U.S. Air Force Develops Special Laser Eye Protection, Pilots Are Loving It

This is what it looks like when a laser beam strikes the windshield 1 photo
Photo: Air Force Research Laboratory
Forget about drones and warships – one of the main current threats to all pilots is actually the standard laser, which is much more harmful than you might think. Luckily, researchers at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) have developed an ingenious solution for that.
Ordinary hand-held lasers can become a real danger when used irresponsibly. And, even though aiming them at aircraft is a federal crime, the number of incidents continues to grow. With these types of lasers being so easily available, there are now thousands of such incidents taking place in one year. All pilots are at risk, especially during the important moments of taking off or landing, when the aircraft can become an easy target.

In order to protect pilots, laser eye protection has been developed in recent years. But it still wasn’t the best solution, because, while it effectively filters out the red or green color in common lasers, it also affects the pilots’ perception of the instrument control panel. Basically, pilots can’t properly read the information on the panel while wearing laser eye protection.

This is where the CALI (Commercial Aviation Low Intensity) technology comes in. The Personnel Protection Team at AFRL created a commercial version of the cockpit compatibility design software that had been developed for the Department of Defense (DoD). This lense system is able to filter out the dangerous laser light, without affecting the light coming from the instrument panel.

The next step was to discuss with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the positive impact this technology would have in commercial aviation, outside DoD. The bad part is that there are certain administrative/legal issues stopping FAA from acquiring CALI for pilots.

The good news is that, after law enforcement reached out and inquired about laser eye protection, during last year’s violent events, a group of aviators from the Washington State Patrol actually tried out the CALI system.

Their positive feedback about CALI’s ability to not distort control panel colors shows that it would be a great asset for cross country law enforcement pilots. AFRL continues to collaborate with FAA for a future implementation.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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