Concerned about laser pointers? Want them used safely?
Welcome to LaserPointerSafety.com. We are an independent resource for users, regulators, pilots, media and others concerned with handheld portable lasers.
While laser pens are useful and fun, they are all too often misused. This website has details about why you should never aim laser pointers at aircraft, as well as news, the latest statistics on aircraft incidents, a FAQ, a video from the FAA and Air Force, how to report incidents, laser safety glasses for pilots, and much more information. Check the menu at left for a complete list of our pages. For the latest updates to the site, see our What’s new page.
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.
Laser incident statistics
From January 1 to October 9 2015, there were 5,148 laser incidents reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. This is a significant increase over the same time period in previous years:
Based on past years’ trends, this means that at the end of 2015, there could be between roughly 6,600 and 7,100 incidents. (The range is because in some years, the remaining part of the year had 1.28 to 1.37 times the number of incidents during Jan. 1 - Oct. 9.) We estimate 2015 is most likely to have roughly 6,850 incidents. This would be 176% of the 2014 total of 3,894 incidents.
The chart below shows all laser illuminations reported to the FAA, since reporting was made mandatory in 2004.
In 2014 there were an average of 10.7 incidents per day in the U.S. From January 1 to October 9 2015, there were an average of 18.3 incidents per day. Additional charts are on the page giving 2014 statistics.
For more details on 2013 incidents, 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.
In the U.K., there were 1,570 laser incidents reported to the Civil Aviation Authority in 2012. This was down 18% compared to the previous year’s total of 1,911 reports, according to the Sunday Express.
A special message for laser pointer usersThere are far too many incidents where airplanes, helicopters, vehicles, athletes and ordinary citizens are harassed by laser pointer beams. It is annoying, at best. It can be unsafe if the beam gets in someone’s eye or if it causes a driver or pilot to be distracted or flashblinded. You personally can get arrested and even jailed.
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.