Riot policeman charge past burning buildings in Croydon, south London

Novel technologies used to control riots

Mass rioting in London this week has prompted questions over whether tougher measures need to be taken by police.

Hundreds of people have been arrested after the worst rioting in decades as violence, criminal damage, looting and arson has spread across the capital and to other major cities including Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol.

As the number of police officers on the streets is to be trebled to 16,000 over the next 24 hours, the Metropolitan police has confirmed that plastic bullets will be considered as "one of the tactics" available to officers at riots.

E&T has compiled a list of ten most bizarre weapons from the military's past, present and future, including some novel riot control technologies.

This includes sonic weapons, a non-lethal means of force through high-power soundwaves.

The Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) send a loud boom-like pulse through the air, intended to irritate the ear drums.

They have been used on ships to deter pirates, by police to deter large crowds in protests, and have also been tested on Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

Another weapon is the incapacitating flashlight, also known as the "vomit torch".

It disorientates the culprit when shone at their eyes as its continuously flashing LED temporarily stun them, swiftly changing in colour and pulse frequency.

The effects range from vertigo to intense nausea and violent vomiting.

The weapon is being developed for the Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. and is intended for use by police or border-security agents.

Further information:

You can read more about the top ten most unusual weapons ever made in our next issue, available online August 17.

Do you have suggestions for alternative riot control techniques? What technologies do you think engineers could develop and deploy?

See our E&T story on how social networking was used to organise the clean-up of the London riots.

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