The Missouri Department of Transportation revealed two newly acquired LRAD sound cannons this week, which will reportedly be used to target vehicles that speed in work zones.
Coming in at $25,000 a piece, the Long-Range Acoustic Device, a sonic weapon best know for its use against protesters and insurgents in Afghanistan, will alert drivers to road conditions by shooting a loud verbal message through their windshields.
“The LRAD puts out up to 153 decibels of sound through an emitter, not a loud speaker,” said MoDOT employee Michele Compton. “The sound easily penetrates the windshield and well-insulated cab of a car, even overriding the vehicle’s engine sounds and a radio turned up loud enough to jam to tunes at highway speeds.”
Along with being placed at highway work sites, the LRADs will also be mounted to the back of MoDOT work vehicles. During a 2013 field test, an integrated radar unit was used to automatically activate the LRAD when an “at-risk vehicle” approached to closely.
“Slow vehicles ahead,” a voice repeats between loud alarm sounds.
At a similar test with LRAD Corporation representatives, State Maintenance Engineer Beth Wright referred to the system as a valuable safety tool.
“When you hear that, you do pay attention,” Wright said. “The intent is for a driver to hear it, to capture their attention, not startle.”
While MoDOT says the LRAD will be used at safe levels, the system is more than capable of causing irreversible damage if used past 130d.
Residents of Kansas City were less than thrilled to learn that their state’s transportation department had become the first in the country to purchase such a system.
“What about the workers and those that live near the construction zone?” Laurie Merrill noted on Facebook. “Who wants to have that constantly blaring in their ears.”
While MoDOT will undoubtedly work to convince residents of the device’s usefulness, its continued roll-out in the United States has few excited.
The U.S. Air National Guard purchased half a million dollars worth of portable LRAD systems to be deployed throughout the country in 2012.
“The Air National Guard will be deploying the LRAD 100X systems throughout the country to support and assist civil authorities in the event of severe natural or man-made disasters,” President and CEO of LRAD Tom Brown said.
During the 2009 G20 summit in Pittsburgh, militarized police for the first time used several LRAD units mounted to armored vehicles against peaceful protesters.