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US: Military aircrews can use finger-mounted laser pointers for target identification

A Sharper Image-like catalog of U.S. Army equipment includes the LA-8/P Aircrew Laser Pointer. The copy describes it as a “small, finger-mounted infrared [non-visible] laser for identification, signaling, and fire direction during night operations.” It attaches to a glove and is triggered by the thumb. There are two powers, high (Class 3B) and low (Class 1). The device is manufactured by DRS Technologies in Melbourne, FL.

Aircrew Laser Pointer p1_450w
Aircrew Laser Pointer p2_large_450w

For the military laser enthusiast, the catalog contains a number of other laser devices such as the AN/PEQ-14 Integrated Laser White Light Pointer (actually a white flashlight plus a visible and an invisible laser):

Laser pointer gun mount

From the Program Executive Officer Soldier Portfolio FY2012 catalog. The LA-8/P is on printed pages 138-139, electronic pages 146-147. Originally found via GovWin.

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Although the LA-8/P Aircrew Laser Pointer does not emit a visible beam, it would be easy to make a visible version so that aircrews could “fire back” at persons on the ground aiming laser pointers at them. Whether this is a wise idea is another matter.
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New Zealand: Concern over laser incidents

New Zealand air traffic controllers, pilots and airlines expressed concern over the increasing number of lasers being aimed at aircraft. In the Waikato Region surrounding Hamilton Airport, there were 19 reports of laser illuminations between May 2010 and September 2011. It is believed that more laser incidents occurred at times when the Hamilton tower was unmanned. (The tower is staffed only until 8:40 pm, plus four nights around midnight when international aircraft arrive.)

The tower manager, Fred Hanson, was quoted as saying he would like to make lasers illegal because “it just totally changes the light effect in the airplane.” The president of the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association also called for restrictions such as licensing, and having to have a reason for possession: “They do have the potential to wreak a lot of damage.”

A spokeswoman for Air New Zealand said the airline was concerned, and they support prosecution. New Zealand law calls for up to 12 months in prison or a fine of up to $10,000 for interfering with an aircraft. In a current case, two Auckland men are being prosecuted for aiming a laser at a police helicopter.

From the Waikato Times

Note: LaserPointerSafety.com has run two stories to date about New Zealand laser incidents where the penalty was said to be up to 14 years. They can be found here.

Israel: "Laser dreidel" toy's safety questioned

The Yeshiva World News issued a safety alert regarding a toy dreidel that contains a red laser diode like those used in laser pointers. The laser dreidel has flashing lights and plays music. A built-in laser diode projects a dot on the floor which becomes a circle as the dreidel is spun.

Pic 2011-12-26 at 6.17.38 PM
This dreidel projects two laser dots, creating two circles when spun (insert photo). The listing above is from the U.S. Amazon.com website.


The news story points out that laser pointers can cause permanent vision damage. In addition, the story says the laser is sold “without a filter,” probably meaning without an infrared (IR) filter. IR light can damage the retina -- like visible light -- but also could damage the cornea.
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Read More...

US: Airborne missile-killing laser project mothballed after $5 billion

After 16 years and $5 billion in development, the U.S. Air Force’s Airborne Laser Testbed (ABL) program has been shut down. An entire Boeing 747 was needed to house the chemical oxygen iodine gas laser. The COIL laser generates megawatts of power, enough to damage missile skins thus causing the missile to disintegrate. In 2010 the ABL was used against solid- and liquid-fueled rockets in tests.

Pic 2011-12-27 at 11.28.43 AM
Cockpit view of the ABL shooting down a missile on Feb. 11 2010. Video is
here.


A key reason for the ABL shutdown was the cost of the project versus the projected military returns. Another reason is that the Missile Defense Agency is looking to a new generation of laser systems with “much denser capacity or greater power lasers in smaller packages and operating at much higher altitudes.” Unmanned aerial vehicles would be an ideal platform. The MDA’s director said antimissile drones using solid-state lasers could be a reality by 2020.

From Aviation Week. An analysis of laser weapons is at Strategy Page.

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: We included this story because people sometimes wonder if lasers aimed from the ground can damage an aircraft’s airframe. The short answer is “no”. It would take a system similar to the $5 billion ABL. However, the Missile Defense Agency is now indicating that military-developed solid-state lasers may be able to cause enough damage to down a missile -- or aircraft -- within this decade (the 2010s).

