Surveillance is one of the most important parts of warfare. Why risk losing men and material in a battle when you can spy on the enemy from a distance? Scientists at BAE Systems may have the answer and it will be on the battlefield within the next 50 years.
The system is called the Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL) concept and it will enable spy planes to see much greater distances. But how will this work? Well, LDAL makes use of the reflective proprieties of the ionosphere in a similar way that radio stations can be heard by people tuning in 1000’s of kilometres away from the source. A high-powered laser will be fired from a plane, which will change part of the Earth’s atmosphere into a lens. This lens will allow electromagnetic waves such as light and radio signals to be magnified and a greater distance to be seen. LDAL also utilises the physics that cause mirages in deserts. Light from the blue sky is refracted by hotter air closer to the surface of the Earth creating a vision in the distance. By directing a high-pulsed power laser, LDAL creates what is known as the Kerr Effect as a small part of the ionosphere is ionised. This changes the optical properties of the atmosphere for a commander’s benefit. The technology is also being planned to be used in laser weapons and as a Star Wars-esque deflector shield. This all may seem quite ambitious or even far-fetched, but experts are confident that LDAL could change battlefield strategy significantly.
To see how it will all work, take a look at this great video:
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