Marauding pirates could soon find themselves up against a new long-range laser weapon, designed to leave them blinded, bewildered and all at sea.
Although the laser will not necessarily repel determined aggressors, it should let them know that they have been spotted while still at a distance and that their quarry is ready for them.
“This is very much a non-lethal weapon,” says Bryan Hore of BAE Systems in Farnborough, UK, where the system was developed. By taking into account the range of the target, as well as the atmospheric conditions, the system can automatically regulate the intensity of the laser beam to ensure there is no lasting eye damage, he says.
Sight for sore eyes
While the effects are not permanent, the light should leave pirates at least wishing they had worn an eyepatch or two: from as far away as 1500 metres the effect of looking at the beam is like accidentally looking at the sun, says Hore.
“Sunglasses wouldn’t help,” he says – in fact, wearing them would only exacerbate the effect. That’s because the glasses would not affect the green laser light – chosen because that colour is particularly irritating – but the laser would appear even brighter contrasted against the darkened background.
“It’s a warning shot,” says Hore. “[The pirates] are looking for targets of opportunity,” he says.