ATHENA, Military laser mimics the technology used by 3Dlaserland

Lockheed Unveils New Laser Device Able to Disable a Truck from a Mile Away

At 3D Laser Land, we love all things laser related. Our unique laser etched sculptures are amazing marvels of modern technology designed to preserve precious moments of time in solid blocks of crystal forever.

The technology behind this process, however, is effectively the same as the sort of things you may have seen in science fiction shows and movies. A beam of high powered light blasts from an emitter and leaves a tiny hole in the crystal where it heats and fractures. The exact location, shape, and size of the fracture can be precisely calibrated by our technicians, and the whole thing happens – quite literally – at the speed of light.

This same technology is also used in other applications. Some are not as friendly as creating commemorative keepsakes, though may be just as vital. Lockheed recently unveiled a new, super high-power and accurate laser device capable of disabling a truck from over a mile away. Dubbed ATHENA, the laser was able to burn a hole through the engine block of a test vehicle in much the same way our lasers make a tiny crystal fracture.

The result was a weapon that could, with pinpoint accuracy, disable an oncoming vehicle without destroying it or killing the occupants. Many will recall the stories of how cultural and language differences led to unnecessary losses of life during the war in Iraq when soldiers felt compelled to open fire on vehicles that did not stop at checkpoints because the hand signs given by the soldiers were different than those familiar to the local population. The misunderstanding is understandable, but with a device like ATHENA, the resulting loss of life would no longer be a necessary consequence.

In testing, the laser was directed by a soldier using an Xbox controller. Lockheed indicated it wanted the interface to feel natural to the user, so using something with which most modern soldiers would already be familiar (a video game controller) seemed a natural choice. The Advanced Test High Energy Asset (ATHENA) was able to burn through the engine manifold of the target truck more than a mile away using nothing but concentrated light. Unlike a grenade, missile, or other explosive device, the vehicle was disabled rather than destroyed. And, unlike a spray of bullets, there was no collateral damage to the vehicle, its occupants (had there been any), or innocent bystanders.

Of course, the device is still fairly large, so we are still a long way from seeing the hand held laser blasters that are science fiction staples. But, the technology deployed by Lockheed, so similar to that which is used in rendering a 3D laser etching, but on a much larger scale, demonstrates how useful this technology can be in making the world a better, safer place.

Such scaled up laser technology could eventually make its way into use by artists, as well. Though nothing as powerful as ATHENA would be required, applications for larger laser devices could allow for much bigger laser etched sculptures. So, it is not unheard of that in just a few years, 3DLaserLand could be commissioned to produce an enormous crystal sculpture for display in a city park or public building. Only time will tell how the exciting technology behind our laser etched, three-dimensional photographs and other keepsake items will evolve, and what marvelous new creative possibilities this may create.