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BAE Systems develops film to protect pilots from laser attack

21 Nov 2017

Selective film prevents laser transmission, but allows natural light to pass though canopy.

Utilising a novel technology, BAE Systems has developed a system to block laser attacks against aircraft and their crews. Engineers at the defense and aerospace giant have developed a low-cost, lightweight system that can block dangerous laser light to protect pilots from hostile attacks.

According to the US-based Federal Aviation Authority, more than 2000 laser incidents were recorded in the US alone during the first four months of 2017, while in 2015 more than 10,000 laser incidents were reported to the FAA, and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority and Transport Canada.

Utilizing a novel film, the technique is selective in the way it prevents laser transmission, meaning a high level of natural light through can still pass though the canopy with minimal color distortion. As a result, pilots are protected from dangerous laser incidents with no deterioration in vision.

Serious attacks

Laser attacks targeting pilots and air crews are a major concern across the world with most attacks reported to take place during take-off and landing. They are typically caused by cheap, high-powered hand held devices that are readily available on the internet. Results of these attacks include distraction, obscuring of instruments and dials, a high probability for short-lived “flash” blindness and even permanent eye damage.

Dr Leslie Laycock, an executive scientist at BAE Systems commented, “A series of successful trials undertaken in a laboratory environment have proven that 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%.

“Our system allows the majority of the light through the protective film, without the need for pilots to wear heavily tinted industrial goggles. This allows pilots to more effectively see instruments and their surroundings, whilst simultaneously blocking the dangerous laser light.”

As technology advances, the wavelength of proliferated lasers may change. Due to the adaptability of this technology, pilots will always be protected as the film can simply be upgraded and selectively tuned to combat new laser threats. The next phase of development will see experimentation and commercialisation within the public sector.

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