small drones able to carry them – offers new options for armies preparing for gray zone warfare of state-sponsored political and militant groups, and special forces operations. For U.S. commanders dreading social media video of American troops firing bullets at a mob, a robot that can disperse rioters with a non-lethal laser or microwave cannon would be a godsend.

The U.S. military wants to arm small drones and manned vehicles with non-lethal weapons, according to a Navy research solicitation.

These devices would include non-lethal gear, including directed energy weapons such as low-powered lasers and microwave beams, as well as more familiar weapons such as stun grenades and stink bombs. These weapons would equip aerial drones and manned and robotic ground vehicles, as well naval surface and underwater craft.

The Pentagon is examining multiple non-lethal weapons for tasks such as disabling people or vehicles, according to the research solicitation published by the U.S. Navy, which is acting on behalf of the other services, according to

The Pentagon wants small weapons that can fit on small platforms. Given that directed energy weapons such as lasers gulp electricity, it is not surprising that the military wants systems that neither require a lot of power nor run so hot that they need elaborate cooling equipment.