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US military invests in energy beam weapons to take down drones

The prototype THOR system is designed to demolish drone swarms.



The US military has invested in a prototype energy beam weapon designed to zap drones in the sky.

This week, the US Air Force said the prototype, dubbed the Tactical High Power Operational Responder (THOR), is a “directed energy” weapon that could use both lasers and microwaves to take out unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and drone swarms.

THOR, perhaps named in deference to the Norse god of thunder, is being developed to fire at multiple targets at the same time with what the military calls “rapid results.”

The weapon needs to be housed in a shipping container that is 20-foot-long, but this means it can also be transported, moved via cargo plane, and could be installed at different military bases.

screenshot-2021-02-25-at-09-30-38.png US Air Force / John Cochran

THOR has been developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate, located at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

According to the Associated Press, $15 million has been spent designing the weapon together with Verus Research, BAE Systems, and Leidos.

On February 11, Army Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood watched a demonstration of THOR’s capabilities at the airbase. The army official said that a combination of high-energy lasers and microwave technologies are being developed by the arm and research lab, in the hopes of being able to take on both individual targets and swarms effectively.

Drones and UAVs may pose a risk to military bases and operational infrastructure. While THOR undergoes risk tests and refinement, the military’s researchers are also considering the applications of high-power radio bursts that could engage “many targets at once” at long distances.

“THOR, and other DE systems, provide non-kinetic defeat of multiple targets at once,” Thurgood commented. “Keeping our soldiers safe is our number one priority, and we need to employ effective defensive weapons systems to stay ahead of the changing threats presented by our adversaries.”

The US military intends to conduct field testing by 2024 and potential deployment by 2026.

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How to use a toaster oven

Toaster ovens offer the kind of convenience and practicality that can complete a kitchen. Learning the ins and outs of the best toaster ovens can save you time and make meals easier.



When it comes to kitchen appliances, few are as versatile and convenient as the toaster oven. These remarkable little appliances are often small and contained enough to go right on the countertop, despite being able to take some of the workloads off your oven. Most toaster ovens aren’t large enough or powerful enough to entirely replace your full-sized oven. Still, you’d be surprised at how much you can do with these convenient appliances.

From baking and broiling to roasting and reheating, toaster ovens have come a long way since their original inception. But not all toaster ovens are the same, as many of them vary in power and size. Still, with a little bit of know-how and practice, you’ll be cooking up delicious foods in no time. The first step, after getting a toaster oven, is to learn how to use it. Some parts may be familiar, but there are many tips and tricks to uncover if you want to get the most out of your new appliance.

How to use a toaster oven

Before using your new kitchen appliance, it needs to be set up. This means removing any packaging material that might be on it, including zip ties or plastic covers, and plugging the appliance in where it will be safe. Remember, these are small ovens, and they can get quite hot, so it’s vital to place them somewhere where it won’t be a fire hazard. A clean, dry section of the countertop can work well.

Once the toaster oven is safely arranged and plugged in, it’s time to consider what you want to cook with it. While many types of food can be cooked in these appliances, it’s sometimes best to review the different styles they can use. Specifically, many toaster ovens can be used for broiling, baking, defrosting, roasting, reheating, and more. It’s easy to see why these can make great kitchen gifts.

See also: The best toaster oven 2021: Breville, Cuisinart, and more


Adding that final blast of searing heat is even easier with a toaster oven. Thanks to the appliance’s compact size, getting your food close to the heating element is more accessible and less energy-intensive than a traditional oven. Depending on the model, you may have multiple rack heights to choose from. With broiling, you want the food as close to the heating element as it can get without touching it, and this can mean placing the rack on a higher shelf.

Many types of food can be broiled in a toaster oven. Still, some of the more recommended options are foods like seafood and small vegetables. A fish filet with a light side of vegetables is an excellent example. Because broiling heats the surface of your food at a higher rate than the interior, it won’t work with anything too thick (by the time the interior is cooked, the outside will be burnt).

Once you’ve chosen your meal, arrange the food on the baking pan and place it on the rack. From here, cook times will depend on your food and the toaster oven itself. Different brands and models vary in their strength, design, and size, leading to different cook times. Consult the manual for your toaster oven to see recommended cook times.


One thing that these appliances can excel at is baking. Especially with smaller dishes that don’t need the full size of a traditional oven. Small batches of cookies, a chicken breast or two, or even casseroles and lasagnas. Any of these dishes might be baked in the appropriately sized toaster oven.

