euro research project aims to stop "non-cooperative vehicles"
with microwaves and electromagnetic pulses
The EU is contributing over 3.3
million to a project which aims to give European security forces
a way to ensure the "safe control and stopping at a distance
of non-cooperative vehicles" on land and at sea through
devices that make use of high power microwaves and electromagnetic
The SAVELEC project (Safe
control of non-cooperative vehicles through electromagnetic means)
began in January 2012 and is costing a total of 4,253,992,
with the EU providing 3,321,748 through funding from the
security component of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
It involves companies,
universities and research institutes from France, Germany, Greece,
Spain and Sweden and is led by Valencia's Institute of Technological
and Information Applications and Advanced Communications (Instituto
de Aplicaciones de las Tecnologias de la Information y de las
According to the SAVELEC
website, non-cooperative vehicles are a "well-defined problem
in the scope of police/security/border guards and forces."
The solution proposed by the project "is based on the use
of electromagnetic means, electromagnetic pulses (EMP) and high
power microwaves (HPM), in order to disrupt the proper behaviour
of the electronic components inside the vehicle." 
Such devices have until
recent years primarily been of interest to military forces. A
2005 paper by Nick Lewer and Neil Davison for Disarmament Forum
examined the potential for the use of "non-lethal"
technologies in warfare and noted that "concern has been
expressed over their potential for destruction of civilian electronic
infrastructure - including hospital equipment and heart pacemakers
- that would be in contravention of international humanitarian
law" which is based on the principles of distinction (between
the civilian population and between civilian objects and military
objectives), proportionality and necessity.
Delivered as a "bomb/missile,
fixed or portable device," Lewer and Davison said that "HPM
weapons have not been described by the military as 'non-lethal'
and can be seen as an extension of lethal force." 
A paper from 2010 quotes
the NATO Research and Technology Organisation as saying that
in the context of warfare "the use of a high power microwave
system to disrupt enemy communications within a city that could
also impact a hospital in the vicinity of the military objective
could be indiscriminate." This could breach international
humanitarian law. 
In October last year,
Wired magazine reported that the arms firm Boeing "successfully
tested a non-lethal, microwave-blasting missile that knocks out
electronics." Keith Coleman, program manager for the Counter-electronics
High-powered Advanced Missile (CHAMP) programme, said: "Today
we made science fiction fact."
"We took out everything,
it was fantastic," Coleman said, adding that "in the
near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy's
electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops
or aircraft arrive." 
The SAVELEC project suggests
that interest in such devices amongst internal security and law
enforcement authorities is increasing. The website lists its
"end users" as Spain's Guardia Civil, the Sachsen-Anhalt
Landeskriminalamt in Germany, and the Greek Centre for
Security Studies. France has two interested parties: the Intervention
Group of the National Gendarmerie (Groupe d'Intervention de
la Gendarmerie Nationale) and the joint police-gendarmerie
venture, the Department of Technology and Information Systems
for Internal Security (Service des technologies et des systèmes
d'information de la securite intérieure). 
One overview of the project
says that "the involvement of security forces as end-users
in the project is a key factor as regards the necessity of having
realistic information about the use-cases, and scenarios."
Legal frameworks and
While international humanitarian
law applies to armed conflicts, concerns over the potential risks
of HPM and EMP devices will have to be assessed with regard to
different legal frameworks.
One objective of the SAVELEC
project, alongside scientific research and field tests, is to
examine "the consequences of human exposure to the signals
in the context of European legislation in order to
ensure safety of persons inside the vehicle and in the environment
as well as of the user of the technology." 
The SAVELEC project has
an Independent Ethics Advisory Board responsible for undertaking
this work. Dr Elin Palm, an Assistant Professor at Sweden's Linköping
University and data protection and privacy expert for the ethics
board, said that the board will "assess the implications
of the research within SAVELEC [and] monitor all activities for
compliance with EU ethical standards."
As well as examining whether
the project complies with formal legal standards, the board will
also "address ethical issues that may not be codified but
still urgent to deal with in the project," Palm told Statewatch.
"There is no pre-established
set of ethical standards," she continued. "Rather each
specialist should ensure that the relevant ethical codes and
standards within his or her field of expertise are complied with."
Members of the SAVELEC Independent Ethics Advisory Board responsible
for assessing compliance with health legislation and medical
ethics could not be reached for comment.
Dr Steve Wright, a senior
lecturer in applied global ethics at Leeds Metropolitan University,
told Statewatch that high power microwave and electromagnetic
pulse weapons are "blunderbuss technologies."
Being able to properly
target the non-cooperative vehicles with which the project is
concerned is vital, he said: "the issue of directionality
in a civilian context [is] paramount," as there is significant
risk of 'collateral damage'.
Questions remain over
whether the problem of non-cooperative vehicles is widespread
and serious enough across Europe to warrant the investment of
millions of euros in the SAVELEC project, which may be seen as
a solution looking for a problem.
Concerns may also be raised
over the potential for 'function creep': while any functioning
technology produced by the project may initially be used to halt
non-cooperative vehicles, it would require strict regulation
to prevent it from subsequently being used for other purposes.
The Independent Ethics
Advisory Board will issue three reports with the last one due
in April 2015. A final "exploitation plan" will also
be produced at this time.
 SAVELEC, High
Level Objectives and Project
 Nick Lewer and Neil Davison, Non-lethal
technologies - an overview, Disarmament Forum,
 Stuart Casey-Maslen, Non-kinetic-energy
weapons termed 'non-lethal' - A Preliminary Assessment under
International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights
Law, October 2010
 Liat Clark, Non-lethal
microwave-blasting missile knocks out electronics, Wired,
24 October 2012
 SAVELEC, Consortium
 CORDIS, Safe
control of non cooperative vehicles through electromagnetic means
 SAVELEC, Project