Protecting pilots from laser attack

LONDON. Engineers at BAE Systems have developed what they call a low-cost, flexible system to block hostile laser attacks against aircraft and their crews.

The technology uses a newly developed film, which officials say is selective in the way it prevents laser transmission; a high level of natural light through can still shine though the canopy but will have minimal color distortion. As a result, pilots are protected from dangerous laser incidents but find no deterioration in vision.

Laser attacks targeting pilots and air crews are becoming a major concern across the world, with most attacks reported during take off and landing. Such attacks can be mounted using a cheap, high-powered handheld device that is readily available on the web. For flight crews, such attacks can cause distraction, obscuring of instruments and dials, a high probability for short-lived "flash" blindness, and the risk of permanent eye damage. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), more than 10,000 laser incidents were reported to the agency in 2015 by U.S. aviation, the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority, and Transport Canada.

BAE Systems executive scientist Dr. Leslie Laycock said of the new film technology: “Lasers operate at specific wavelengths. A series of successful trials undertaken in a laboratory environment have proven our method is effective against a wide variety of laser wavelengths. We have been able to achieve a visible light transmission in excess of 70 percent. Our system allows the majority of the light through, providing protection without the need for heavily tinted industrial goggles. This allows pilots to more effectively see instruments and their surroundings, whilst simultaneously blocking the dangerous laser light.”

Illustration: BAE Systems

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