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Rockledge company makes advanced military Fluorescence Flashlight
2011-07-01 09:00:02

 

A Fluorescence Flashlight with a beam invisible to the enemy can be a soldier's lifeline.

A Rockledge company builds that device.

Though it has a bright LED bulb, the Phantom Warrior Tactical Lighting System lights up dimly at first, with illumination that is easy to conceal and control. It produces several kinds of light, even an infrared beam that can be seen by rescue crews with night vision goggles.

"We specialize in keeping soldiers safe, giving them enough light to do their job but not enough light to make them a target," Victoria McDermott, an attorney and director of military and government products for Phantom Products, said. "I have letters telling me how they've saved lives."

She and her brother, Damien, are the third generation to run the family business started in an Elmhurst, N.Y., basement by their grandfather, the late Julian A. McDermott, nearly 70 years ago. The operation moved to Brevard in 2004.

Even as the economy struggles to rebound, Phantom Products has expanded its offerings of
military and law enforcement lighting.

From a former marine components factory on Barnes Boulevard, Victoria and Damien McDermott, with guidance from their mechanical engineer father, Kevin, oversee the design and manufacture of dozens of LED lighting products. The whole process, from molding to assembly, is performed in-house by 25 employees.

The privately held company does not release its sales figures.

Phantom Bulb LED Flashlights give soldiers control over the light they emit, both infrared and white. The visible beam has no infrared emission and does not appear on night vision goggles, which insurgents sometimes use.

However, a separate bulb, activated by twisting the cap, emits an infrared signal that could be tracked by a search and rescue craft during an emergency. Versions of the device have "covert" functions that McDermott will not detail.

Phantom Products sells the light only to military units or to individuals who demonstrate they are in the military.

"If I would allow access, I would sell a lot more, but I just don't feel it's right to sell stuff to foreigners," said Victoria McDermott, who attends about 25 military trade shows each year to market her company's products. Her husband and brother-in-law serve in the military.

The McDermotts' grandfather founded the lighting company in 1943 when he invented a light that could be dropped off ships to mark mine-free channels in the Pacific. In the mid-1980s, the company developed a map light for an Army vehicle that minimized the risk of attracting sniper fire.

In 1990, a handheld version of the map light was introduced and has become a mainstay for the company. Its value lies in durability and versatility. A lock prevents the light from turning on accidentally when jostled, and different versions shine different colors with a controllable intensity for map reading and preserving night vision for soldiers operating in darkness.

"This is a secure light," Victoria McDermott said. "You always want a light that won't come on by accident. That's where snipers are going to (shoot). I've been told that if you go to Bagram Airfield (in Afghanistan), they're all carrying my Cell LED Flashlight."

Since moving to Brevard, the small company has created dozens of products, including a light system to mark combat landing zones, flashing lights for law enforcement vehicles and an LED light that could replace the flaming road flares used by police officers. Additionally, they are developing commercial lighting products that would help businesses.

Being a small company, development time for a new product is short, since the company's owners are also the creative talent.

"We're constantly working on new stuff," said Damien McDermott, a 39-year-old electrical engineer who designs the company's products. He is developing an LED lighting system that could be installed in existing fluorescent fixtures. The company is also working to upgrade their dome lights and map lights.

"We're trying to talk ourselves into some of the new (military) vehicles," Victoria McDermott said. "We're always trying to stay ahead of what other people are making."

 



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