Ball Aerospace has finished building the “Stratospheric optical autocovariance wind lidar (StratOAWL)” device capable of detecting changes to wind speed from 14 kilometres away.
Essentially, StratOAWL fires laser beams around itself – just to observe the frequency and angle at which they return. By spotting subtle changes to electromagnetic vibration that results from friction between air particles and photons (quanta of light) StratOAWL can clock the acceleration of wind. The device resembles a more accurate kind of radar, where you can translate finer distinctions of the atmosphere from even further away.
Whether StratOAWL will be able to compete with Chinas Quantum Radar is a question left to insiders. Regardless, one thing is for sure – imaging technology has made some considerable leaps and bounds lately, which is good news for any field that relies on accurate optical science, such as medicine, navigation, aerospace, transportation and even the military.
What makes StratOAWL particularly effective is that it can look in two directions at once, giving it a more realistic understanding of live action scenarios. It can also measure winds more than 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) away within a single meter per second accuracy. Once these technologies are upgraded to recognize displacement of air from moving objects you’ve created a pretty serious form of surveillance that is likely to remain classified until the time is right.