After riots this past summer left parts of the UK in shambles, it's no wonder that police in that part of the world are looking for new methods of crowd control. Since the usual methods for subduing rioters were seen as largely ineffective against their sheer numbers at the time, police have been looking into new tactics as well as non-lethal weapons to replace the standard tasers and tear gas. To that end, the next time someone tries to loot a store in England, they may find themselves literally struck blind thanks to a new riot laser currently being tested called the "SMU 100."
The SMU 100 was originally developed to combat pirates in Somalia (much like a similar device from BAE Systems), but in the wake of the UK riots this summer the focus for the project has shifted towards controlling rioters. The shoulder-mounted laser emits a flash of light about three meters (9.8 ft) across, which can effectively blind a target up to 500 meters (1,640 ft) away; much farther than tear gas and tasers.
Being blinded by the laser has been compared to looking directly at the sun until being forced to turn away. The design for it comes from former Royal Marine Commando Paul Kerr, who is now the managing director of Photonic Security Systems. Kerr sums up the basic concept behind the laser quite well: "The system would give police an intimidating visual deterrent. If you can't look at something you can't attack it."
Currently a police force is set to run field trials with the SMU 100, though Photonic Security Systems will not disclose the exact location. The trials will determine not only their usefulness in the field but whether the blinding process carries any unknown side effects. If the laser passes the various health checks and is accepted by the Home Secretary, it could become standard equipment for any police force willing to pay the GBP25,000 (approx. US$39,000) price tag.
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