While it is unlikely that non-state groups could deploy such a device, it is more of a possibility than independently developing an ABL-like COIL gas laser. For the foreseeable future, the threat to aircraft remains the visual impairment caused by bright laser light, and to a lesser degree, the possibility of causing retinal lesion eye injuries.
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US: FDA updates "Red List" of banned laser importers and products

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an update to its Import Alert document, also known as the “Red List”. This is a list of importers whose products do not comply with U.S. laser performance standards and/or FDA reporting requirements. Reasons for detaining a product include:

  1. The laser product does not have a permanently attached warning logotype label;
  2. The laser product output exceeds 5 milliwatts;
  3. The laser product fails to contain certification or identification information either on the product or in the instructions for use;
  4. The laser product fails to contain instructions for safe use;
  5. The product class or output information on the laser product's warning logotype label is different from that in the instructions for use; and/or
  6. A product report for the laser product has not been submitted.

Products which can be Detained Without Physical Examination (DWPE) include laser pointers, laser gunsights, laser pens, laser light show projectors, laser special effects, laser levels, toy guns with lasers, laser pointer key chains, and similar products.

It is unclear what effect the FDA’s import restrictions have on supplies. For example, the well-known company Wicked Lasers is listed multiple times as being banned from importing “All laser products and all products containing lasers.” However, a company representative on December 22 said that Wicked does ship to the U.S. and there should be “no issues getting a laser into the U.S.”

Violating companies are listed as follows.

  • Canada: 2 companies shipping from a total of 3 addresses
  • China: 51 companies shipping from a total of 57 addresses
  • Hong Kong: 9 companies shipping from a total of 9 addresses
  • Japan: 1 company shipping from a total of 2 addresses
  • Taiwan: 25 companies shipping from a total of 28 addresses
  • United Kingdom: 1 company shipping from 1 address

From the December 20 2011 update to the FDA Red List

US: Report says Iran blinded CIA satellite with laser

In an exclusive story, the Christian Science Monitor claimed that Iran used a laser to disable a U.S. satellite: “According to a European intelligence source, Iran shocked Western intelligence agencies in a previously unreported incident that took place sometime in the past two years [2010-2011 timeframe], when it managed to ‘blind’ a CIA spy satellite by ‘aiming a laser burst quite accurately.’ ”

This was the only laser-related information in a December 15 2011 article that was otherwise about Iran tricking a U.S. drone into landing in Iran by jamming its GPS position signals.

From the Christian Science Monitor; the laser paragraph was on page 2 of the online story. See also an October 2011 Washington Post story analyzing a politician’s claim that China blinded U.S. satellites in 2006.
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UK: Police dazzler laser being tested to flashblind rioters

British police are testing a £25,000 laser “rifle” to dazzle rioters at distances up to 500 meters, according to the Telegraph. This, and other non-lethal deterrents, are under test since riots in London and elsewhere August 6-10 2011. The Home Office’s Centre for Applied Science and Technology says they need to be convinced that the lasers do not cause long-term damage.

Pic 2011-12-11 at 2.48.50 PM
Concept of the rifle, from the Daily Mail


The developer is Photonic Security Systems, which also markets the rifle as a pirate deterrent. The Telegraph says that similar devices have been used in Afghanistan by NATO-led International Security Assistance Force troops.

PSS managing director Paul Kerr told the International Business Times "The very purpose of this technology is to be non-damaging … If someone is prepared to just stand there and stare down the barrel at this, which would be incredibly uncomfortable, then they are definitely a threat.” He said that he has often been exposed to the laser: "The quality and safety of the device is paramount and I know that first hand because I have been the guinea pig many times. I know what it is like and I know how effective it can be."

Author and activist Cory Doctorow points out that “the UK is a signatory on the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons … this weapon wouldn’t run afoul of international law if it (merely) reduced your vision to the point where you were impaired but not legally blind, permanently.” Doctorow also says “Twitter wags are already predicting a resurgence of mirrorshades [reflective sunglasses] among protesters.”

