Airbus developing laser-proof airplane cockpits

By David Flynn, June 13 2014
Airbus developing laser-proof airplane cockpits

Airbus is developing technology to protect pilots against high-powered handheld lasers aimed at the cockpit during the critical takeoff and landing stages.

The company hopes to have a special laser-proof film available to be fitted onto the cockpit windows by the end of next year.

Lasers deliberately pointed into the cockpit of a plane can temporarily blind a pilot or permanently damage their eyes, and are an increasing problem in many countries.

Airbus is working with a Canadian company to develop the thin film, which uses an "optical metamaterial nano-composite" to selectively block the wavelengths of laser light from passing through the cockpit windows.

"What we're looking at is a film which could be easily applied on the windscreen" explains Yann Barbaux, Airbus' Chief Innovation Officer, "and while the film is transparent is blocks the laser. It can be applied on new aircraft and existing aircraft."

"It sounds simple, when you explain it that way, but there is a lot of physics behind it" Barbaux told Australian Business Traveller, adding that he expects the laser-proof film to be available "by the second half of next year if we are successful."

Barbaux says he expects that Airbus "would go through partners" in rolling out the film to the industry, and would also make it available to its competitor Boeing.

"Something which is relevant to safety is something which we cannot keep to ourselves. We have responsibilities as a leader. If it's a solution that works, it has to work for all aircraft because it's not just for us, it's for the industry."

US crackdown on laser vandals

The US Federal Aviation Authority reported 3,960 'aircraft 'laser strikes' in 2013 and the FBI is now offering rewards of up to US$10,000 for information leading to the arrest of people who intentionally point a laser at aircraft.

In 2012, shining a laser at an aircraft became a US federal crime with a punishment of a maximum of five years in prison. The same act can also be considered interfering with an aircraft, which carries up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

The FAA also can impose up to $11,000 in civil penalties for each violation.

Earlier this year a 26 year old Californian man received a 14 year prison sentence for repeatedly targetting the cockpit of a police helicopter with a high-powered green laser pointer.

Australian Business Traveller is attending the 2014 Airbus Innovation Days media conference in Toulouse, France as a guest of Airbus.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Sep 2013

Total posts 467

It,s about time.


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 672

Brilliant idea, sounds very logical like one of those "why didn't they think of this before?" things, of course the technology itself is only very new and sounds like it's yet to be finalised but let's hope for everybody's sake this gets off the ground.

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