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Detection System Protects FOBs from Cameras, Rifle Scopes

by Kris Osborn on May 15, 2013

ScannerTAMPA — A San Diego-based small business called Torrey Pines Logic displayed a small, mobile optical detection system at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference here. It emits a laser pulse to detect nearby surveillance gear such as cameras, rifle scopes or various observation lenses.

The Beam 100 Optical Detection System is engineered to detect optical targets out to just beyond a kilometer, providing a protective envelope for forces on a Forward Operating Base or small units on the move in a fast-moving tactical situation, said Russell Purcell, Lead Engineer, Torrey Pines Logic.

In essence, the technology is designed to let forces know if they are being “surveilled’ or watched by a nearby adversary or potential adversary, Purcell explained.

“So the laser pulse comes in and reflects off of each piece of glass inside a lens. Return pulses create a signature. The receiver captures and analyzes that signature. You don’t get glass, bottles and non-optical devices. If you get a detection is going to be an object of interest to you,” he said.

The Beam 100, which continuously scans a 360-degree field of view, is connected to a computer which uses algorithms, software and digital mapping technology to geo-locate the origin of the signature of the optical device in the area of interest, Purcell added.

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Stan May 15, 2013 at 1:53 am

One thing not being explicitly mentioned in that promo is that the beam could probably be easily tuned to be an offensive tool via blinding the people on the other side of the scopes.


Stan May 15, 2013 at 1:53 am

If it needs to be tuned at all.


JoeSovereign May 15, 2013 at 10:42 am

Blinding weapons are illegal.


Thomas L. Nielsen May 15, 2013 at 11:31 am

"Illegal" in the sense that an international convention (Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons issued by the United Nations in 1995) is in place to prohibit the use of "laser weapons specifically designed, as their sole combat function or as one of their combat functions, to cause permanent blindness to unenhanced vision".

So 1) blinding laser weapons are "illegal" only if you abide by the UN convention and 2) the only blinding laser that are "illegal" are the ones that will cause permanent blindness to unenhanced vision. A device that will blind (even permanently) someone looking through a scope or through night-vision goggles is not covered by the convention.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen


majr0d May 15, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Or you could use the .50 cal approach. (the .50 is considered an AA weapon and shouldn't be used against personnel.) Not trying to kill the person with .50 cal fire just trying to destroy the equipment. ;)

That laser is just trying to destroy the optic, not the eye behind it.


blight_ May 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Is that comment about the 50-cal even true? You see it so often but I wonder if it's accepted as oral-retelling-truth rather than something promulgated by the Army.

A. Nonymous May 21, 2013 at 11:14 am

So, all of our .50 caliber sniper rifles violate the Geneva convention? I'm not buying it. There's no need to blind anyone with the laser. Just have the system report the range and heading of the optics it detected and, after he has visually verified the target, let a sniper do the rest.

Menzie May 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm

So you can not ever take a picture of a group of soldiers say playing football outside the base walls, or just plain take a picture or you will be blinded Mr Tom? You people from Luxembourg must have a pretty strict society.


Thomas L. Nielsen May 16, 2013 at 2:02 am

I simply outlined the letter of the law as far as the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons is concerned. How in the Wide, Wide World of Sports did you get from that, to being blinded if you take a picture of a Luxembourg army facility?

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen

Dienekes April 28, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I believe using lasers to blind combatants is a LOAC violation http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/misc/

"Article 1

It is prohibited to employ laser beams of a nature to cause permanent blindness [serious damage ] against the eyesight of persons as a method of warfare.

Article 2

It is prohibited to [produce and ] employ laser weapons primarily designed to blind [permanently ] .

Article 3

Blinding as an incidental or collateral effect of the legitimate employment of laser beams on the battlefield is not covered by this prohibition. "


Dr. Horrible May 15, 2013 at 7:48 am

Wait wait – this computer uses software AND algorithms? Consider me impressed.


blight_ May 15, 2013 at 8:18 am

"So the laser pulse comes in and reflects off of each piece of glass inside a lens. Return pulses create a signature. The receiver captures and analyzes that signature. You don’t get glass, bottles and non-optical devices."

I suppose the device is tested in laser returns of high quality optics-grade glass vs beer bottles and such. The only concern is that as an active device it's limited by scan rate over a given area, and resolution of the scanned area. I assume it uses a very fine stepping motor to step very small increments, since if one is too far away, a single rotational movement might "skip" over a target. Similarly, the laser's power must also be powerful enough to assess everything that is covered in a single rotational step.

Considering the farthest sniper rifle shot is something like 2+ km, that's as far as you need to go to stop people from sniping you. But when it comes to surveillance with optics…


majr0d May 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm

It takes some real skill (and unique weapons) to snipe from 2kms out.


