Ministry of Defence developing new anti-laser eyewear


October 14, 2012

Prototype laser eye-protection spectacles (Image: Crown Copyright/MoD)

Prototype laser eye-protection spectacles (Image: Crown Copyright/MoD)

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Laser pointers may be great fun to tease the cat with, but for pilots they are a major hazard. The United States FAA reports over 2,000 incidents every year of planes having lasers pointed at them - some of them powerful enough to pop a balloon. To combat the danger that lasers pose to aviation, the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD) is developing new eye wear that can filter out a wide range of laser wavelengths.

Shining a laser at an airplane is more than a silly prank. It’s extremely dangerous. A pilot in a darkened cockpit making a critical low-altitude flight at night can be distracted or temporarily blinded by a flash of laser light. Though no accidents have been officially attributed to laser pointers, civilian and military aeronautical agencies believe that it is only a matter of time before a tragedy occurs.

Worse, laser dazzler weapons have been part of the military arsenal since the Falklands War in the 1980s and are regularly used in combat areas. For this reason, the MoD is particularly keen on finding an effective protection against lasers. The trouble is, current eye protection covers only one wavelength of laser light at a time and civilian and military lasers cover many wavelengths. To be effective, anti-laser eye wear needs to provide wider protection.

The new prototype spectacles were developed by Glasgow-based company Thin Film Solution. It uses a composite structure consisting of a polycarbonate layer made with a special light-absorbing dye. This is bonded to the glass lenses with a special coating that reflects certain wavelengths. The result is spectacles that can reflect or filter out different laser wavelengths.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) working with Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S;) are evaluating the specially designed eyewear. The technology is still under development and the MoD admits that it shows some weaknesses, but work continues with DSTL and the United States Air Force’s Tri-Service Research Laboratory in San Antonio, Texas, where human tests were carried out in May of this year.

Further testing is scheduled by DSTL with laser dazzle and performance testing to be carried out by U.K. research and technology company QinetiQ.

Source: Ministry of Defence

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

tell me if i'm wrong but this sounds like a pair of mirrored sunglasses that deflect lasers back


i'll bet you're wrong, but you could put on some ray-bans and shine a laser in your eyes and let us know what happens!

Matt Graham

It sounds like a tuned filter. There are only a handful of laser pointer wavelengths available, and these are quite narrow. The filter would have a series of sharply tuned drops in transmittance, corresponding precisely to these wavelengths; it transmits other colors of light normally---not unlike having an absorption spectrum with narrow absorption bands. It is quite an engineering challenge to have 99% or more absorption in these bands, without darkening the overall view too much. So no, these are not just mirrored shades.


Just to be sure....we know that theoretically just about any wavelength of the visible light spectrum could be used to produce a laser beam, but on the practical side there are technical limitations..... So, which is actually the range in nm that these glasses would have to cover up?

Charlie Channels

AFAIK the most powerful handheld lasers readily available are the 445-450nm deep blue, followed by the 532nm green and the 405nm violet. Red laser pointers cover a wider band, roughly 635nm to 670nm; don't know if it would be better to block common wavelengths individually or try to cover the whole band. Since the 532nm green is produced by frequency doubling, one should also cover the 1064nm infrared fundamental -- you can't see it, but it can still blind you, and there can be quite a bit of it mixed in with the green.

My guess is that blocking those bands would suffice, at least against casual idiots. A more determined sort could of course use a high-power gas laser in a band not covered here; but that's been true for a long time. I think the casual idiots are the big problem.


Charlie: I think it would be a major help just to get rid of the three or four most common mass-produced bands. People who are spending money on other colors are probably rare enough to be reasonably easily traceable.

Charles Bosse

can we get some now ? or whats similar we can get for civie use?

Stephen Russell

I have two lasers, both 1 watt , the blue 445nm that can set stuff on fire and a green 532nm that is just bright, only a total MORON would point either of these at any plane or anyone, I never would, wicked lazers rocks

Bill Bennett

If this is found to be a solution, then surely the cockpit windows are the areas that should have this installed d'-)

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