Laser-based missile defense for helicopters being developed

Sep 01, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Protecting helicopters in combat from heat-seeking missiles is the goal of new laser technology created at the University of Michigan and Omni Sciences, Inc., which is a U-M spin-off company.

"Battlefield terrain in places like Afghanistan and Iraq can be so rough that our troops have often had to rely on , and they can be easy targets for enemies with shoulder-launched missiles," said Mohammed Islam, a professor in the Department of and Computer Science.

"Our lasers give off a signal that's like throwing sand in the eyes of the missile."

Using inexpensive, off-the-shelf telecommunications fiber optics, Islam is developing sturdy and portable "mid-infrared supercontinuum lasers" that could blind heat-seeking weapons from a distance of 1.8 miles away.

The technology is being commercialized through Islam's company, Omni Sciences, which has recently received $1 million in grants from the Army and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to build a second-generation prototype. The Army grant is for $730,000 and the DARPA funding is $300,000.

The lasers are promising for helicopter protection because their robust, simple design can withstand shaky helicopter flight and their mid-infrared supercontinuum mode can effectively jam missile sensors.

Most lasers emit light of just wavelength, or color. But supercontinuum lasers give off a focused beam packed with light from a much broader range of wavelengths. Visible-wavelength supercontinuum lasers, for example, discharge tight columns that appear white because they contain light from across the .

Islam's mid-infrared supercontinuum laser does the equivalent, but it is the first to operate in longer infrared wavelengths that humans can't see, but can feel as heat. Heat-seeking missiles are designed to home in on the that the helicopter engine emits.

Because this new laser emits such a broad spectrum of , it can effectively mimic the engine's electromagnetic signature and confuse any incoming weapons, Islam said.

This new light source has many military applications, Islam says, but it is especially well suited for helicopters.

"The laser-based infrared countermeasures in use now for some aircraft have 84 pieces of moving optics. They couldn't withstand the shake, rattle and roll of helicopters," Islam said. "We've used good, old-fashioned stuff from your telephone network to build a that has no moving parts."

Omni Sciences, Inc. has licensed Islam's technology from the University of Michigan. Islam has a financial interest in this company. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Naval Air Command have also funded this research.

Explore further: Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Optics Researchers See the Light

May 25, 2004

Lehigh's Jean Toulouse and Iavor Veltchev are studying a phenomenon that few scientists in the world have been able to achieve. Two physicists at Lehigh have produced a rainbow of visible and invisible colo ...

Laser light in the deep infrared

Aug 23, 2006

Free-electron lasers (FEL) are large and expensive, but they can deliver unique light for research and applications. On August 21, 2006, at the Forschungszentrum Rossendorf (FZR) in Dresden, Germany, the second ...

Controlling light with light

Jun 12, 2004

''Interband transitions controlling intersubband transitions'' is the technical description for what has been achieved in an optics lab in Stevens Institute of Technology’s Physics Department. Robert K. Murawski, a post-doctoral ...

Recommended for you

Lifting the brakes on fuel efficiency

2 hours ago

The work of a research leader at Michigan Technological University is attracting attention from Michigan's Governor as well as automotive companies around the world. Xiaodi "Scott" Huang of Michigan Tech's ...

Large streams of data warn cars, banks and oil drillers

Apr 16, 2014

Better warning systems that alert motorists to a collision, make banks aware of the risk of losses on bad customers, and tell oil companies about potential problems with new drilling. This is the aim of AMIDST, the EU project ...

User comments : 0

More news stories