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Anti-Laser Eyewear Filters Multiple Wavelengths

PORTON DOWN, England, Oct. 16, 2012 — Eyewear that blocks a variety of wavelengths to protect pilots against different types of lasers shined into cockpits is now being tested by Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

“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,” said Dr. Craig Williamson, principal scientist at the UK’s Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

Courtesy of Federal Aviation Administration

Shining lasers at airplanes has become a worldwide aviation problem. In the US alone, the number of reported laser incidents rose from 2836 in 2010 to 3592 in 2011, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The problem is so serious that it is now a federal crime to point a laser at an aircraft and can result in jail time and stiff fines. (See: Shining Laser into Cockpit Could Cost You Big)

While conventional laser eye protection (LEP) tends to filter out and block only one wavelength at a time, the prototype lenses developed by Thin Film Solutions of Glasgow, Scotland, can filter out a range of wavelengths to protect pilots from a variety of sources, such as laser weapons and laser pointers.

The composite structure of the eyewear includes a polycarbonate layer made with an absorbing optical dye; this layer is bonded to a thin glass lens with a special coating to reflect certain wavelengths.

The prototype spectacles can filter out a range of laser wavelengths, protecting pilots from a variety of laser sources. Courtesy of Crown Copyright/MOD 2012.

Further testing — including optical performance and environmental testing by DSTL, and laser dazzle and performance testing at QinetiQ mdash; will be conducted later this year. The US Air Force tested the eyewear in May.

“The bilateral work at the United States Air Force Tri-Service Research Laboratory in San Antonio proved to be invaluable,” Williamson said. “The results from this human performance testing on spatial detection and color perception have set the benchmark for future work, and we’re hoping that further bilateral funding will be available to research the next generation of eye protection in the coming years.”

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