Not too long ago, I was cruising down an empty interstate highway, at about 2:30 on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. The air was clear, the traffic was virtually nonexistent and my iPod kept serving up hit after hit. My trusty Valentine One radar detector was busy sniffing for ‘ole Smokey, and I had all of the confidence that I could easily travel 6 miles per hour over the posted 70 miles per hour speed limit.
As I coasted my way down one of the many steep hills that are plentiful in the Ozark Mountains, my Valentine One darn near gave me a heart attack. It was screaming at the top of its lungs, to alert me of a laser attack. Instinctively, I jammed on my brakes and took a peek at the speedometer – I’ll be darned if I wasn’t traveling 75mph AFTER I had taken a healthy stab at the brake pedal. Darn those hills! I frantically searched around the road for ‘ole Johnny Law, when I spotted him – sitting on an overpass at the bottom of the hill, laser gun in hand, smiling at me.
Sure enough, another squad car raced from the on-ramp and pulled me over. I’d just been nabbed by a laser gun – the universal kryptonite to even the best radar/laser detector. My 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe was easy prey, providing a target equivalent to that infamous broad-sided-barn that anyone and everyone seems to be able to hit no matter what their marksmanship rating.
Already $300 poorer, I called the fine folks at Lidatek and ordered myself one of their Lidatek LaserECHO LE-30 systems. After all, this was war, and I swore I’d never allow the likes of Beauford T. Justice to cherry-pick me like that ever again.
Back in the early 1990′s, a famous German laser scientist was en route to his office, driving his newly acquired sports car, when he was suddenly pulled over for speeding. He inquired as to how his speed had been determined, as his top-of-the-line radar detector hadn’t uttered so much as a peep. The Washington State Trooper proudly brandished a “laser gun,” and went to great lengths to explain to the scientist about how the gun was unbeatable. Little did the officer know who he was talking to.
The scientist, who had made a name for his company by specializing in industrial lasers (think cutting/engraving/measuring/etc), challenged his engineers to develop a jamming system that would defeat any speed measuring laser device. He threw it out to them as more of a pet project, and had no intentions of producing commercially available laser jammers. The project sat on the back burner for a few years, but eventually his team developed an effective laser jammer that would later become the Lidatek LaserECHO 10 (LE-10).
The LE-10 was a license-plate mounted unit, and it worked so well that the scientist decided to file for patents, complete the proper business papers and transform his project into a legitimate company. Early on, the business floundered due to various reasons: Their unit was expensive, semi-over engineered, and the production process hadn’t been streamlined. Further complicating matters was the fact that the product was truly ahead of its time – no one had ever heard of traffic laser, and as such, demand for a laser jammer was virtually nonexistent.
Sadly, the founder would pass away a few years later, and the industrial portion of his laser technology company was sold off. Lidatek, meanwhile, was left to manage itself, and eventually, Jared Phillips and Andy Cole (both of whom were existing employees) put their heads and pocketbooks together and bought Lidatek from the scientist’s widow. All of the aforementioned problems with the business were about to change – Cole and Phillips are smart cookies with a penchant for laser technology and a keen business sense.
They realized they had a great performer in the LE-10, but also acknowledged that the unit was a bit brutish and beyond the price point of the average consumer. They set about redesigning the unit in a manner that would maintain the effectiveness (Andy Cole says the LE-10 is still one of the most effective jammers on the planet and can “jam anything out there, including stuff that hasn’t been invented yet”), while shrinking the package and price point.
A few years later, Lidatek unveiled the LaserECHO 20 (LE-20). It boasted improved performance, a small, integrated form factor, and a reduced price. Sales began to pick-up as laser (technically it’s called LIDAR – - LIght Detection And Ranging) use by law enforcement became more prominent. And luckily for Lidatek, the FDA regulates LIDAR devices, and as such active laser jammers are perfectly legal (laser jammers don’t broadcast a radio frequency). Active radar jammers, on the other hand, are illegal as they broadcast on a radio frequency and would require licensing from the FCC. The first LE-20′s went on sale sometime during the summer of 2002.