From the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the International Business Times and BoingBoing. See related story on BAE Systems anti-pirate dazzler.
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Wales: Eight people convicted of laser offences thus far in 2011

Eight persons were convicted of laser offences in Wales from January 1 to December 9 2011. Police warned the public against aiming laser pens at aircraft, both because this “can have fatal consequences” and because they will “continue to take action to prosecute anyone carrying out this offence.”

A spokesperson noted that several of the arrests involved young people. He said, “We’re hoping parents will see this message so they can remind their children, if they have access to laser pens, not to use them irresponsibly.”

According to the news story, the maximum penalty for recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft is a fine up to £5,000, and/or five years imprisonment.

From NewsWales. One LaserPointerSafety.com news item about a 2011 Wales conviction is here.

Australia: Kevin Spacey uses laser pointer to shush audience members

Actor Kevin Spacey used a green laser pointer to call attention to disruptive audience members during a performance in Sydney on December 2 2011. The Oscar-winning actor was appearing in Richard III when he pulled the pointer out of his costume. The tactic worked, according to the Sydney Morning Herald: “the offending audience members … were suitably chastised as the point - SHUT UP - was wordlessly made.”

From the Sydney Morning Herald

World: Laser pointer focus/aiming aid for cameras

A new product for 2011, the DeluxGear PinPoint Focus Assist uses a laser pointer as a focus and aiming aid for photographers. The $150 device screws onto the bottom of a camera using the tripod mount. It emits a green dot onto the subject, which allows focusing in low-light or even full darkness. For aiming, it is not necessary to be at the camera; just point the green dot onto the desired subject. This also helps to focus on a specific subject only.

Pic 2011-12-07 at 4.40.35 AM
A promotional photo demonstrating the concept of the PinPoint Focus Assist


The manufacturer says the PinPoint complies with U.S. FDA safety regulations. It is said to be a Class 2 green DPSS diode with output power less than 1 milliwatt. The focus range is from 2.5ft/7.5m to 131ft/40m; the aiming range is 700ft/210m in low-light and “further in darkness”.

At their website, DeluxGear has an admirable list of safety warnings which include:

  • Don’t aim at a person’s eyes. This can cause “temporary vision dysfunction such as flash blindness, disorientation or glare. This can be particularly dangerous if the exposed person is engaged in a vision-critical activity such as driving or other means of transportation.”
  • Don’t aim it at a person without notifying them in advance.
  • Don’t aim at a law enforcement officer as this is illegal in many jurisdictions.
  • Never aim at vehicles including aircraft.
  • Don’t allow a minor to use unsupervised. In some jurisdictions it is illegal for a minor to purchase or use a laser product

Incidentally, the beam on/off function is separate from the camera. This means the beam does NOT come on when the shutter button is pressed, but instead is controlled by a separate switch on the PinPoint.

From DeluxGear; click on the “Protect Your Gear” menu to read the list of safety warnings.
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US: North Myrtle Beach passes laser pointer restrictions

The city of North Myrtle Beach on November 21 2011 gave a second reading, and thus final approval, to the the Laser Pointer & Use Restriction Ordinance. It bans the sale to and possession of laser pointers for persons under the age of 17. In addition, it prohibits “certain behaviors and uses of laser pointers, such as the directing of laser beams at persons, animals or vehicles.” According to a city spokesperson, “The ordinance also provides responsible exemptions for the legitimate use of lasers for industrial, educational and commercial purposes.” Violators could be fined up to $500 and 30 days in jail.

From the North Myrtle Beach Times and CarolinaLive. For additional background, see other LaserPointerSafety.com stories on problems and ordinances in North Myrtle Beach and its neighboring city Myrtle Beach, plus resort cities Ocean City, and Virginia Beach.
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Halloween special: Are green beams in UK laser pens or UFOs?

Reports of green laser beams in Halstead may have been people playing with laser pens, according to police.

halstead ufo crack
Could a UFO with green lights have caused this crack?

It follows a report to the Halstead Gazette and a UFO website that a resident saw green lights rotating above her in Nether Court on Friday and left a large crack in the ground.

The frightened woman's daughter, who would only be identified as Nel, called Essex Police after the 7pm incident to check if it was the force helicopter. A police spokesman said it was not the helicopter but could have been laser pens.

But Nel is adamant it was not laser pens, and has since carried out internet research suggesting similar beams have been seen in diverse places such as Cornwall, Mexico, Nova Scotia and China.

