Pilots Shielded From Lasers With Gold?

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Laser chemist and researcher Jayan Thomas of the University of Central Florida is working to create eyewear that could use gold to prevent pilots from being temporarily blinded or injured by laser light shot into the cockpit from the ground. Thomas is working in collaboration with other researchers at the Carnegie Mellon Institute in the field of nanotechnology. The team is working to develop a method of impregnating lenses with tiny nano clusters of gold that block out high-intensity laser light while allowing normal visible light to pass through. Last year, the FAA documented more than 3,400 laser incidents that involved aircraft.

Captain Steve Sevier is a US Airways pilot and safety expert for the Coalition of Air Line Pilots Associations. Sevier recently told the Orlando Sentinel that a doctor told him he had narrowly avoided serious eye injury after personally suffering a laser incident while on approach to LAX. According to the Sentinel, "Most experts say there is little chance of pilots suffering permanent eye damage from a laser pointer aimed at them from thousands of feet away on the ground." While more powerful lasers are now publicly available, AVweb is not aware of any similar incidents resulting in permanent eye damage to a pilot. However, potential consequences resulting from extremely bright light being introduced into the cockpit during critical phases of flight extend beyond eye health. Responding to concerns over cost, Thomas says his research revolves around nanotechnology and that the amount of gold required for a pair of glasses is far less than a fraction of an ounce.