British police are set to test a new piece of crowd control equipment that can temporarily dazzle a person at a range of up to 500 metres, using a laser designed by a former Royal Marine commando.
The effect of the weapon is considered to be similar to staring at the sun, generating a blinding glare effect and forcing rioters to turn away. This seems like a great plan in theory, but you've got to wonder how effective it would be if rioters simply wore their sunglasses? Of course it'll be interesting to see how accurate it is at 500 metres too - how are they going to aim that through the eye slits of a Guy Fawkes mask?
Perhaps a more publicly acceptable use for the laser, which looks like a rifle, is the proposed deterrant for pirates currently attacking ships around Somalian waters. Considering the range of the device, it could be quite effective at preventing a boat from pulling close to bigger ships - though again, sunglasses.
"If police spot someone trying to do something untoward, painting them with this would certainly make them think twice about it," said the head of British-based Photonic Security Systems, Paul Kerr. His company is manufacturing the device, selling it to the government at a bargain basement £25,000 per unit.
The Telegraph has it that the British Home Office thinks the laser technology has legs, so it will be trialled in at least one police force. It did however say that extensive trials to make sure there was no long term damages would have to be carried out first.
This isn't the only non-lethal crowd control technology being trialled though. Another is a chemical irritant projectile that would provide a similar distance and speed to plastic bullets, without as much damage but, with a longer lasting impact.