Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Laser Technology Could Reduce Pirate Attacks

Somali pirates could face a new space-age weapon used to stop hijackings on the high seas. This would be a giant laser gun, similar to the laser pens used to disorientate pilots coming into land.

The Laser Dazzle System can disable pirates from 1,000 yards away. It won't harm the pirates, but is designed to confuse them when shone on their boat as they prepare to board tankers and cruise ships. It is part of a range of James Bond-style devices for shipowners shown by BAE Systems at a defense exhibition in London's Docklands. There is also a radar that can spot a dinghy from 15 miles and a device that can even turn off the pirates' engines remotely.

The technology is designed to counter the threat posed by Somali pirates off the coast of East Africa. Nato and the EU have deployed naval forces across the Indian Ocean to keep the shipping lanes to the Suez Canal open. But the area is so vast that shipowners need new ways to beat the pirates.

BAE Systems says the radar can detect the pirate dinghy 15 miles away, further than any other commercial radar, giving captains time to escape and alert naval ships. BAE System's chairman Dick Olver said: "We can put radar on the ships which looks over the horizon and can see a rubber boat. When it gets a bit nearer we can turn the engine off."

Normally reserved for military use, BAE Systems has adapted the devices for the commercial sector.

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