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Canada: Laser protection windscreen film offered by Airbus subsidiary for civil aviation

Aviation parts supplier Satair Group agreed on June 21 2017 to market metaAIR anti-laser protective film for aircraft windscreens. The “metamaterial optical filter” reflects unwanted laser light while having high visibility for other desired light wavelengths. It can work even against high laser powers, and beams coming from wide angles.

Satair Group is a subsidiary of Airbus which offers parts management, service and support for all types of aircraft. Satair expects to receive a Supplemental Type Certificate from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the European Aviation Safety Agency, and Transport Canada Civil Aviation in early 2018. Other jurisdictions will follow.

The metaAIR film was invented and is manufactured by Metamaterial Technologies Inc. (MTI) of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The company previously worked with Airbus to evaluate, verify and test metaAIR for use in Airbus aircraft; initially for the A320 family. The Satair agreement will bring metaAIR to all commercial aircraft including Airbus and Boeing.

From a June 21 2017 MTI press release. For more details, click the link below for an interview with MTI’s George Palikaras, discussing the technology and this agreement.

On July 5 2017, LaserPointerSafety.com interviewed George Palikaras, founder and CEO of Metamaterial Technologies Inc. The following questions and answers are not exact quotes, but are paraphrased and re-ordered from the interview with Palikaras, who reviewed and edited the material for accuracy.

Q: What is the procedure for an existing (in-use) aircraft to be equipped with the metaAIR film? Does it require removing or replacing the windscreens?

A: Our goal is to retrofit without taking any windows out. We want to make it as easy as possible. Applying the film takes a few hours. Airlines will do it as a “B check” at the hangar.

It does not require a large amount of training. Global MROs will get training for their staff to do this. Some airlines may have their own service departments; we will collaborate with them.

Q: Is the metaAIR film formulation different for each windscreen, since each one has a different angle to the ground?

A: Cockpit geometry has a very small variation between windows. There will be different film for different windows, or a different group of windows.

Our technology is capable of blocking laser light from any direction, and any wavelength [color]. Because of this, our capability is being looked at beyond commercial aviation. We are talking about public safety, military, helicopters, helmets and eyewear. We are looking to partner with companies where we can put our film on their technologies and products, to add value.

Q: Are there other technologies or solutions that are competitive?

A: On the competitiveness, we are very unique. We announced at the Paris Air Show that our product will also feature the option of UV protection. This goes beyond laser protection, and still fulfills our goal of safety of the pilots.

There have been some clinical reports about skin cancers that have developed in pilots. BALPA [British Airline Pilots’ Association] is concerned. We thought this was a very simple addition to our product. Our high performance window films will block over 99% of the sun’s broad spectrum UV radiation (UVA, UVB and UVC), resulting in a SPF factor of well over 100

This allows aircraft to fly higher. Every 1000-1500 feet higher you go, you get 10-15% additional UV radiation in the daytime. We offer 24/7 protection to pilots.

Q: What would be a typical or ballpark cost to add metaAIR film to a cockpit?

A: I can’t comment on cost specifically. I can say there will be lots of benefits.

We are hands down the least cost on a per centimeter basis. The value we add is beyond laser protection. The value proposition is unbeatable in my opinion. I don’t see any other technology out there that can offer so much on a per centimeter basis.

And of course it depends on volumes. The cost would be higher for one aircraft than for a larger fleet. There are volume discounts which our partners at Satair can discuss. They are in-between us and the customer. We rely on them to position at the right level.

Q: Is the laser threat leveling off, or getting worse?

A: There was a study done by a Masters student, a pilot, which showed a tremendously concerning percentage of underreported laser/aircraft incidents. I was told there is almost 50% underreporting of incidents by business jet pilots, and about 30-35% by commercial pilots.

I think the pilots are fed up — their reporting is not going anywhere, and industry is not doing anything. I spoke to a pilot who had been lased eight times. She said after the second time there was too much paperwork, so she did not report the others.

The trend for laser power is not coming down. The U.S. government is trying to ban the non-red colors. But it is very difficult to regulate consumer lasers. You look at YouTube where kids are showcasing their DIY 200-watt laser guns with stuff they salvage.

Q: How can MTI and metaAIR help pilots and airlines?

A: Our model is not the typical “here is your purchase price; install and forget it.” We want to be partners with airllines.

We see ourselves as leaders in laser protection. Not just the film, but market intelligence, threat intelligence, and working with committees such as SAE G10-OL and G10-T. We believe we can be on top of the threat, providing realtime reporting to the senior safety management at airlines.

We’re not just a product provider — but a solution provider, making sure if the threat moves, the product can also move to protect. This is where we see ourselves in a role for the future. Monitor the problem, but help the commercial, public safety, military and defense side.