2013 Awards Yearbook

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LRAD: More than just force protection

Scott Stuckey

While the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) has been recognized for its successful use against pirates in multiple incidents off the coast of Somalia, LRAD systems have many different and varied applications. Beyond defending commercial cargo vessels and cruise liners from pirate attacks, LRAD is being used by military forces around the world to hail, warn, notify and communicate over long distances, giving military personnel time and distance to determine the intent of potential threats from safe locations, and creating standoff and safety zones.

Oil and gas companies, airports, mining operations, dams and other critical facilities are also utilizing LRAD, along with law enforcement, fire and rescue departments and other first responders.

Port and oil platform security

The Ports of Corpus Christi and Ras Laffan (Qatar) recently installed advanced security systems featuring the remotely operated LRAD-RX to broadcast hails and warnings to inbound ships not responding to radio calls, at distances up to 3 kilometers from the ports’ entrances.

Oil and gas companies are utilizing LRAD systems off the coasts of Western Africa and Australia and in the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of Bengal to warn fishermen away from oil platforms. Operators of such platforms are concerned with the safety of fishermen and their boats as well as ensuring that their platforms are not accidentally damaged.

Border security

Integrating LRAD-RX systems on towers with radar and other sensors provides added security for fenced and unfenced border areas. The ability to remotely hail and warn provides command-and-control centers a pro-active approach to securing borders not available through traditional camera-only security solutions.

LRAD’s highly intelligible, multi-language voice commands and powerful warning tones can be clearly understood over distance in any terrain. By creating large safety and standoff zones around sovereign borders, LRAD deters illegal border crossings, resolves uncertain situations peacefully and protects border patrol officers from potentially deadly situations.

Crowd/riot control

Law enforcement has proven LRAD’s effectiveness on many occasions, including controlling potential riots at the Pittsburgh G20 Summit, ending a SWAT situation in Santa Ana, CA, and talking down a potential suicide in Seattle.

Unlike other crowd and riot control measures – such as tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray -- LRAD can be modulated in response to protesters’ actions, while ensuring that law enforcement’s instructions are clearly heard and understood.

Safely conduct surround and call outs
When suspects are barricaded in buildings or vehicles, establishing communication from a safe distance is the key to de-fusing potentially deadly situations. Traditional door approaches and close-range call-outs expose officers and innocent bystanders to needless risk. LRAD gives law enforcement officers the capability to conduct these potentially deadly operations safely, keeping officers and bystanders out of harm’s way.

Natural disaster response

National Guard units, law enforcement, fire departments and search-and-rescue organizations are finding LRAD indispensible when responding to natural disasters. During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the devastating earthquake in Haiti and more recently in Japan, LRAD systems were deployed on the ground and by helicopter to communicate critical information to victims of these disasters, and to maintain the peace. As a result of the recent outbreak of deadly tornadoes in the U.S., civil authorities are evaluating LRAD as part of their mass notification tool kit for future tornado response operations.

Disaster response organizations in Asia have fielded LRAD systems to help them communicate to millions of people in rural areas impacted by annual monsoons, and to ensure maximum effectiveness of their disaster response operations. LRAD is playing a critical role in providing information to people in remote locations where mass notification systems and phone coverage are non-existent.

Keeping recreational boaters safe

Beginning with an installation at the Hoover Dam, officials at dams and reservoirs are recognizing LRAD as an important new safety capability to broadcast warnings to boaters and fisherman who get too close to the base of the dam or other areas that are off-limits. LRAD systems are also used to notify boaters of approaching storms and facility closures.

Protecting wildlife

Mining companies in Canada are installing LRAD systems to keep waterfowl away from poisonous tailing ponds, thereby eliminating multi-million dollar fines assessed when waterfowl deaths exceed government guidelines. Prior to LRAD being fielded, one mine operator had more than 1,000 birds die annually as a result of landing and drinking from tainted tailing ponds. After installing LRAD, the mine operator recorded only six bird deaths during the following 12 months, which resulted in no fines being levied. 

LRAD is serving dual purposes of protecting wildlife and securing perimeters in wind and solar farm trials. LRAD keeps birds away from turbines and from defecating on solar panels while also deterring vandalism and thefts of solar panel.

Preventing aircraft bird strikes

LRAD trials are proving effective in keeping flocks of birds away from airport runways when aircraft are most vulnerable to potentially disastrous bird strikes. Steering birds away from airports by using LRAD systems to broadcast a variety of tones and predator calls can significantly reduce the approximately $1.2 billion spent each year to repair aircraft and facilities damaged by bird strikes.

LRAD today

Since its introduction in 2003 in response to the attack on the USS Cole, LRAD has proven to be a highly effective force protection system. Now, it is becoming an important communications asset for border and perimeter security, law enforcement, mass notification, disaster response and wildlife deterrence and protection around the world.