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WAR: D.C.'s Laser-Based Pilot Warning System

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posted on May, 18 2005 @ 10:59 AM
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Apparently, the cost of removing innocent infringers on restricted airspace has taken a more technological turn. The District of Columbia now has a laser warning system to warn-off pilots that accidentally stray into the area. According to Norad, it costs $30k-$50k to warn off such intruders, so the system will pay for itself by minimizing a few friendly incursions...
 



www.cnn.com
WASHINGTON (AP) -- From 1,500 feet above southeast Washington on a hazy Tuesday, you didn't have to look hard to notice a bright red-and-green flashing light among the clutter of treetops, rooftops, the Washington Monument and the Capitol.


Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


Although Norad insists the $500k system is safe, going as far as to characterize these as "good" lasers, others are not so sure.

The researchers who developed the technology says the laser beam is narrowly targeted so that other aircraft will not be able to see it, i.e. if you see it, it's aimed at you. Curtis Davis, a researcher at MIT's Lincolm Lab, said the beam is stronger than a laser pointer, but more diffuse. "We've taken the size of the beam and made it 15,000 times bigger," Davis said. "It's a foot in diameter." Given that MIT's Lincoln Lab is primarily focused on laser optic systems, it's not inconceivable that there may be additional focusing means incorporated into the laser system that would narrow the beam. Since all of the laser energy would be retained in the narrower beam, it's unclear that this system couldn't be used as a weapon or at least pose a danger if focusing/diffusional errors occur.

Related News Links:
www.washingtonpost.com

[edit on 18-5-2005 by Centrist]




posted on May, 18 2005 @ 11:07 AM
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Given that MIT's Lincoln Lab is primarily focused on laser optic systems, it's not inconceivable that there may be additional focusing means incorporated into the laser system that would narrow the beam.


Does this mean that its technologically possible to install some sort of a "switch" to where you can switch the beam from a diffused one to a narrow one that can be used as a weapon? If so you wont have to worry about 'accidental' no fly zone infractions.
.toast



posted on May, 18 2005 @ 11:11 AM
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It sounds like there taking a tip from the pranksters that are pointing lasers at the cockpits of incoming airliners at airports. I hope it's not powerfull enough to blind the pilot.



posted on May, 18 2005 @ 11:19 AM
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My understanding is that "as designed" the system will not be powerful enough to do anything more than get the pilot's attention. What I'm curious about is, as the other poster alluded to, whether there will be means by which the beam can be focused and used in a defensive manner.



posted on May, 19 2005 @ 10:21 PM
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My understanding is that "as designed" the system will not be powerful enough to do anything more than get the pilot's attention. What I'm curious about is, as the other poster alluded to, whether there will be means by which the beam can be focused and used in a defensive manner.


While the laser technology powerful enough to blind a pilot in a plane certainly exists (a frequency doubled Nd:YAG is green and are commercially available at 100W average power levels), the guys who designed this system are clearly not idiots. It is exceedingly unlikely that they are using lasers that can be modified to dial up the power from harmless to dangerous.

The biggest problem of this system is making sure that every pilot is aware of what the laser warning lights mean.



posted on May, 20 2005 @ 01:08 PM
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While I certainly agree that the designers of the system could (and most certianly have) designed it to exclude lasers that would cause eye damage to pilots, my thought is that there are people involved in the war on terror who might not just be as diabolical as we think...

What if (of course, this is merely a thought) someone decided to start looking at all of the intelligence we had collected from captured affiliates of terrorist groups. One thing they probably learn is that the U.S. (and large governments/militaries) are supposed to respond to various situations in predictable ways. Realizing that, suppose someone decided to start designing counter-terrorism systems with the same level of deviousness that alleged terrorists were hoping to use against us. In this case, what if we took a page from the terrorist handbook and built a system where we could shine a blinding laser light into the eyes of a terrorist that was bearing a plane down on a building? It would make it hard to make that last-minute correction to actually hit the target if you had just gone blind.

Sure, it wouldn't be the first-line of defense, but doesn't it seem plausible that this seemingly innocuous warning system may have a dual purpose and also service as a last-line of defense?



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