Speed-of-Light Defense

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Mike WheelerThe last few decades have seen the laser assume a pivotal and unique role on the battlefield, from aiding the precise delivery of munitions to jamming optical trackers and countering IR-guided missiles.

The rise of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is putting renewed focus on the laser, given its precision and capacity for quick response. As chronicled in this month’s cover story, “Lasers Adapt to Changing Threat Landscape,” Boeing’s Compact Laser Weapon System, for instance, has been integrated into ground-based Stryker combat vehicles, providing a much-needed first defense against low, slow UAVs flying above.

That’s not all. The military has awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin to design, develop and produce a high-power fiber laser to be tested on tactical fighter jets by 2021. The story, authored by Contributing Editor Marie Freebody (read article).

Elsewhere in the magazine:

• From boosting crop yields to optimizing wind farms, lidar and hyperspectral imaging are helping transform agriculture, energy and research. Don’t miss Contributing Editor Hank Hogan’s “Getting the Total Picture, Remotely,” (read article).

• Since its inception, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, or LIBS, has been largely confined to use in research circles. Thanks to innovations in equipment and calibration models, LIBS is now finding uses in applications as varied as mineral extraction and forensics. Avantes’ Benno Oderkerk and Janel Kane’s “Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy Beyond the Lab” (read article).

• Chalcogenide glass boasts superior performance for use in IR imaging systems. Perhaps most important, it can be fabricated using precision glass-molding methods. “Germanium Alternative Gaining Momentum for IR Optics” by FISBA’s Erick Koontz and Wallace Latimer (read article).

• Misalignment between optical components in today’s silicon photonic devices is measured in nanometers. Manufacturers must determine the right serial positioning architecture to ensure success. Don’t miss “Maximizing Optical Alignment” from Aerotech’s RJ Hardt (read article).

• Researchers from VIT University examine how a cavity formed in a photonic crystal can create optical logic gates, making it possible to realize an optical microprocessor. “All-Optical Logic Gates Show Promise for Optical Computing” (read article).

Finally, Senior Editor Justine Murphy previews DCS 2018 in Orlando, Fla., this month. In addition to the two technical tracks — Defense + Security, and Commercial + Scientific Sensing and Imaging — this year’s program honors a group of early career professionals as part of SPIE’s Rising Researchers program (read article).

See you in Orlando!

Published: March 2018
Mike WheelerEditorial

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