From the Halstead Gazette on October 28 2011. Also, see this post at UK UFO Sightings; scroll down for the comment from Nel.
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UK: BALPA wants lasers classified as weapons and banned EU-wide

The British Air Line Pilots Association called for a ban on laser “weapons” that have contributed to over 1600 incidents thus far in 2011. The ban would be similar to ones in Australia. They also urge passage of a European Union law that would criminalize the aiming of lasers at aircraft.

From The Independent and the Daily Mail
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US: ALPA holds major D.C. conference on the threat of laser illuminations

An all-day conference in Washington D.C. brought together legislators, regulators, aviation safety officials and pilots to discuss "Laser Illumination of Aircraft: A Growing Threat." The October 27 2011 event was organized by ALPA, the Air Line Pilots Association. It was primarily intended to bring public attention to the many aspects of this issue. (Selected presentations are available from the ALPA laser conference website.)

Speakers generally agreed on the nature and scope of lasers as a threat to air safety. They also offered similar solutions, including educating the public to not misuse lasers, prosecuting those who do, training pilots on how to "recognize and recover" from incidents, increasing the number of reports from pilots and the public, and restricting laser pointer availability.

The ALPA conference made news primarily for the announcement of a new FAA web page, which can be reached via www.faa.gov/go/laserinfo. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told the ALPA attendees that the web page -- erroneously described as a "website" in many media accounts -- would centralize the agency's information on laser/aviation safety. The page includes email addresses where pilots, air traffic control and the public can report laser incidents (see separate story about the FAA web page).

Babbitt also said that the FAA currently has filed 18 civil cases against individuals who aimed lasers at aircraft. There is a maximum $11,000 fine in each case.

Other speakers gave updates and information in their areas of expertise. Read More...

US: FAA urges pilots, public to report incidents on new webpage

The Federal Aviation Administration announced a new web page that consolidates information about laser incidents and reporting. As of October 27 2011, the page has the following five sections:
  • Reporting Laser Incidents: How to report an incident, for pilots, air traffic control officials, and the general public
  • U.S. Laser Incidents by Year: A simple table listing incidents each year since 2005
  • Laser Events and Civil Penalties: Press releases about the number of incidents in 2010 and about the June 2011 decision to impose civil fines of up to $11,000. Also, the legal interpretation justifying imposition of the fines.
  • Hazards of Laser Illumination: Links to background information for pilots, and two studies of the issue by FAA’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute
  • Planning Light Shows and Other Outdoor Laser Operations: Information and forms for persons planning to use lasers outdoors

Below is the FAA press release announcing the web page: Read More...

Switzerland: Air rescue pilots to use laser protective eyewear

The Swiss Air Rescue Service, Rega, will purchase anti-laser glasses for its helicopter pilots. The laser protective eyewear reduces certain laser wavelengths significantly, while allowing pilots to still be able to see cockpit instruments and airport navigation lights.

The action was taken because laser attacks are on the rise: six in 2009, 11 in 2010 and 16 to mid-October in 2011.

The sale of strong laser pointers was banned in Switzerland in May. The Federal Health Office is currently reviewing the possibility of banning their possession and use. Checks carried out by the Federal Office of Metrology this year showed that more than 95 per cent of the pointers tested were stronger than the permitted limit.

From SwissInfo.ch

UK: Heathrow laser incidents almost triple

The Civil Aviation Authority says that laser incidents at Heathrow Airport nearly tripled. In 2009 there were 29 reports compared with 86 in 2010. A CAA spokesperson said the lasers are not legally “pens” (below 1 milliwatt) but are higher-powered lasers purchased on the Internet.

From
BBC News

Russia: Laser attack law passes first step in Parliament

The lower house of Russia’s parliament on October 19 2011 passed in its first reading a long-awaited bill significantly toughening punishment for laser attacks on pilots.

The bill stipulates that hooligans whose actions have threatened transport safety will be fined 80,000 rubles ($2,580) or sentenced to up to three years in prison. People caught with pointing lasers at aircraft will get 7-year jail terms. Hooligans whose actions have led to the death of people or other grave consequences will get up 10 years in jail.

The bill also lowers the age of persons who could be punished for laser hooliganism from 16 to 14 years.

