Aviation Goggles Protect Against Multiple Laser Threats

By Stew Magnuson

Stew Magnuson photo

PARIS — A German company has developed goggles that can protect pilots’ eyes from six different kinds of lasers.

The Federal Aviation Administration in 2021 reported some 9,700 incidents in the United States alone when someone aimed a laser at military or commercial pilots in their cockpits. That can not only temporarily disorient a pilot, it can cause permanent damage to their eyes and end their careers, said Christoph Brunner, a former helicopter pilot and now a researcher with ESG Elektroniksystem based in Furstenfeldbruck, Germany.

“In a laboratory, you may have a specific laser that you want to protect against. You know the wavelength and the strength and power of the laser. But pilots don’t know what’s coming.” They can’t take six pairs of protective goggles with them, he noted.

The company over several years developed the visAIRion Laser Protection Glasses that have six ultra-thin layers of protective film, he said in an interview at the German Pavilion at the Paris Air Show.

The problem was finding the sweet spot between protection and the colors a pilot needs to see, he said. Red-colored lasers may damage or disorient pilots, but they may also need to see the color red on their viewscreens. Too much protection could result in them not being able to read their instruments, he noted.

The company also had to make sure the goggles were not too bulky, could fit many different types of faces, accommodate pilots wearing glasses and could operate with night-vision goggles and other helmet-mounted displays.

There are 96 different shapes to accommodate all the different needs, he added.

“If they are not comfortable and bothering the pilot after 20 minutes, then the pilot is not performing well,” he said.

The first batches of goggles are being delivered to the pilots of NH-90 military helicopters, flown by the German army and navy. Brunner said the company will continue to improve upon the goggles and add layers as new threats emerge.

The work was funded by the German Institute of Aerospace Medicine, the Bundeswehr Technical Center for Aircraft and Aeronautical Equipment and the Center for Operationability, he said. ND

Topics: Aviation

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