These parallels are made in areas where human life is equally hanging in the balance. Most defence and weaponry systems use laser technology in the first instance to target and pinpoint where targets may be. Lasers are everywhere, whether you know it or not, and detecting what is good and what is bad is tougher than you think. This is where Sentinel Photonics come in.

The background

Whether on your phone’s facial recognition system, your TV remote, or even your golfing rangefinder – you will find a laser. They’re also used in the Defence space, and in the civilian aviation industries. In Defence, the difference between a very real life and death situation can be knowing which type of laser may be pointing at you.


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Not unlike speaking a different language, every type of laser has identifiable signatures that you need to know – are you being targeted by something lethal, or benign and of no consequence? Unfortunately, most of these systems are bulky, incapable of being carried by people, and must be mounted onto pre-existing platforms as a never-ending cycle of upgrades and capabilities. Not to mention that most systems that are added to various platforms then need to have integrations worked on, that can take years and years to get through procurement cycles.

A new recognition system was needed – and was created in the LASERD product range, from MAX (vehicle and system mounted) to MICRO (personnel mounted).

The Approach

Taking knowledge and drive from their backgrounds as Dstl researchers and inventors in the field of optics, Dr Chris Burgess and Sean Tipper examined current offerings, and realised that for a laser protection system to truly be effective, a platform-and-system-agnostic capability was needed. On top of that, it needed to be less expensive, more easily deployable, and simple to use with minimal training.

Equally, given that technology advances at an alarming rate, the knowledge base of different laser signatures was crucial to be easily updated and rolled out to customers efficiently.

Taking existing technologies that are readily available and adapting them with new and innovative processing programming ensured a quickly deployable, easily testable, and reliable set of capabilities that make a real impact on users.

Capability is crucial. Putting sensors onto a platform takes too long, and delays meaningful results for end-users on the ground. In a time where battles are hugely kinetic and high-tech, this is time that isn’t available.

The benefits

Small, portable, and a useful capability – Sentinel Photonics’ human-mounted laser threat detection technology – LASERD MICRO – is simple to deploy and distribute to the human forces that are still critical to the army and battlefields of today. With targeting technology being increasingly used in battlefields and conflict areas, this counter-knowledge capability helps triage the signals detected – allowing real awareness and mitigating unnecessary waits for knowledge updates from C4ISR teams.

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With the manifesto of ‘no false alarms’, Sentinel Photonics has created proprietary electronic and digital filters that can block out signatures of known-safe laser signatures to ensure there is no chance of a false alarm putting unwarranted and unnecessary stress on your teams.

Sentinel Photonics also exploits the data it collects from real battlespace threats to offer its customers protective filters. These on-lens accessories protect the user’s eyes from laser damage, as well as hiding sensitive military equipment from lasers designed to search for reflections.

The future

The Defence market is the primary focus for Sentinel Photonics. The life-saving capability of their LASERD MAX product is being proven constantly as a critical piece of kit for Special Forces soldiers in the UK Armed Forces. Small, accurate, and life-saving – Sentinel capabilities do not false alarm.

The future also sees more civilian promise in the fields of aviation – whether private, or commercial, no matter the sizeof the fleet, from one-man-bands to whole airlines – freight or consumer. Sentinel’s technology allows pilots to have increased knowledge of what might be targeting them – whether they need to know, or whether it is a standardised practice for the airfields they are approaching.

Sentinel Photonics itself continues to grow year on year, with new team members coming onboard who believe in themission the company is making its own. The future is focused, and the possibilities are endless.

The process

Ploughshare’s Playbook enabled Sentinel founders to retain a sizeable proportion of shares. This enabled control over the company itself, and the possibility to water down those shares in the event of increased funding in the future.

This approach has been seen to be far more generous towards the founders themselves in comparison to other technology transfer offerings.

Aid in navigating funding from government, as well as providing the help and mentorship for two Dstl scientists to take the leap from inventors and researchers to business leaders, has shown Ploughshare’s Playbook to be of huge benefit and importance to the spin-out landscape.

The people

Chris is the co-Founder and CEO of Sentinel Photonics, with responsibility for the business strategy and success. Chris isan experienced lead scientist with a long track record of delivering high impact photonics research during a 15-yearcareer in Dstl. Chris is co-inventor of the key laser detection technology, and now provides strategic and technicalleadership to all of Sentinel’s business areas.

Sean is co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Sentinel Photonics, and is responsible for scientific and technical strategies. As co-inventor of the laser detection technology, and with five years’ experience in the field of electro-optical protection measures within Dstl, Sean brings ample technical know-how and relevant experience to the role.

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