Friday, December 08, 2006

Homeland Security eyes high-power lasers for protecting commercial flights

How It Works

1. Find Target
An infrared camera on the laser continuously scans a 6- to 10-mile radius around the airport for suspicious heat emissions. When it finds a plume, it relays the coordinates to an identification-and-tracking system, which is also on the unit.

2. Confirm Threat
The onboard computer checks the object’s heat signature against a data bank, confirms that it’s a missile (and not a bird or a plane), and activates the laser.

3. Prepare to Fire
Reactive gases in the laser’s fuel tanks are funneled through a vacuum tube to heat up atoms and send them cascading through resonator mirrors. This produces a tightly focused, high-energy beam.

4. Destroy Missile
The laser-beam cannon emits a burst of intense light aimed at the missile’s most vulnerable spot, usually the explosives compartment. Simultaneously, it relays a wireless signal to a computer located in the airport control tower to give authorities a fix on the origin of the rocket.

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