As anyone who’s watched Peter Pan will tell you, pirates aren’t that nice a group of people, they aren’t usually like the harmless Pirate Bay guys or lovable rogues such as Captain Jack Sparrow. Unfortunately as you probably know the real pirates are going through a bit of resurgence with the snappily named International Chamber Of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau reporting 430 pirate attacks worldwide, up 24 from the previous year.
The main problem is that they prey upon ships that aren’t prepared for any kind of confrontation: whilst the pirates are armed with guns and other assorted modern weaponry, shipping agents can’t afford to arm their vessels – and that’s where BAE Systems have come in with their latest development to help tackle this growing problem in the form of a massive laser.
Two things may strike you about this plan the first being that this does sound a little simplistic (…” lasers are cool, let’s use them”) with the second querying what the lasers are actually going to do, but the idea is actually quite clever.
This laser has been developed to be low cost and able to travel easily upon a ship to travel through the sea air for two purposes. At distances between 1.2km and 1.5km (that’s 0.75 miles and 0.85 miles for the more imperial of you) it acts as a warning symbol indicating to pirates that they have been spotted which seeing as today’s pirates are more opportunistic could well put them off attacking that particular ship.
However it is at closer ranges that the laser becomes a little more interesting as at distances closer than 1.2km the laser will ‘dazzle’ the pirates making it more difficult to use their own weapons; the technology is already being used in Iraq by the US military to temporarily blind targets, but the challenge for BAE has been transferring this to a system that can be used effectively (but of course safely) over long distances.
It might surprise you to know that weapons designed to permanently blind targets are banned by a United Nations protocol so you can expect stringent testing before these start to become a reality, but the odds are that they will eventually be adorning ships in active-pirate areas (such as those around Somalia which have become renowned for illicit sea activities). That does seem a little odd as weapons designed to kill are allowed, but hopefully we will never have to have fully armed ships just to transport ourselves and goods around.
Brain Hore from BAE explained another neat little trick that will help the system: “Any commercial system would see the laser cannon integrated with BAE’s existing targeting systems. This would allow it to adjust the intensity of the laser beam to account for the target’s distance and atmospheric conditions”.
However, one thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that surely it is only a matter of time before we see this technology make the jump into the black market, and could we be seeing pirates armed with lasers as well as guns in an attempt to counter-act what the ships are doing to defend themselves? One would hope not, but if you’re on a ferry and you see a small boat with a green laser I’d be a little nervous!
Via – BBC