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Non-damaging laser gun could be used to control rioters

Police officers could use a new laser gun to temporarily blind rioters as a way of controlling disturbances without injuring people.

UK-based firm Photonic Security Systems is speaking to the Home Office about using the ’dazzler’ technology, which is similar to that already used by the US Army and is also being considered as a way to combat pirates.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said it had a commitment to providing the police with ‘less-lethal options’ and that dazzler technology had ‘merit’ but would require further assessment that may be followed by limited pilot trials.

The riots in England earlier this year, as well the 2010 protests against university fees, have reignited the debate over how much force the police should use to maintain order, with water cannons and rubber bullets coming under consideration.

The rifle-like SMU 100 weapon costs £25,000 and can temporarily impair people’s vision by producing a wall of light up to 4m wide from as far away as 500m, using an infrared scope to identify targets.

‘It’s non-lethal, non-damaging but effective in terms of intimidating people,’ Photonic’s managing director, Paul Kerr, told The Engineer. ‘If you can’t see something then you can’t attack it. This is like putting something behind the sun.’

Kerr didn’t want to reveal the technology behind the weapon but said that one of the challenges of its two-year development was getting the casing right to protect it from harsh environments, for example, to enable its use at sea against pirates — a primary market.

The government spokesperson said that the Home Office’s Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) would have to assess such a weapon’s medical and training implications, as well as how well it met requirements.

A strategic board review and approval by the home secretary would also be needed before the laser could be deployed by the police.

Kerr said that the technology was flexible enough to meet the specific needs of different customers. ‘A lot of it can be adjusted by software. It’s a case of finding out what [the Home Office] would want.’

Readers' comments (11)

  • Some time ago the American police tested a device called a "Photic Driver". This used a combination of light flashing at a certain frequency and a sound / noise at around 400 hz. The idea was to cause disoriantation among the rioters / public. What it caused was, in certain members of the public who were photo sensitive, was the equivalent of an epileptic fit. I hope that the Home Office and the Police are not equiped with any more "crowd control equipment" until it has been thoroughly tested and any deployment of such equipment is recorded and the results are made public. The authorities have much too much power now. I for one don't want to be on the receiving end of any "non lethal" equipment deployed by our government and police authorities.

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  • Why are they considering non-lethal solutions for pirates? Do you think the pirates will carry non-lethal weapons?

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  • The idea is to disable them before they get within range to use their weapons.

  • Instead of equipping police to use various ways of crowd suppression, doing more to build a fair and equitable society will pay greater dividends in terms of prosperity for all.
    Happy contented people build stable societies and don't feel any urges to riot. (Or blow themselves up for that matter).

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  • Some sort of mirror is in order, I would think...

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  • So mirrored sunglass will be another addition to the rioters aresenal of weapons along with the bricks and the petrol bombs LOL

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  • Its interesting to read some of the comments, one person doesn’t fancy having an induced epileptic fit, another wants a fair and equitable society, and another thinks rioters would just buy sunglasses! The truth is the police/government cannot do right for trying, an extreme view to rioting would be to round them up and shoot them, someone else would want to create some kind of counselling session because the individuals involved are obviously upset about something in life! If I was unfortunate enough to find myself caught up in a riot I would try to get out of there pronto, (crowd dispersement) then I wouldn’t get “fitted or counselled!) this new idea is a non-life threatening way to deal with riotous crowds, we should only be thankful that our police are trying this method as opposed to some of the middle eastern countries shown on TV!

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  • Incidentaly, most rioters in the middle east wear sunglasses!

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  • @Paul. I rather object to being pigeon holed as a do-gooder liberal. Your own comment contains much sarcasm but little of point. Whilst I suspect that most readers of The Engineer would find little cause for rioting, the same cannot be said of many of the people who took part in the recent London riots. That's not to condone or support those who took part, merely to point out that to solve the underlying problem negates the need to find robust solutions to the consequences of an unfair distribution of wealth and opportunity. Remember that the same response will be doled out to any group who gather to protest, not just some idiots who want a free iPhone!

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  • Martin where are these happy contented
    people in their stable societies? I must have missed them. If God has trouble getting everybody happy and contented
    What makes you think the government can
    manage this human condition?

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  • Martin Summers makes some good points, and yes, we must find out why people are not engaged with society, BUT there has never been any serious attempt in any country of a fair distribution of wealth and opportunity, and those of us who do work, and pay our taxes deserve some respite from the won'ts and the public sector shirkers who take but don't give back.

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