There's something so profoundly cool about the command "Shields up." It's reminiscent of the moment a platoon of Spartan warriors falls into a phalanx: i.e. the time for fighting is nigh, get into battle mode. But in real life, that phrase is sadly rarely uttered, and certainly never genuinely. But that may change — in the very distant future — thanks to a British defense contractor who's working on an atmospheric spy lens that doubles as a laser shield.
BAE Systems, a U.K. defense contractor that focuses on future technologies in areas like cybersecurity and intelligence (and not salt), recently released a video of their Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens (LDAL), which it says could "revolutionise the future of battlefield observation." The video, which comes via Discover Magazine, also explores the idea of using the lens as a way to deflect lasers aimed at the aircraft from ground weapons.
The system works using laser pulses from an aircraft to heat sections of atmosphere until a lensing effect is achieved. The lensing effect, caused by the refraction of light as it passes through the heated atmosphere, would allow spy aircraft to surveil enemies (whoever they may be...) "more effectively from long distances [in order] to collect vital information."
As Discover Magazine notes, the LDAL would work essentially like a lens made from glass, changing the density of the atmosphere to either focus the light coming from the ground, and hence the image, or scatter it in the case of anti-aircraft laser beams. BAE notes that in this sense, the system can behave as a "deflector shield," although it's probably fair to assume it wouldn't guard very well against photon torpedoes.
Unfortunately, it seems that BAE Systems doesn't think this technology will be battlefield-ready for another 50 years. But the kind of technology used in Star Trek takes time. At least this kind of time frame gives us plenty of room to develop a Federation on Earth, matter transporters, and androids that can think like humans but not use contractions.
What do you think about this atmospheric lensing system? Do you think investing in the LDAL would be a wise use of a government's funds? Let us know in the comments below!
Images: BAE Systems