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New Coating May Dim Laser Attacks

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

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ROMEOVILLE, IL—The distraction of pilots by thousands of laser attacks each year could be thwarted by a new aircraft coating being developed at Lewis University, researchers say.

The coatings research follows a 2013 study by the university into the safety toll taken by laser attacks. About 3,750 such incidents each year can distract pilots during critical phases of flight, the team said in a research announcement.

Now, the university's new photoresponsive nanocomposite coatings for aircraft windscreens may offer a practical, economical way to deflect that danger, said the team at the Illinois university, which specializes in aviation education.

Photo, video: Lewis University

Lewis University students (from left) Hubert Bilan, Zachary Widel and Matt Moy work on developing a protective coating for aircraft windshields.

The research ("Measuring the Effectiveness of Photoresponsive Nanocomposite Coatings on Aircraft Windshields to Mitigate Laser Intensity") was recently published in the Journal of Aviation Technology and Engineering.

Bright Lights, Big Danger

In 2004, pilots reported 46 "laser illumination events" to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Lewis team reports; by 2011, the number was about 3,600. Since then, the annual total has ranged from 3,500 to 4,000.

Previous studies have shown the risk for pilot distraction from bright laser lights shining into the cockpit, the team notes.

Lewis University student Brandon Schabell discusses his research on preventing laser attacks on aircraft.

The current research involved efforts by the university's aviation, physics and chemistry departments.

The Chemistry Department developed the photoselective coatings, and the Physics Department developed the apparatus to test them while allowing safe viewings of laser illumination. The coatings were also bench-tested in a laboratory before field tests at 200- and 500-foot distances.

In the field tests, compositional variations of the photoresponsive nanocomposite coatings were applied to an aircraft windscreen using a modified liquid dispersion/heating curing process. The attenuating effects of the films on laser light intensity were evaluated using an optical power meter.

The data showed a reduction of 36 percent to 88 percent in laser intensity in screens treated with the engineered photoresponsive nanocomposite films.

The results support the view "that the addition of transparent laser attenuating films applied to aircraft windscreens may improve flight safety, and reduce the risk from distraction or disruption of flight crewmembers’ vision," the team wrote.


Tagged categories: Aviation; Coating Materials; North America; Protective Coatings; Research; Specialty Coatings

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