Military

BAE explores airborne laser deflector shield concept

A new type of atmosphere-altering directed energy laser and lens system mooted by researchers at BAE Systems may make laser defense shields a real possibility on future aircraft
A new type of atmosphere-altering directed energy laser and lens system mooted by researchers at BAE Systems may make laser defense shields a real possibility on future aircraft
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Known as the Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL) concept, it works by simulating naturally occurring phenomena to temporarily alter small parts of the Earth's atmosphere to create lens-like structures to magnify or alter the path of electromagnetic waves
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Known as the Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL) concept, it works by simulating naturally occurring phenomena to temporarily alter small parts of the Earth's atmosphere to create lens-like structures to magnify or alter the path of electromagnetic waves
"Engage deflector shields!" is a command often heard on the bridge of spaceships locked in battle in futuristic science fiction movies, but with little explanation of how those defensive contraptions actually work
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"Engage deflector shields!" is a command often heard on the bridge of spaceships locked in battle in futuristic science fiction movies, but with little explanation of how those defensive contraptions actually work
A new type of atmosphere-altering directed energy laser and lens system mooted by researchers at BAE Systems may make laser defense shields a real possibility on future aircraft
3/3
A new type of atmosphere-altering directed energy laser and lens system mooted by researchers at BAE Systems may make laser defense shields a real possibility on future aircraft

"Engage deflector shields!" is a command often heard on the bridge of sci-fi spaceships locked in battle, but could such defensive contraptions actually work? Scientists at BAE Systems believe a new type of directed energy laser and lens system that manipulates the atmosphere could make such devices a reality, and in as little as fifty years from now.

Knownas the Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL) concept, it works by simulatingnaturally occurring phenomena to temporarily alter small parts of the Earth'satmosphere to create lens-like structures that magnify or alter the path ofelectromagnetic waves, including radio signals and light. According to BAE, alens generated in this way could be used as a type of deflector shield toprotect aircraft, land vehicles, troops, and ships from assault by futurehigh-powered laser weapons (such as future versions of Lockheed-Martin's ADAM laser weapon system).

LDAL'sprime purpose, however, is to provide better electromagnetic communications bycreating various naturally-occurring effects, such as the reflective propertiesfound in the ionosphere and desert mirages. It does this by changing thereflective and refractive properties in targeted parts of the atmosphere usinga high-powered laser to create highly-reflective areas (like the ionosphere) orareas where light can be bent at will (in emulation of the desert mirage).

Known as the Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL) concept, it works by simulating naturally occurring phenomena to temporarily alter small parts of the Earth's atmosphere to create lens-like structures to magnify or alter the path of electromagnetic waves
Known as the Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL) concept, it works by simulating naturally occurring phenomena to temporarily alter small parts of the Earth's atmosphere to create lens-like structures to magnify or alter the path of electromagnetic waves

Inthis way, the LDAL system would allow, say, communications operating at veryhigh frequencies to be sent further than normally possible by recreating areas inthe atmosphere that gave it properties like the ionosphere. Or it could also beused to produce localized, Fresnel-lens-like refractive areas to bendelectromagnetic waves to a specific place, even when the direction was at acompletely different angle to the original waves.

The system would take advantage of what is known as the "Kerr Effect" (an optical phenomenon that occurs when intense light istransmitted through media such as glass or, in this case, gases in theatmosphere, that effectively alters the refractive index of that media) to temporarily ionize a small patch of atmosphere in a way thatallows the air to emulate mirrors, glass lenses, and structures like Fresnelzone plates that diffract light.

Other concepts, such as Northrop's system being developed for the US Air Force, have been mooted to control laser weapons, but this seems to be the first instance where a laser system has been proposed to create a shield to protect from laser weapon assaults. Though still very much a concept, it is this type of evaluation of what may be physically possible that is needed to spur further research.

"Workingwith some of the best scientific minds in the UK, we're able to incorporateemerging and disruptive technologies and evolve the landscape of potentialmilitary technologies in ways that, five or ten years ago, many would neverhave dreamed possible," said Professor Nick Colosimo, BAE Systems'Futurist and Technologist.

The video below from BAE Systems illustrates the concept.

Source: BAE Systems

BAE Systems future technologies: The Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens

5 comments
fb36
This tech could be used to make astronomical telescopes much more powerful (like for taking pictures of alien planets): http://fb36blog.blogspot.com/2017/01/virtual-lens-for-astronomy.html
Neil Farbstein
I had the same idea- it's in my patent notebook. I dont think it will take 50 years it can be demonstrated in about 5 years or less. We can adapt Claude Diels' laser bullet invention and use it to defect enemy leaser beam propagation. Anyone who want to work on the idea with me can contact Neil Farbstein at vnbcinc@gmail.com to discuss an R&D partnership. I also have a different idea for laser countermeasure countermeasures to beat enemy countermeasures. Ir's less complicated than the laser deflection project.
DaleBarclay
There is already in existence a paint that will reflect 97% of the laser light off a surface. Of course it is one of those alternate technologies that the government keeps suppressing. Some day when we have the engines to power all this extra stuff then we can apply them.
tazzajb
And this won't be used as a weapon afterall to redirect laser fire back to a remote long distance ground or air target? Nice idea but can't help thinking that somebody will try and use it for nefarious purposes. And yes I am pessimistic but 50 years? With current science trends I would imagine a lot sooner. Otherwise why write about it when those who've come up with the idea and reading this article will be semi retired before they get to see it in action? I'd prefer to read about imminent new inventions not ideas that will literally take a lifetime to prove right. A possible good use of this tech is to deflect space debris or meteorites etc.
CTwomey
Would be interesting to know how much energy it consumes to pull off this feat - could you increase reflectivity of large parts of sky to reflect a greater amount of sunlight back to space to offset greenhouse gases?