JCitizen May 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm

You don't need a stepping motor to scan a pretty wide beam with a laser – it can be done electronically. Besides the "Google" car seems to do it rather well at lower resolution; last I checked they no longer needed the old spinning head on that one either.


blight_ May 16, 2013 at 2:30 pm


Uses a lidar system

Where the website notes:

"With its full 360° horizontal field of view by 26.8° vertical field of view, 5-15 Hz user-selectable frame rate and over 1.3 million points per second output rate, the HDL-64E provides all the distancing sensing data you'll ever need.

The HDL-64E's patented one-piece design uses 64 fixed-mounted lasers to measure the surrounding environment, each mechanically mounted to a specific vertical angle, with the entire unit spinning. "

The unit has multiple sensors mounted around the machine, but the unit also rotates. We're not done yet with rotating systems yet, it seems.


JCitizen May 16, 2013 at 4:10 pm

That sounds like the old Google navigational laser system; must not be done yet – that's right.


Slamr May 15, 2013 at 8:26 am

I proposed this for helo use against sub periscopes when I was a NAVAIR civillian but no one was interested. Diode pumped lasers could be scaled in intensity from dazzle to fry.


blight_ May 15, 2013 at 10:35 am

I'm curious how a detection system like this works at sea. High salt, possibly very mean backscatter and reflection from ocean waves and the like…


Phil May 15, 2013 at 12:03 pm

The retro reflective return from quality optical components is magnitudes greater than any type of scatter you'd see in common environments. The return sticks out like a sore thumb, and from a signal processing perspective would be higher signal to noise ratios than are seen in radar systems from decades ago. Not to mention that signal characterisitcs can be grouped to differetiate between commercial grade things like a sony handheld video camera and a sniper scope, or set of optics paired to a laser range finder or designator.


T-Man May 16, 2013 at 6:21 am

How can you say that the return from a quality optical device is greater than back scatter from waves. Water s liquid, ever changing forms and I'm sure at moments its symmetrical shape although brief creates a reflective form that magnifies significantly. The only way around that is a algorithm similar to that of ARPA devices for ground radar traffic control at airports, filtering out random occurrences. Don't know this system but say the sniper is aware of this technology and uses the same techniques, look briefly than move., or uses optical filters to alter or reflect away "the signature".


blight_ May 16, 2013 at 8:53 am

It might be easier to detect the RCS of a periscope against water? I'll have to look into it.

Phil May 16, 2013 at 9:06 pm

I can say it from experience with similar tech and years of experience in optics and optical cross section analysis

pedestrian May 16, 2013 at 4:02 am
Rpb May 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm
dee May 15, 2013 at 1:19 pm

For crying out loud why can't these things be kept secret? Create some black ops convention with NDAs at the door. This tactical advantage is one that should not be touted to foes on the battlefield b/c now these guys know to start developing countermeasures……………


KenZ May 16, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Yeah, I hear ya in theory, but not in practice for this one. Retro-reflection for optics detection is nowhere near new, and has been around for a long, long time.

But in general, you do have a valid point.


blight_ May 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Considering that Torrey Pines Logic has a website on the Beam 100 and is tooting their own horn on their own website…why bother with secrecy on the government end?


Dee May 16, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Why in the world did I get 5 thumbs down votes for saying this is something we should keep secret and not let the enemy know about?

Folks loose lips sink ships and telling the enemy we have tech to find them when they're using optics to spy or snipe at troops on a FOB is a way to sink our ships. In other words a foe now knows to begin doing things differently when observing bases or sniping troops as a result, service members are at risk b/c of a reduction in their force protection.


blight_ May 16, 2013 at 4:21 pm

If they're attacking our bases they're doing it wrong. Unless they're undermanned posts on the border like Wanat was. That said, knowing if they have a government contract, knowing which units are deploying with one and which bases will have them is probably details that should be kept under wraps.


boboyo May 21, 2013 at 1:13 am

Because you are not a Special Secret Squirrel Snowflake with rare insight that nobody else has. The cat has been out of the bag about this tech for quite a while, and we're not the only ones working on it. Because maybe- just maybe- people who actually work with this stuff and know a thing or two are perhaps qualified to decide what is off-limits to say?


Dfens May 15, 2013 at 2:27 pm

That's not great range. There are some big bore sniper rifles accurate to well over 1000 meters.


JCitizen May 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm

The 50/416 comes to mind.


Dfens May 20, 2013 at 8:41 am

Yes, those two come immediately to mind. The .50 has reported kills at close to 3,000 meters.


oblatt1 May 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Also finds every window pane and coke bottle within, 1000m so that troops can supplement their income by collecting them.


