The military's "pain ray" may be going airborne.

New Scientist magazine reports that the Air Force has beefed up its share of funding for the Active Denial System, a tightly focused beam of microwaves that causes an intense, but theoretically harmless, burning sensation on the skin of its human targets.

The ADS, developed by the Pentagon's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, has previously mounted the full version of the ADS on a truck, and made a smaller version for infantry use.

The Air Force version, according to New Scientist, will be packed into an aircraft and be capable of handling multiple beams at once -- making it perfect for non-lethal crowd control.

That doesn't mean it'll happen, though. A recent Government Accountability Office survey rated the ADS a big waste of money, and some researchers have questioned whether it really is harmless to its targets.

The Air Force is increasing its annual funding of the system from $2 million to $10 million, the magazine reports.

The military announced in 2001 that the so-called "pain ray" was ready to go, but it has yet to be used on the battlefield over concerns about its legality and its potential for unintentional harm.

• Click here to read more in New Scientist.