Baking takes longer than broiling, even in these compact appliances. However, baking a small meal can be much faster than using a traditional oven with the right toaster oven. A significant part of this is the relative size. Toaster ovens have a lot less space that they need to heat. The trade-off is in how much food you can cook at once.

Baking in these is often as easy as setting the mode to ‘bake’ and choosing the desired temperature. Next, place the food you want to bake in an appropriate container and put that in the toaster oven. Whether making cookies on a baking sheet or lasagna in a casserole dish, baking with the toaster oven is like a full-sized oven in principle. Beyond safety, the essential parts are to have the right time and temperature.

See also: Best toasters 2021: Cuisinart, KitchenAid, Breville, and more compared


Roasting usually uses the same cooking mode as baking, with the main difference being that roasting uses higher temperatures. If your toaster oven has enough space in it, you can roast many different meals and foods in it. A good toaster oven can roast many tasty things, from a small roast beef to fish filets, bacon, and vegetables.

To roast food, use the bake setting on your toaster oven. If yours has a ‘roast’ mode, select that instead. If you’re unsure, you can consult the manual for that brand and model. After choosing the suitable mode, set the temperature and timer. It’s best to consult a cooking recipe to determine what to set these variables to.

One of the big perks of these small appliances is that they can be used in tandem with a full-sized oven. For instance, if you’re roasting smaller casseroles or side dishes while your main oven holds a turkey or similarly large dish. Toaster ovens can help ease the pressure around holiday cooking and make the kitchen a smoother experience.


One of the less glamorous but consistently useful functions of a toaster oven is that many can be used to defrost frozen foods. Depending on the model, it may have a prebuilt mode for defrosting, or you may need to set the temperature and time manually. This can save time and hassle if you want to defrost things quickly without using a microwave. While not as fast as a microwave, defrosting with a toaster oven is still a quick method.

To defrost, place the frozen food in a safe container within the appliance. This may be a baking pan or some oven-safe glass like a casserole dish. Once your food is safely in the oven, select the ‘defrost’ option on your toaster oven. Depending on the make and model, it might be necessary to consult your manual to find the defrost settings.

How to use a toaster oven FAQ
Can I replace my full-sized oven with a toaster oven?

Probably not. Full-sized ovens can handle things far beyond what your average toaster oven can. Trying to cook a full Thanksgiving meal in only a toaster oven could be a monumental undertaking.

That said, there are situations where people might be able to do without a traditional oven and only use a toaster oven. If the meals are only for one or two people, prioritizing a toaster oven becomes more feasible.

What is the best toaster oven?

There are many toaster ovens on the market, with much impressive innovation and quality spread throughout them. The best toaster oven for you will be the one that meets your needs and your budget without causing more problems than it solves.

The best way to approach this is to consider what you want the appliance for, where it can go, and how much you’re comfortable spending on it.

What can’t you put in a toaster oven?

The first thing to be careful about is the containers. Oven-safe glass can be used, but only if there’s enough room for it to be placed properly without touching the heating elements. Beyond avoiding contact with the elements, most oven-safe containers can also be used in toaster ovens. Keep in mind that anything flammable, like parchment paper, is extra dangerous within a toaster oven.

The reason is that the heating coils are much closer and more likely to touch and potentially ignite or damage the object.


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GE and Einride unveil first autonomous and electric truck operating on US soil

Einride will bring its Pods to the US for the first time on GE Appliances’ 750-acre Appliance Park campus in Louisville, Kentucky.



GE Appliances and Swedish freight technology company Einride announced the debut of what they say is the first autonomous and electric truck to operate on US soil this week.

Einride has been operating internationally since 2019 but will bring its autonomous Pods to the US for the first time on GE Appliances’ 750-acre Appliance Park campus in Louisville, Kentucky.

Einride is also providing GE Appliances with electric vehicles at locations in Tennessee and Georgia. The companies claimed that the partnership will save GE Appliances 970 tons of CO2 emissions within the first year.

“Sustainability and cost-efficiency is a prerequisite for implementing innovation into our business strategy,” said Bill Good, vice president of manufacturing at GE Appliances.

“The partnership and technology investment with Einride is allowing us to deploy safer, more sustainable, and cost-effective solutions for the movement and transportation of material.”

screen-shot-2021-10-29-at-3-13-49-am.png Einride

Einride CEO Robert Falck said the partnership is an important milestone for the freight industry in the US.