USS ENTERPRISE May 15, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I remember a time when soldiers just shot up the enemy, not, you know, shoot up the equipment. Seems like a waste, if you ask me. Why develop a laser to destroy specific parts? Destroy the whole darn thing.


play nice May 15, 2013 at 9:52 pm

"… providing a protective envelope for forces on a Forward Operating Base or small units on the move in a fast-moving tactical situation,…"

Woe is he who assigned to carry it.
interesting bench project but not field ready.


jamesb May 15, 2013 at 9:57 pm

How fast is the Secret Service gonna mount one of these in a truck in EVERY Presidential motordade and around the White House?….


USS ENTERPRISE May 15, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I would imagine they developed one of their own, and its already in use, 'cause this is the government's black area.


Joe May 15, 2013 at 11:58 pm

This is nothing new, there have been systems like this on the market for a while now:

Mirage 1200


This is old news already.


blight_ May 16, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Ironically, the Mirage 1200 is a Torrey Pines product, just like the Beam 100. From their page (http://www.tplogic.com/products/mirage1200.php) it appears the Mirage is discontinued, replaced by a new product.

The Beam 100 seems more of a static mount product.

The Mirage 1200 product notes the range as ~1200m, but says field of view is only 4 degrees. It is 4.8 pounds however, which makes me think it's a light, manportable product. I suppose you would put it on a weapon, and if you detect an optical return, you shoot at a target? Or you point it at a house where you suspect an observer, and when you get a return, you bomb the house?


pedestrian May 16, 2013 at 3:58 am
blight_ May 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm

For giggles (and maybe a check from Torrey Pines), here's the link to the product:

Specifications mention 360 again, the camera looks like it's on a rotating mount, so it's probable that 360 requires continuous scan. Amusingly, there's a panoramic mode, but on the Beam 110 and more expensive models.

The brochure seems to imply a ~30 degree scan angle (http://www.tplogic.com/pdfs/beam100.pdf), see figure in upper left, subset in bottom right showing an angle of <45 degrees.

The lesser members of the Beam family (50 and 60) disclose a 2 degree FoV in horizontal/vertical, and a 45 degree/s max scan-rate. These would scan full 360 in eight seconds.

The Beam 100 is "Continuous scanning 360° in azimuth", and theoretically that means it scans everything in real time. -30 below and 90 above. But looking at the pictures, I don't see enough camera for it to scan /everything/ simultaneously.


DSA May 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm

honeycomb lens cap…. $10
million+ dollar optical detection device defeated.


blight_ May 16, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Interesting point. Though overly coarse grates might still give enough return to be detected. One would hope that Torrey Pines has tested such a system.

Wonder how this does against camera obscura? Hah!


Big-Dean May 16, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Awesome technology but I wonder how long it'll be before the Chinese steal this.


Kevin May 17, 2013 at 9:59 am

It is awesome, who doesn't want counter-sniper measures for ground troops? In an asymmetrical theater, this is what the US will be facing, but a well equipped drone can also do this task with thermal scans, and bring instant firepower to bare. Why bother then? The enemy has been more successful stopping US aggression by boycotting American companies and putting Americans out of work… the outsourcing to China has been part of the enemy's plan too! Put that in yer pipe and smoke it gents….


blight_ May 17, 2013 at 10:38 am

Why not? Anyone who wants to fight at a technological handicap is a fool.


majr0d May 15, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Technically it's true but no one makes an issue of it.


JCitizen May 16, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Well I must admit – if you were being surveilled, the target would be looking directly at you at a given point in time. The scanner would have to have a high Hz requirement in scanning frequency to catch such fleeting looks. I would think reflectors would put out a signature that could be filtered by software.


blight_ May 16, 2013 at 2:53 pm

What would be cool is a networked way to control multiple scanners, then have them distribute their surveillance efforts in real time, rather than every machine scanning 360 and potentially opening gaps in response time.

I wonder if a scope could be made with a fast-moving shutter that covered/uncovered the scope faster than the eye could perceive, would it be enough to throw off the Beam 100? Or a laser mounted co-axially to the scope that would fire a laser back into the CCD, either to damage it or to add noise?

That said, as long as the angle required to get a return off the laser is relatively shallow, it means the sniper already has the device in view.

"Avert your scopes, they have a Beam 100!"


JCitizen May 16, 2013 at 4:08 pm

They have auto blanking for pilots as an anti-laser-blinding defense, on their helmet visors – so yeah – that would definitely work! For third world enemies, that prolly wouldn't be a factor – but I could be surprised I guess!


blight_ May 17, 2013 at 10:40 am

I'm more familiar with OCS on satellites than against periscopes on open water. I imagine the Navy has a research lab that has some data on the subject (like the AFRL's data on OCS)


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