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Researchers flock to military event

28 Oct 2004

SPIE's first European event on optics for defence applications turns out to be a big hit.

The importance of photonics to the defence industry was confirmed this week as engineers and scientists swarmed to SPIE's first European event on the topic in London, UK.

More than 650 delegates from 34 countries attended the European Symposium on Optics/Photonics in Security & Defence to hear about the latest military applications of photonics. The four-day event which ran from Monday to Thursday boasted a total of 370 papers in 11 different conference streams and a two-day technical exhibit featuring 23 firms.

These are impressive figures for an event that has never been run before, and it is clear that many firms and research groups are targeting the sector following the demise of other markets such as telecoms.

Papers ranged from the use of optical sensors to detect chemical and biological warfare agents to optical countermeasures, secure communications and terahertz imaging. And many of the talks were standing room only.

That said, the London event is still an order of magnitude smaller than SPIE's main event in the field, the Defense & Security Symposium (DSS), which takes place in the US every year. According to Bonnie Peterson, an SPIE event manager, DSS has doubled in size over the past few years and in 2004 boasted about 270 exhibitors, 4800 attendees and more than 40 conference streams. The 2005 event which will take place in Orlando, Florida between 28 March and 1 April is likely to be even larger.

"The vast majority, probably around 80%, of the people attending DSS are from the US," said Peterson. "We organized this new event because we want to serve our European community and understand that for many people it is hard to travel to the US."

Following the success of the London event, SPIE says that a repeat event is likely next year. "We are definitely going to be doing this again, it's just a question of where," said Peterson. "It may well move around Europe to a different destination."

Oliver Graydon is editor of Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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