A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
Concerned about laser pointers? Want them used safely?
- what makes lasers hazardous to aviation
- why you should never aim laser pointers at aircraft
- basic principles of laser hazards
- an online laser hazard distance calculator
- laser pointer incidents and news
- the latest statistics on aircraft incidents, and news items with statistics
- a laser pointer FAQ, and fast facts for media
- a video from the FAA and Air Force
- how to report a laser incident
- laser safety glasses for pilots
- how to safely simulate a laser strike
Update October 2016: FDA wants to allow only sales of red laser pointers
Informative charts and videos
A helicopter being deliberately targeted by a laser pointer. The light is a distraction and, if bright enough, can cause temporary flashblindness. A video of the incident is here.
Public domain photo from the U.S. FAA, showing how a laser beam spreads over long distances and can fill the windscreen. The FAA’s highest-resolution version is here.
This diagram shows the hazard distances of a 5 mW green laser pointer. Click to enlarge.
This diagram shows various ways to help reduce laser pointer incidents. Click to enlarge.
These colorful characters depict “Dumb Ways to Blind”, a 2014 public service video that warns the Internet generation about the many ways lasers can be misused. As of January 2017, this has had over 5.6 million views on YouTube.
Learn from his mistake — don’t aim lasers at aircraft
I also want to educate anyone who owns a laser and might be inclined to use it the way I did: Learn from my mistake. I am now just getting out of prison. I have paid dearly, for I have lost my girlfriend, my dog, my home, my vehicle. Everything I owned, everything I have worked for 30 years of my life, is gone.
For shining a laser at a helicopter for three seconds, I lost my entire life. I am now 54 years old and I have no one and nothing but the clothes I was given when I was released from prison.
See how far lasers can be a hazard
Being exposed to laser light within the NOHD does NOT mean that a person will automatically receive an eye injury, or even is likely to have an injury. The NOHD is a “nominal” hazard distance, not an actual hazard distance. The closer the person is to the laser, the greater the chance of an injury, as shown by the colors above.
Laser illumination incidents
For a more detailed chart showing 2014 and 2015 incidents, see the news item about the 2015 totals. Additional charts from 2014 are on the page giving 2014 statistics. For more details on 2013 illuminations, such as the most common laser color, the areas that had the most reports, etc. see the webpage 2013 laser/aircraft incidents. We also have a separate webpage with historical data such as the above, looking at the rise in incidents from 2004 through 2014.
A special message for laser pointer users
Plus, laser incidents create a bad image and can lead to laser pointers being banned. This has happened in a number of areas. (In New South Wales, you can be fined for possessing a laser pointer, and you can go to jail for up to 14 years for a laser assault.) There are strong calls in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. to restrict or ban lasers.
It is really simple: NEVER aim a laser beam at an aircraft, a vehicle, or towards strangers. In other words, DON’T ANNOY PEOPLE WITH THE LASER BEAM.
For more specific information about laser pen hazards and safe use, see the various topics in the menu at left. For a quick summary aimed at consumers, check out the FDA’s December 2010 safety notification.