China’s new spy satellite ‘Project Guanlan’ could use lasers to spot submarines up to 1,600ft (500m) below the ocean’s surface.
These lasers will be so powerful they will make the upper layer of the sea ‘more or less transparent’, according to scientists involved in the project.
Researchers claim these artificial laser beams could be one billion times brighter than the sun.
However, some experts say this type of deep-sea surveillance is ‘mission impossible’ as lasers are fundamentally unable to penetrate that deep.
China’s new Project Guanlan satellite uses lasers to spot objects deep under water. In theory when a laser hits an object – such as a submarine – pulses bounce back and are picked up by sensors, which can determine the size, shape and location of the object
Project Guanlan, which means ‘watching the big waves’ was launched in May at the Pilot National Laboratory in Qingdao in Shandong, writes South China Morning Post.
Its components are being developed by more than 20 universities across the country.
For more than half a century naval researchers have been attempting to create a laser using Lidar (a portmanteau of ‘light and ‘radar.’).
In theory when a laser hits an object – such as a submarine – pulses will bounce back and be picked up by sensors, which will be able to determine its shape.
According to researchers, this high-powered laser beam is so powerful it would be able to scan an area as wide as 62 miles (100km) on land.
It will also be used alongside microwave radar which will scan the surface of the water and identify surface movement.
This could be an indication that a submarine is lurking below.
Lidar uses ultraviolet, visible, or near infrared light to image objects.
It can be used with a wide range of targets, including non-metallic objects, rocks, rain, chemical compounds, aerosols, clouds and even single molecules.
China’s new spy satellite ‘Project Guanlan’ could use lasers to spot submarines up to 1,600ft (500m) below the ocean’s surface. This high-powered laser beam will be so powerful it would be able to scan an area as wide as 62 miles (100km) on land (stock image)
However, it is negatively affected by fog, murky water and marine life.
It also works less well in water as light scatters when it hits the surface.
Researchers say the aim of the project is to strengthen Chinese surveillance.
Song Xiaoquan, who is involved in the project, said it will make the upper layers of the ocean ‘more or less transparent’.
He said it ‘will change almost everything’.
Dr Xuaiquan said he did not know when the satellite would be ready.
However, not everyone is convinced and some say it is ‘impossible’ to use the technology to look 1,600ft below the ocean’s surface.
‘They [project researchers] won’t be able to break through the darkness guarded by Mother Nature – unless of course they are Tom Cruise, armed with some secret weapons,’ one anonymous researcher from the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences told SCMP.
Lidar is a remote sensing technology that measures distance by shooting a laser at a target and analysing the light that is reflected back.
The technology was developed in the early 1960s and uses laser imaging with radar technology that can calculate distances.
It was first used in meteorology to measure clouds by the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
The term lidar is a portmanteau of ‘light and ‘radar.’
Lidar uses ultraviolet, visible, or near infrared light to image objects and can be used with a wide range of targets, including non-metallic objects, rocks, rain, chemical compounds, aerosols, clouds and even single molecules.
A narrow laser beam can be used to map physical features with very high resolution.
This new technique allowed researchers to map outlines of what they describe as dozens of newly discovered Maya cities hidden under thick jungle foliage centuries after they were abandoned by their original inhabitants.
Aircraft with a LiDAR scanner produced three-dimensional maps of the surface by using light in the form of pulsed laser linked to a GPS system.
The technology helped researchers discover sites much faster than using traditional archaeological methods.
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