Engineers at BAE Systems have created a novel technology so that pilots stop getting blinded by high-powered lasers.
In September a student pilot in Tennessee was temporarily blinded when someone fired a high-powered green laser at his plane and lit up his cockpit. According to aviation officials, the light is ten times worse than driving past someone who keeps their high beams on
After reports of laser incidents spiked in 2015 (7,703, up from 3,894 in 2014), they have slowly come down, but we are on pace to have about 7,200 laser incidents reported to the FAA in 2017.
BAE's engineers may have a solution, which is important when you're talking about nearly 8,000 pilots flying blind at some point this year. The novel film is a lightweight, low cost, and flexible system that blocks out laser lights.
The film still allows natural light to shine through the canopy with minimal color distortion, and it protects pilots from pesky laser-pointing perps. According to BAE, laser attacks primarily target planes as they land and take-off, when pilot vision is a premium. In most cases, they are a mere distraction, but they can also cause temporary blindness, painful burning in the eye, and even long-term vision problems, though rare.
The film blocks the specific wavelengths that the lasers operate at, so pilots won’t have to wear heavily tinted industrial goggles. The laser technology will inevitably change because people will never cease to be terrible, but the film is adaptable, and can easily be upgraded and selectively tuned to combat new laser threats.