MoD developing anti-laser eyewear
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A new type of laser eye protection (LEP) is being developed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to address the increasing number of incidents of lasers being used to distract pilots.
The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has been working with Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) to evaluate and assess the specially designed spectacles. The LEPs can filter out different wavelengths of light from the spectrum, including those used in various laser weapons and laser pens, which are becoming increasingly available from the internet. Dr Craig Williamson, principal scientist at Dstl, explained the rationale behind the project work: "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." Unlike conventional LEP, which tends to filter out and block just one wavelength from the colour spectrum, the prototype spectacles, made by Glasgow-based firm Thin Film Solutions, can filter out a range of different laser wavelengths, allowing greater operational benefits and flexibility for pilots. This is achieved by a composite structure comprising a polycarbonate layer, made with a special absorbing optical dye, bonded to a thin glass lens with a special coating to reflect certain wavelengths. The prototype spectacles can filter out a range of different laser wavelengths, allowing greater operational benefits and flexibility for pilots. Pete Douglass of DE&S explained: "With funding from the equipment programme we were able to ask Dstl to evaluate this new LEP against older, more conventional filters in order to understand the development needs before they would be ready for service. "In the case of the LEP, the research highlighted some clear strengths, whilst also showing some weaknesses of the technology which we are now addressing with future research." Further testing is to be conducted later this year, including optical performance and environmental testing by Dstl, and laser dazzle and performance testing at QinetiQ.