Nanotechnology Combats Laser Aircraft Strikes
Aircraft laser strikes are a growing problem in the aviation industry. A laser strike happens when an individual with a laser pointer directs the laser at the cockpit of an in-flight aircraft. In theory, this sounds very difficult to accomplish, however it is a problem serious enough to draw the attention of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). A recent report issued by the FBI cited a dramatic increase in laser strike incidents in the United States alone with strikes growing from roughly 300 in 2005 to nearly 4000 in 2013, a 1,273% increase. This constitutes an average of almost 11 per day. The effects of a successful laser strike on an aircraft are best described in the following statement taken from an article by the Tampa Bay Channel 10 News:
“It’s 10 times more intense than a flash bulb going off into your eyes if you’re in a dark room,” says Deputy David Bouffard, a pilot with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has been flying since 2001 and has been a laser target 15 times — twice recently on back-to-back nights.
One company that is using nanotechnology to address this problem is Metamaterial Technologies Inc. (MTI).
Canadian based MTI was first founded in 2010 in London as Lambda Guard after securing project funding from the Canadian government. The following year, the company established a subsidiary in Canada and filed their first patent for a laser filtering technology that uses metamaterials. From then until the present, the company has secured various grants to further the development of their technology and just several days ago, announced a partnership with one of the world’s biggest aircraft manufactures, Airbus.
MTI engineers use in-house developed software to design the precise shape, geometry, size, orientation, and arrangement of nano-composites to affect light in an unconventional manner. MTI looks to target three areas with their unique nano-composites that can manipulate light; solar, LEDs, and laser interference. For laser interference, in particular, aircraft applications, the metaAir filter consists of an array of nanoparticles that can be adhesively applied on existing surfaces such as cockpit windows or windshields. For LED applications, MTi develops products that enhance the output and efficiency of LED lighting. For solar applications, MTI claims to have a patent-pending technology thin-film technology that uses nano-composites, to dramatically increase solar cell efficiency (up to 200%).
While MTI’s three verticals sound promising, the aircraft applications seem to be making good progress. It’s not too far-fetched to think that with the attention given to this problem by the FBI, an economically and proven solution could be mandated for airline manufacturers to implement going forward. Should MTI’s recent development agreement with Airbus result in the implementation of this technology on Airbus aircraft, this could be a lucrative industry vertical for this nano startup.
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