Metamaterial Technologies (MTI), the Canadian company developing a smart optical filter that promises to protect airline pilots from distracting laser “strikes”, has announced that it has raised $ 8.3 million in series A venture financing.
The investment is set to help the Halifax-based company to commercialize its “metAIR” product and develop production tools to fabricate it. The news of the deal comes just a couple of months after MTI said that aerospace giant Airbus had signed an agreement to validate and test the new technology.
With the cost of relatively powerful laser diodes dropping frequently, attacks on planes with laser pointers have increased dramatically in recent years – with thousands of “strikes” near airports now reported every year in the US and major airlines impacted. The UK government is now seeking to introduce custodial sentences as a punishment for those targeting pilots. According to Pascal Andrei, the Chief Product Security Officer at Airbus, the company believes from the facts and conversations with its clients, that cockpit illuminations are real, immediate and increasing in frequency; and that the metaAIR technology will benefit its customers.
MTI along with with new institutional investors is now looking to accelerate the commercialization of metaAIR, expand team and move MTI from pilot production to scaled-up manufacturing. This scale-up is likely to revolve around the use of high-resolution optical lithography tools that the company has access to following its acquisition of California-based equipment firm Rolith in June 2016. It is also partnering with Germany-based Covestro, a spin-out from the chemicals giant Bayer, to support the project. Covestro supplies a custom photopolymer film on which the metaAIR product is based.
With the promise of laser protection for pilots in the civil aviation industry – something that could represent the first genuinely commercial application of photonic metamaterials, MTI believes that the technology could be deployed in military applications, as well as more generally in transportation and glass manufacturing. The company is currently promoting three different versions of the technology for different applications: Lamda Guard for vision protection; Lamda Lux for enhancing LED lighting; and Lamda Solar to assist in photovoltaics.