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Facing the Unexpected

Karen A. Newman, Group Publisher, karen.newman@photonics.com

In following the news reporting of the protracted search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, I heard questions raised about the lack of cameras on both the inside and the outside of passenger planes that could possibly provide clues in the event something goes wrong. The camera question has come up on various occasions over the years, including in discussions of runway collisions and onboard emergencies. Among the reasons for not deploying cameras inside and out are costs and questions about handling all the resulting data.

Cameras may not be able to change the outcome of an airline incident, but could data from cameras provide information to make airline travel safer? Given the reported complexities of the Flight 370 disappearance, there likely will be much to learn in the weeks and months ahead about the ways in which cameras and other sensors might be effective in solving airplane mysteries.

The search itself offers ample evidence of the benefits of imaging tools. From satellite imagery to sensors to cameras and binoculars, photonic technologies have been widely employed. News sources have reported that the Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion turboprop has IR sensors onboard and three cameras underneath, including long-range, IR and hi-resolution.

As often happens with technological advances, seemingly impossible challenges and unexpected incidents can be the best drivers. Our feature stories are, once again, filled with challenges met and visions for the future.

In our cover story, contributing editor Marie Freebody delivers big on the very small. In “Nanophotonics Underpins Some of the Most Groundbreaking Technologies,” she talks about the convergence of sciences and technologies that is driving new functionality in chemical sensing, materials research, medical therapy and more. Find the feature on page 40.

Also in this issue, Managing Editor Laura S. Marshall assembles comments on the market for laser-based machine vision from a sizable list of industry visionaries. “Market Growing for Laser-Based Machine Vision Technologies” begins on page 44.

There’s no specific big bad wolf in his story, “The Better to See You With,” but contributing editor Hank Hogan says advances in manufacturing and materials will bring military targets into focus faster and from farther away. Sensor-laden systems could be among the beneficiaries of new materials in the form of multiple-wavelength optics. Read the feature beginning on page 52.

Greater speed is an ongoing goal of light-based technology applications, but some would argue that nowhere is speed a greater priority than in the world of NASCAR racing. Cognex Corp.’s John Lewis takes us inside the need for speed in tracking, storing and transporting the 60 wheels per car per race that NASCAR teams require. You’ve got the green flag to go to the feature on page 56.

We leave you with a few thoughts about training the laser visionaries and technicians of the future. In their article, “Problem-Based Learning Boosts Laser Safety Training,” Laser Safety Solutions’ Ken Barat and Three Rivers Community College’s Judy Donnelly tell us how adding experience to classroom teaching better prepares laser users and safety officers. The article begins on page 60.


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