NEW YORK - FedEx is asking for permission to equip some cargo plans with a system that emits infrared laser energy outside the aircraft as a countermeasure against heat-seeking missiles.
FedEx wants to install the military-style system on at least one Airbus Model A321-200 airplane according to an unpublished proposal in the Federal Register. The document is expected to be formally published on Jan. 18, 2022.
The package delivery company is asking for approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
FedEx first applied for permission to install a laser-based missile-defense system in 2019. It would direct infrared laser energy toward heat-seeking missiles.
In the proposed FAA rule it notes that in recent years, several civilian aircraft were fired upon by man-portable air defense systems.
This has led several companies to design and adapt systems like a laser-based missile-defense system for installation on civilian aircraft, to protect those aircraft against heat-seeking missiles. The FedEx missile-defense system directs infrared laser energy toward an incoming missile, in an effort to interrupt the missile’s tracking of the aircraft’s heat.
There are safety concerns because infrared laser energy can pose a hazard to persons on the aircraft, on the ground, and on other aircraft. The risk is heightened because infrared light is invisible to the human eye. Human exposure to infrared laser energy can result in eye and skin damage, and affect a flight crew’s ability to control the aircraft. Infrared laser energy also can affect other aircraft, whether airborne or on the ground, and property, such as fuel trucks and airport equipment, in a manner that adversely affects aviation safety
Federal authorities want to make sure the design has the means to prevent inadvertent operation of the system while the airplane is on the ground, including during maintenance.
They also want to make sure it is designed so that inflight operation does not result in damage to the airplane or to other aircraft, or injury to any person.
The FAA will look for public comment on the proposed rule before issuing any new rules.