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BAE Systems Invents Nonlethal Laser to Combat Piracy

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Piracy is on the rise, according to reports from the ICC’s International Maritime Bureau, with 430 attacks reported in 2010.

As pirates become increasingly dangerous, commercial shipping agents such as BAE Systems need to look for an effective deterrent against pirate attacks.

To combat the growing piracy threat, BAE Systems conducted a study of pirates’ behavior and a companywide capability survey, which led to the idea of using a nonlethal laser to deter potential attackers from a distance.

According to the company, leveraging the capability of its Optics and Laser Technology Department within its Advanced Technology Centre, BAE System’s researchers conducted a number of experiments to assess the feasibility of laser distraction as a nonlethal weapon. The research team has now successfully demonstrated a suitable laser at the Pershore Trials Range in Worcester over a variety of distances in a variety of conditions.

The laser beam would provide a visual warning to pirates at distances greater than 2 kilometers, and sufficiently disorientate assailants at shorter distances.

“The effect is similar to when a fighter pilot attacks from the direction of the sun,” said Roy Evans, BAE Systems capability technology lead for laser photonic systems. “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.”

Evans also said BAE Systems showed the laser works not just during the night, but also in full daylight, but there are more requirements to meet before placing a nonlethal laser weapon on commercial ships.

“Laser distraction is part of a wider program of antipiracy technologies being developed by BAE Systems, including radar systems, which utilizes expertise and knowledge from the military domain,” said Bryan Hore, BAE Systems business development manager and the lead for the anti-piracy program. “The aim of the laser distraction project is now to develop a nonlethal 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.”

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