The use of sound as an offensive non-lethal weapon probably first entered the public consciousness with Operation Just Cause in December, 1989, when U.S. forces used loudspeakers to bombard the Vatican Embassy in Panama City with deafening "rock-around-the-clock" in order to flush out deposed dictator, General Manuel Noriega. Fifteen years later, technology has evolved, allowing more focused beams of sound to be used for crowd control, as well as defensive and offensive weapons. In other words, we have designed an acoustic canon.
Products utilizing beamed sound-for example at museums, theme parks and exhibitions-have been readily available for a few years now. These "feel the sound" systems have been the offshoot of weapon research, some of which has been performed at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. In 2003, MIT Media Lab wunderkind and former Bose researcher, Dr. Joseph Pompei, developed Audio Spotlight, available from Holosonics Research Labs, and Sennheiser launched its ultra-directional AudioBeam in early 2005. Both of these system enjoy a wide deployment among the entertainment industries.
But as I have hinted above, somewhat less benign devices capable of higher sound pressure levels preceded these commercial products. In 2000, following the Al Qaeda attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, San Diego based sound technology innovator, American Technology Corporation, was commissioned to develop a long range acoustic device, or LRAD, that the company describes as a "long range hailing and warning device." In reality, it is an acoustic weapon, capable of shattering eardrums at close range. The U.S. Navy began purchasing LRADs in 2003 for use in and around the shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf off the Iraqi oil port of Basra.
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