Einride and GE Appliances told ZDNet that they got approval for the project from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Engineers from both companies are working through the kinks during the pilot tests in Louisville.

The Pods are moving between buildings on the GE campus and safety managers from both companies are watching to make sure the autonomous vehicles operate safely.

“The autonomous and electric freight transportation system is much safer than traditional road freight, as safety is an integral part of every aspect of the design and there are numerous safety systems in place,” an Einride spokesperson said.

The Pods can be remotely controlled if needed by appliance engineers working at a remote workstation on the GE campus.

When asked about fears that autonomous trucks would replace human workers, the companies said there is a “continued” shortage of labor in the transportation industry and called autonomous vehicles “one potential solution.”

“Currently, there is already a significant global shortage of truck drivers. At the same time, trends like e-commerce are driving up demand for transportation services. Deploying an autonomous, electric transportation system will help close that gap,” an Einride spokesperson said.

Einride claimed that surveys they commissioned found that respondents would be more interested in becoming truck drivers if they could do it remotely. The Einride survey also found that people would be more interested in the industry if they could avoid the irregular hours and long haul journeys that took them far away from home.

“As the road freight industry transitions to an intelligent and sustainable solution, there will still be ample opportunity to drive connected electric trucks,” Einride said in a statement to ZDNet.

“When autonomy is introduced on a broader scale, drivers will become remote operators, which will create a safer and more regular work environment, and increase the attractiveness of a profession that is facing global shortages and significant gender inequality.”


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CISA awards $2 million to cybersecurity programs for rural, diverse communities

The heads of CISA, NSA and IST also took part in the ShareTheMic campaign to promote diversity in cybersecurity.



CISA has announced awards of $2 million to two organizations training underserved communities in cybersecurity.

The funding will go to NPower and CyberWarrior, two programs helping to train veterans, military spouses, women and people of color for cybersecurity positions. These are the first awards of their kind handed out by CISA.

CISA Director Jen Easterly said addressing the cyber workforce shortage requires the agency to proactively seek out, find and foster prospective talent from nontraditional places.

“CISA is dedicated to recruiting and training individuals from all areas and all backgrounds with the aptitude and attitude to succeed in this exciting field,” Easterly said. “It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do — for the mission and the country. We’re best positioned to solve the cyber challenges facing our nation when we have a diverse range of thought bringing every perspective to the problem.”

The organizations are targeting communities with high unemployment as well as those who are underemployed and underserved in both rural and urban areas.

CISA explained that they are looking to support programs that benefit communities and populations that may not have access to training programs centered around cybersecurity.

CISA, CyberWarrior and NPower will work with them to “develop a scalable and replicable proof of concept to successfully identify and train talented individuals around the country.

They noted that the effort will help address the “staggering” shortage of cybersecurity talent facing the country.

“CyberWarrior is honored to take part in the Cybersecurity Workforce Development and Training Pilot for Underserved Communities,” said Reinier Moquete, founder of the CyberWarrior Foundation.

“Working with CISA and other stakeholders, our 28-week bootcamp program will train persons from underserved populations for a career in cybersecurity. We encourage prospective students, employers and workforce stakeholders to reach out and join us in building opportunities for these individuals.”

According to CISA, the three-year program seeks to establish a cybersecurity pathways retention strategy while also providing entry-level cybersecurity training and hands-on professional development experience through apprenticeships.

Bertina Ceccarelli, CEO of NPower, said her organization’s cybersecurity program offer young adults and veterans the opportunity to advance their careers and deepen their specialties.

“This is particularly important for individuals coming from underrepresented communities that systemically lack access to those specialized skills,” Ceccarelli said. “We are honored for the support from CISA, which will enable NPower to expand our reach to trainees across the country.”

The award is part of a larger effort by CISA and other agencies to diversify the cybersecurity industry. On Friday, Easterly, NSA cybersecurity director Rob Joyce and Institute for Security and Technology CEO Philip Reiner handed their Twitter accounts over to three Black women, who spoke about their experiences in the tech industry while urging other women of color to join in.

CISA has also created a initiative and Cyber Education and Training Assistance Program to promote cybersecurity among young people.

The organizations are targeting communities with high unemployment as well as those who are underemployed and underserved in both rural and urban areas.


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