Home » Retina-Safe(TM) Dazzler
Stellar Photonics has also developed a line of Retina-Safe(TM) Dazzlers (RSD) or Optical Distractors for both military and civilian law enforcement use. These Retina-Safe(TM) Dazzlers can be used to temporarily overwhelm an adversary’s field of view, provide non-verbal warning and an opportunity to clarify intent.
Dazzlers work by temporarily blinding an individual by saturating the retina of the eye with visible light. This results in a dark spot in the visual field similar to that experience when you look directly at the sun. In the case of the laser dazzler, this dark spot is an image of the point source that is the laser. It is relatively small and the light source amplified at the point, thus causing irreversible damage. Stellar’s Retina-Safe(TM) Dazzler uses much higher total amounts of light spread over a larger area, therefore, less intense than the laser system. This results in a much larger area of the retina being effected, producing a more complete temporary blind spot. STELLAR is currently working with a former sheriff and SWAT team leader and other end users to refine its dazzler designs to make sure that it meets their operational requirements.
Existing dazzlers are laser based and despite many industry claims, are not truly eye-safe and run counter to the guidelines set forth by the FDA under the CDRH regulations. For military applications there are specific waivers that allow the use of such dazzlers in combat. The concept of using a laser to dazzle and temporarily or permanently blind an opponent is well established, and several military applications are now commonplace. There are several manufactures of such devices. When the concept of using such dazzlers is applied outside of combat situations, the viability of the device, from a regulatory standpoint, is highly doubtful.
A body of regulation has developed concerning the use of lasers in both public and industrial environments. These regulations are controlled by the FDA via the Center For Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH)[i] [ii] standards. It is important to note that these regulations were originally developed as safety regulations for inadvertent exposure to the beam where the subject can be assumed to try to avoid actively exposure. In our case we have to assume that the opponent will try to overcome the exposure and try to fix his gaze on the source. Therefore the category of interest for civil use of dazzler technology is the Class 1 laser category.
While actual eye damage limits are highly dependent on the exact geometry and exposure time, legal liability limits will be governed by the FDA. Any tort lawyer familiar with the topic will resort to the Class 1 category for setting the liability limit for a client purposely exposed to laser light by the authorities. These limits are very low, any laser truly able to dazzle will exceed these limits by a large value exposing the user to a high level of liability. The STELLAR systems do not suffer from this regulatory classification problem and the user will not be in the position of having purposely violated the CDRH rules.