For pilots and passengers, the dazzling effect of a bright laser light directed into a darkened cockpit could have lethal consequences. It’s fair to say that this is facing a growing problem.In 2005, 283 incidents of laser cockpit strikes were reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This year, the FBI expects complaints to top 3,700. In response, the FBI has created the Laser Strike Working Group National Initiative, which is tasked with tracking down the culprits behind laser strikes.
With its new glasses, the Ministry of Defense has adopted a different approach. In a prototype developed by Thin Film Solutions Ltd., the magic is done with a composite structure that includes a polycarbonate layer made with a novel light-absorbing dye. When everything works as it should, the lenses reflect or absorb certain frequencies of laser light.
The eyewear is currently being evaluated by the U.K. Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Defense Equipment and Support. While the groups have found weaknesses with the technology, DSTL is collaborating with the United States Air Force Tri-Service Research Laboratory to keep development moving ahead.
While the Britain’s Defense Ministry hasn’t officially stated whether the eyewear will be made available to civilian pilots, a statement by Dr. Craig Williamson, principal scientist at DSTL, suggests that it will:
There are an increasing number of incidents of inexpensive lasers being used to distract pilots, so we have been researching advanced technologies to mitigate this hazardous and potentially lethal distraction.
- New antilaser eyewear for pilots tested [UK MoD]
- Laser eye protection—filtering out the light [DSTL]
Image: UK MoD