Britain's BAE Systems says it has successfully demonstrated a prototype device that will serve as an effective non-lethal deterrent against pirate attacks on shipping. It is a laser beam capable of providing a visual warning to pirates at distances greater than 2 km. At lesser ranges it will disorientate attackers sufficiently to prevent them from targeting weapons effectively.
Roy Evans,a BAE Systems laser photonic systems specialist, said: "The effect is similar to when a fighter pilot attacks from the direction of the sun. The glare from the laser is intense enough to make it impossible to aim weapons like AK47s or RPGs, but doesn't have a permanent effect."
BAE Systems developed the system after conducting a study of pirates' behavior and a company-wide capability survey. This led to the development of the concept of using a non-lethal laser, that would have only temporary effects, to distract and deter potential attackers from a distance.
Using the capabilities of the Optics and Laser Technology Department of its Advanced Technology Center, BAE System's researchers conducted a number of experiments to assess the feasibility of laser distraction as a non-lethal weapon. The research team has now successfully demonstrated a suitable laser at the Pershore Trials Range in Worcester, England, over a variety of distances in a variety of conditions.
The laser was trialed at night and day in varying weather conditions. Cameras were placed at the target location to demonstrate the level of beam intensity and divergence produced by the test runs. Beam oscillation techniques were also demonstrated.
The researchers have developed a Neodymium Yttrium Aluminium Garnet (Nd:YAG) laser which is an effective deterrent at relatively low power levels. By utilizing targeting systems and changing beam patterns, the distraction effect can be made more pronounced and be used against multiple targets.
"We successfully showed that the laser works not just during the night, but also in full daylight," said Mr. Evans, noting that "there are many more requirements to meet before placing a non-lethal laser weapon on commercial ships."
When fitted on commercial ships the laser distraction system could utilize its own targeting capability or integrate with existing ship radar and sensor systems to control the direction and power of the beam. It could therefore work semi-autonomously. It would have security features to ensure it could not be used by pirates if they boarded the ship.
Bryan Hore, BAE Systems business development manager and the leader for the anti-piracy program, said: "Laser distraction is part of a wider program of anti-piracy technologies being developed by BAE Systems, including radar systems, which utilizes expertise and knowledge from the military domain. The aim of the laser distraction project is now to develop a non-lethal deterrent to pirates, which has no lasting effects, which can work in a maritime environment, be operated by the crew at no risk, and be cost effective.
Jan 11, 2011