As sales increased, Lidatek gained a lot of customer feedback, and in the summer of 2004 released its third version of the LaserECHO unit, the LE-30. The LE-30 features an even smaller, more flexible form factor than the LE-20, and it delivers enhanced jamming protocols that deliver the same effective jamming capability, but makes it less obvious to the laser gun operator that a jamming device is in place.
“That’s a common problem with laser jammers,” said Andy Cole during a recent phone interview. “Guys will install a laser jammer, then find a cop and ask him to try and get a speed reading. They’re usually shocked to discover the cop can get a reading – he just has to try very hard to do so. Knowing that you’ve got a jammer, the officer can find unusual places on your car to target, and eventually get a reading.”
So, in other words, keep the fact that you’ve got a jammer to yourself – don’t go bragging to the five-0 that you’re invincible to laser detection. As Cole explained it, the Lidatek LE-30 delivers some of the best protection available, but if the officer suspects that you have a jammer, “He’ll target something as minute as the tip of your radio antenna, and with any luck, he’ll get your speed.”
The LE-30 defeats the laser gun, and at the same time, returns an interference code that is common to laser guns and is something that the officer wouldn’t be surprised to see. The LE-30 continues to interfere with the laser guns’ signal for five seconds, which should be more than enough time for the driver to slow his or her speed. It then sits dormant for a minute, at which point it’s ready for action again.
The Lidatek LE-30 employs a gallium arsenide laser for jamming purposes, and because of this, is much higher in power than its competitors LED-based systems. The transceiver (the part of the system that actually transmits the jamming signal) is small – just larger than a “fat” book of matches. This small size makes it easy to mount, and keeps it hidden from prying eyes.
I ordered a dual transceiver unit, as my Tahoe is a tad portly, and as such makes for an easy target. Smaller vehicles can make due with a single front-mounted unit, but if you’re uncertain, check with Lidatek – they’ll know what sort of system will best suit your vehicle. When I inquired about rear mounted transceivers, I was told that it’s highly unlikely to be “shot in the back” by laser, so I opted to skip the rear transceiver unit.
Installing the Lidatek LE-30 was a breeze. The kit includes a wonderful set of instructions, and plenty of hardware options to make even the most tricky installation simple. The kit consisted of: two transceivers, an interface box, a speaker, an LED, some really high quality interface cables, and plenty of mounting hardware.
The first order of business was to determine a location in which to mount each transceiver. I opted to install them near the edges of my grille, and about halfway between the license plate and my headlights. I used the supplied metal “straps” to make a platform from which to hang the transceivers. I then ran the transceiver cables to the inside of my Tahoe by way of an open body plug in the firewall.
Once inside, I found a swtiched 12-volt power wire and a good grounding location. My LE-30 now had power, and all that was left was to mount the LED and speaker. I chose discreet locations for both, and then mounted the power switch (a toggle) under the dash board, near the emergency brake pedal. I was wired, and all set to enjoy my stealthy new Tahoe.
Out on the road, I was getting frustrated that I hadn’t passed any speed traps, so after a few hours driving, I moseyed my way south on Interstate 540, and sure enough, just outside of West Fork, Arkansas, I encountered my first laser trap. The Lidatek LE-30 sounded loudly, the LED flashed and my Valentine One did nothing. As I drove closer to the laser trap, my Valentine One began to alert me to the laser signal, but I fear it would have been too late. The Lidatek LE-30 had been jamming for a good 3-4 seconds before the Valentine reacted.
I slowed my speed to 68 mph, exactly 2 mph below the posted limit. I cruised past the officer, but this time, the smile was on my face. Just past the overpass, I saw a line of troopers waiting on the on-ramp, poised to catch their prey. Just ahead, I saw four cars pulled over, and I can only assume that they were all receiving tickets.
Lidatek’s LE-30 worked wonders for me, and while I don’t advocate that people speed recklessly down the freeway, I do advocate for protecting yourself against shameless speed traps like the one that I encountered, where the police cherry-pick unsuspecting drivers as they traverse down a mountain hill. If you’ve got police with laser guns in your area, give the folks at Lidatek a call, and tell them that Roadfly sent you. Their unit truly is top-notch and effective, and delivers real world performance and results.