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Long Range Acoustic Devices used to escape pirates

An example of a Long Range Acoustic Device being operated at sea.
An example of a Long Range Acoustic Device being operated at sea.

The US merchant ship Maersk Alabama found itself in deep water with Somali pirates again.  But unlike the earlier run-in this past April when the cargo ship was taken hostage for ransom by the pirates, the crew was able to repel the attack and escape. An onboard security team conducted evasive maneuvers in concert with small arms fire and well-timed blasts from a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) to drive off the pirates. The owners of the Maersk Alabama have spent a considerable amount of money on improving the security of the ship since the April hijacking and the results paid off this week.

So what is a Long Range Acoustic Device? It turns out to be a giant megaphone of sorts designed to send out extremely loud and disruptive sound over a short distance. It can produce a screeching noise at 150 decibels, loud enough to be extremely painful and possibly cause long-term auditory damage. It is most effective inside of 90 yards, but it can still be useful at up to 300 yards. It is made by American Technology Corporation. The company says the amplifier is growing in popularity among cruise lines and merchant ships as an effective way to repel pirate attacks without having to use firearms.

LRADs are also used by the US military for a wide variety of purposes. The Navy owns 45 of the devices, and the Army and the Marines use them to help disperse crowds peacefully. They can also be mounted onto vehicles to help protect convoys. It was released on November 10th that the US Army Reserves placed an order with ATC for a large number of new LRADs. The order is worth $1.6 million. ATC says they are also used internationally to help quell riots without having to use guns. According to the company, they can be programmed to deliver important messages over broad distances, to help with flood survivors, for example. For additional information on the device or ATC, please visit