It’s now safe to say that Disney+ has a bonafide hit on its hands with their new Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, and it’s pretty easy to see why. The gritty worlds depicted in the series are ripe with believable characters, well shot and choreographed action sequences, and of course, an adorable (and highly meme-able) character just begging to become a hit toy this Christmas. I’ll admit, as the sort of guy that tends to prefer Kirk over Solo, I wasn’t all that excited ahead of time about The Mandalorian, but three episodes in, it’s safe to say that I’m a convert.
Some Technology Depicted in the Mandalorian May Be Within our Reach
What won me over? Well, I’m a sucker for space westerns (I am, after all, a card-carrying Browncoat). But it’s not just the “shootout at the OK Corral” vibe of the show that gets me; it’s also the weapons tech. Star Wars may take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Still, the technology depicted in the franchise has always been more about the future than the past, and much like Star Trek: The Next Generation.
On the other hand, The Mandalorian is choke-full of technology that may seem at home in the 24th century. But it is actually on the verge of becoming a reality right here and now.
While I’ll try my best to avoid them, here’s a fair warning: spoilers ahead.
What sort of tech is that? Well, there’s…
Weapons That Can See Through Walls
In Episode three of The Mandalorian, Mando is doing a bit of reconnaissance on a building he may want to blow his way into (trying my best to avoid spoilers here), so he shoulders his breach-loading doom-rifle and syncs it with his helmet, using the rifle to help him see the heat signatures of people through the walls of the building. This sort of gear would certainly come in handy for galactic bounty hunters, yet, it is also finding its way into use with first responders and the U.S. military already.
Systems like Lumineye will soon allow soldiers to use a handheld device to identify targets and locate potential threats on the other side of an opaque barrier using wall penetrating radar.
This system won’t work from a few hundred yards away like Mando’s, but his setup seems to be FLIR-based rather than use radar technology. As FLIR points out, most walls are actually too thick or well insulated to allow for detection of heat signatures. This puts Mando’s version a bit further into the realm of science fiction. Unless those walls are made out of some really thin space dirt or something…
Jet Packs That Actually Work
Boba Fett, the character that’s arguably responsible for the existence of The Mandalorian (despite never actually doing anything cool in any of the movies) may have become a pop-culture icon thanks to nothing more than a kickass helmet and a jet pack. This made it sort of disappointing when the protagonist of this new series was shown hoofing it everywhere. In Episode Three, we see some jet-pack-packing Mandalorians take to the sky in one hell of an action sequence. So they prove that there’s more to being able to fly than just falling in a Sarlacc pit.
While not quite the same in practice, British Royal Marine-turned-inventor Richard Browning has been raking in headlines for a few years now with his own jet pack suit that often draws comparisons to Iron Man (the first installment of which was helmed by John Favreau — the same guy that created The Mandalorian). Recently, Browning made a pretty damn cool-looking flight off of the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Granted, the “Gravity Jet Suit” isn’t just a pack you wear on your back as you see in The Mandalorian, so Browning doesn’t have two free hands to dual-wield pistols… But dual-wielding is a pretty dumb thing to do in a fight anyway. Instead, Browning and co. developed an M16 mount for the jetpack that, honestly, comes with its own problems.
A Grappling Cable That Works (but Not as Cool as the Mandalorian’s)
Mando uses his grappling cable for a number of things, from climbing moving vehicles to killing bad guys. And while the U.S. military isn’t quite ready to start spearing dudes with grappling hooks in the field, they have already begun fielding machines that assist in climbing (or reverse-repelling) up walls. These systems aren’t quite small enough to be wrist-mounted like Mando’s. Still, they are pretty damn effective when it comes to climbing. I had a chance to try out a version of this technology at Shot Show a few years ago. Yet, it didn’t look quite as cool as the Mandalorian when I did it.
A system similar to this one has already found its way into SOCOM’s inventory. The Chinese government has since contracted the exact system I used for their special operators.
This piece was originally published in November 2019. It has been edited for republication.