From the robots that wade through Fukushima's nuclear waste to those that tumble nobly through minefields, machines are regularly tasked with missions that fall beyond the realms of human safety. Lately, we're beginning to see how flying robots can play a role in these types of scenarios, the latest example being a laser-equipped drone that can detect explosives and chemical compounds from above.

Within the last year or so we have seen a series of drones designed to take on these kinds of missions. Spanish company CATUAV was selected as a finalist in last year's Drones For Good competition thanks to an aircraft that uses optical sensors to detect landmines buried below. In the time since, we've also seen mine-hunting drones that use metal detectors and hyperspectral imaging to detect threats in a similar fashion.

The SpectroDrone system from Israeli-based security company Laser Detect Systems (LDS) is claimed to take things a little further. It can apparently detect not just explosives and IEDs, but other materials such as narcotics, minerals and some biological substances as well. The company says using lasers for this purpose was possible before, but previous technologies required the sensor to be brought within a few millimeters of the material.

LDS says its SpectroDrone system can be attached to a drone – or even a ground-based robot – and detect these materials at heights or distances of several meters. This improvement comes courtesy of a patented payload that involves multiple electro-optical assemblies and laser beams of several wavelengths, a laser rangefinder, high-resolution camera, spectrometers and proprietary algorithms.

The company has fixed the SpectroDrone system to an Airobotics Optimus drone to show what it can do, allowing it a range of 3 km (1.86 mi). It can pick up on explosives and hazardous materials in gas, liquid, powder or bulk form and can analyze certain materials in real time.

LDS is debuting the SpectroDrone system aboard the Optimus drone at the HLS & Cyber Expo in Tel Aviv on November 15 and 16. You can check out the promo video below.