Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Glasgow company may have defence against laser dazzle

Laser signOne of the intriguing threads in the SeSco Forum has grown out of the subject of lasers being used as non-lethal defences. And now we get to mention a small specialist Glasgow company.

In the right hands and used responsibly (something that computers can now take care of), lasers can be used to dazzle various types of attacker on the battlefield and at sea (in the case of pirates) to deter and repel the attackers. Unlike bullets and missiles, such actions tend not to result in deaths – even though the attackers generally arrive sporting firearms of various types.

The problem with laser dazzle is that even low-powered hand-held lasers can cause the effect, and temporary blindness even at long ranges – long enough to reach from the ground to low flying aircraft, especially around airports and near town and cities. And that mean criminals (by any name) can use these for their own amusement, and dazzle pilot of aircraft, or police helicopter crews. The good news is that a number of such aircraft are now equipped with kit that can pinpoint the ground area where such attacks are made from, and police can be despatched.

However, this does not remove the danger of the dazzle itself.

Part of the problem in dealing with this in the past has been that glasses and goggles designed to protect against such dazzle are only effective at one frequency, which means that they only defend against one colour or wavelength of laser light. Needless to say, there are many colours of laser now available, so this defence, although effective, has limited practicality.

Until now that is, with news of developments made by the MoD (Ministry of Defence) that the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has been working with Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) to evaluate and assess the specially designed spectacles. The new type of laser eye protection (LEP) for pilots is being tested and developed to address the increasing number of incidents of lasers being used to distract pilots.

The new LEPs can filter out different wavelengths of light from the spectrum, including those used in various laser weapons and laser pens which are becoming increasingly available via the internet.

While existing LEPs generally filter out and block only one wavelength from the colour spectrum, the prototype spectacles, made by Glasgow-based company Thin Film Solutions, can filter out a range of different laser wavelengths, allowing greater operational benefits and flexibility for pilots.

The work has been undertaken with the US, and has benefited from an established partnership between Dstl and the United States Air Force. Testing took place in May.

Dr Craig Williamson, Principal Scientist at Dstl, said:

“The bilateral work at the United States Air Force Tri-Service Research Laboratory in San Antonio proved to be invaluable. The results from this human performance testing on spatial detection and colour perception have set the benchmark for future work, and we’re hoping that further bilateral funding will be available to research the next generation of eye protection in the coming years.”

Further testing is to be conducted later this year, including optical performance and environmental testing by Dstl, and laser dazzle and performance testing at defence contractor QinetiQ.

Via: Ministry of Defence | Defence News | Equipment and Logistics | New anti-laser eyewear for pilots tested

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October 15, 2012 - Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, military, Transport | , , , , , , ,

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