MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Airline pilots across the United States are facing a growing problem: lasers being pointed right into the cockpit during takeoff and landing. The lasers can disorient and even blind the pilots, jeopardizing the lives of everyone on board.
“Lasers are not just a distraction, they are extremely dangerous,” said Dr. Nicholas Perricone, founder of PerriQuest Defense Research Enterprises in Meriden.
Dr. Perricone says that he was asked to come up with a way to protect pilots from these lasers about three years ago. He turned to his company’s chief technology officer, who’s also an optical physicist. Together, they created protective glasses for pilots.
“By putting on these glasses, we can actually shade the light that appears from the laser to the eye,” said Kristin Rauschenbach, chief technology officer of PerriQuest.
The glasses block out the green, blue, and red colors that come from the lasers. While the design is simple in theory, the process was a little more complex.
“The real challenge was how do you block out red, blue, and green without changing the color discrimination,” said Dr. Perricone. “It’s critical a pilot sees color. He has to look at his instruments, he has to look at runway lights and a lot of other signals.”
The design PerriQuest came up with still allows pilots to see everything in their working environment. Dr. Perricone says the lenses also protect the eye, no matter what direction the laser comes from.
“Ensuring color balance, ensuring a very wearable and comfortable pair of eyewear that can provide protection was really key to the technology we developed, said Rauschenbach.
The glasses have been manufactured and are ready for purchase, costing $400 a pair. It’s unclear if pilots will be able to wear them, and if so, when they can start. Dr. Perricone says that decision is currently in the hands of the aviation industry, specifically the FAA and the airlines.
“With glasses like these, if pilots have them and it’s protocol to put them on as part of their checklist, then this problem will go away,” said Dr. Perricone. “No one is going to throw rocks at a window that won’t break.”