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Company With Essex Office Makes Eyewear To Block Laser Attacks On Pilots

Courtesy Revision
The new laser-blocking glasses developed by Revision would block 99 percent of green and near infrared lasers.

A growing threat to airline safety is the illegal use of lasers to damage pilots’ eyes. Now an international company Revision, with offices in Essex, Vermont, has developed a protective eyewear that blocks the damaging effects of lasers.  

The threat to pilot's eyes came to light again recently when a Virgin Atlantic commercial flight from London to New York was forced to turn back when one of the pilots had a laser beam shown in his eyes. Laser waves can be incredibly damaging to the eyes, and are increasingly being used against pilots as well as law enforcement officials in protest situations. 

Rapid rise in laser strikes

The Federal Aviation Administration reports that there were more than 6,600 laser strikes in 2015, which is nearly double the 3,894 incidents reported in 2014. But most drastically, a decade prior there were only 46 reported incidents.  

“It can damage the retina … actually burn the retina," says former adjutant general for the Vermont National Guard and a former pilot, Michael Dubie, who now works for Revision. "What has happened for the most part, so far that’s been reported in the over 7,000 laser strikes in the United States last year, was distraction."

“So for the pilot sake, it could be a distraction that could cause a safety issue," Dubie says.

Dubie says airlines are most concerned with high-powered lasers, which are stronger than the ubiquitous laser pointers used in meetings and to play with cats.

“The FAA has named about 20 cities that are most prevalent, but with laser strikes but it can happen anywhere,” Dubie says.

Dubie says the laser strikes commonly happen as flights come into the city to land, and come from people standing on rooftops or on balconies.

A simple fix

The rise in laser strikes prompted Revision to develop a form of laser-blocking eyewear for pilots.

“The laser block lens that's been developed by Revision blocks 99 percent of the green laser, and 99 of the near-infrared laser. Those are the two most common lasers that are being used to dazzle airplanes,” says Dubie.

He says mathematical modeling helped the company develop a mix of dyes that have been made into a polycarbonate, which is like a plastic lens. It’s similar to the ballistic lens that Revision makes for the military, but now it’s been made to block laser waves.

Revision rolled out this laser protective lens in January, says Dubie.

“We're in the process now of having them be issued to a number of pilots [who] are going to do some testing for us. The only two that have been issued so far are one to my brother and one to my brother-in-law, and they both of had very positive comments.”

A dangerous prank

Dubie mentioned a time his brother Brian Dubie, former lieutenant governor of Vermont, was flying into Boston and was warned of some laser sightings. Dubie said his brother used his laser blocking glasses as a precaution that night.

“And that's exactly what we would hope, that people would have access to … these protective lenses in the cockpit, in case there's a reported laser incident that's going on. Or maybe they just put them on when they start the approach [landing] phase.”

Dubie says he has heard of quite a number of arrests made for people who have shined lasers at aircraft.

“For the most part it's young people who have no concept of the danger that are causing ... I can't tell you how much nefarious activity it is or just is it just people who are being stupid. But there have been arrests in the United States.”

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Kathleen Masterson as VPR's New England News Collaborative reporter. She covered energy, environment, infrastructure and labor issues for VPR and the collaborative. Kathleen came to Vermont having worked as a producer for NPR’s science desk and as a beat reporter covering agriculture and the environment.
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