Only five cases of laser attacks were registered in the country in 2010, but in 2011 the number jumped to more than 30. One suspect was caught in Moscow this June, and another in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya a month later and received little or no punishment. A 17-year-old suspect was told he would "face very strict measures" if a similar incident occurs again, the Chechen Interior Ministry said on its website.

From RIA Novosti

Iran distributes centrifuge-shaped laser pointers at atomic energy meeting

At a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Commission, the Iranian delegation distributed laser pointers shaped like nuclear enrichment centrifuges.

Iran laser pointer

The laser pointer is imprinted with the slogan “Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapon for None” at the top, and “I.R. of Iran, Uranium” at the bottom. The design is based on the Iranian IR-1 centrifuge, which in turn is based on the Pakistani 1 (P-1).

p1 centrifuge
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad walks past rows of IR-1 nuclear enrichment centrifuges during a tour of Natanz on April 8 2008.


Iran’s nuclear program has been heavily scrutinized by Western countries, with several United Nations resolutions imposing sanctions on the country. It is widely believed that the U.S. and Israel may have developed and distributed the Stuxnet virus in order to cripple Iranian centrifuges. Approximately 1000 IR-1 centrifuges were damaged, out of about 10,000 total centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.

From Jeffrey Lewis at Arms Control Wonk via The Envoy at Yahoo News, with additional research from the New York Times and Wikipedia

US: New "laser strike protection" website and training from Night Flight Concepts.

A new website has been developed to give pilots information and resources about laser illumination hazards. The site, laserstrikeprotection.com, was developed by Night Flight Concepts, which does training and consulting for night vision goggle operations.

The company also introduced the Laser Eye Protection Program training course. It is intended to “teach aircrew members the capabilities, limitations and preventative measures required to respond to a laser strike.” The cost is $125; the course takes about an hour and has a test at the end.

[Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Pilots may also wish to review our online information from the SAE G10T and other sources on
how to recognize and recover from laser illumination incidents.]

Germany: BMW shows safety features of its new laser headlights

BMW used laser-generated headlights on its i8 concept model, unveiled in September 2011. They later invited the press for a detailed description of how the headlights worked, and how safety in ensured.

Each of the four headlights uses three blue lasers. The lasers are directed by mirrors onto a lens containing yellow phosphorus. This re-emits white light onto a larger mirror that reflects it out the headlight glass onto the road.

BMW laser headlights
Two of the four laser headlights are shown here. The resulting white light beam is emitted toward the upper left of the photo.


The system is 1000 times brighter than LED headlights, uses half the power, lasts just as long (10,000 hours) and allows more flexible designs. BMW noted that light emitted from the headlights is not laser light, and is safe to stare into. In case of an accident, the headlights are powered down so no laser light could escape.

[Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: It is likely that the laser diodes in the headlight are the same type used in Casio’s Green Slim projectors and the Wicked Laser Spyder III Arctic handheld laser. These are relatively inexpensive -- less than $30 each in quantity -- and produce a nominal 1 watt of light.]

From
Motor Trend

US: UPDATED - Myrtle Beach CAP official witholds safety flights after being charged for confiscating laser pointer from 12-year-old (+ 2 updates)

The commander of the Myrtle Beach Civil Air Patrol was arrested October 12 2011 for confiscating a laser pointer being misused by a 12-year-old boy. Stephen Teachout was riding his scooter when he saw the boy pointing a green laser at a passing motorcycle, moped and Teachout’s scooter. Teachout went into the boy’s yard, grabbed his arm, took the pointer, then drove away on his scooter. Teachout was charged with third-degree assault and petty larceny. The boy was also given a juvenile summons for public disorderly conduct.

Stephen Teachout laser
Stephen Teachout

In retaliation, Teachout said the three-pilot Civil Air Patrol would not provide help to Horry County (where Mytle Beach is located) for certain calls including offshore missing persons and forest fires. According to the Sun News, Teachout said “I support Horry County but if they don’t have [the pilots’] backs then no thanks. We don’t need to be here.”

Read More...

Europe: 4,266 laser incidents; harmonized criminal laws sought

There were 4,266 laser-aircraft incidents in Europe in 2010, according to air traffic agency Eurocontrol. One hundred twenty airports in 32 European nations were affected. In several cases, pilots who were temporarily blinded passed control of the aircraft to the co-pilot. There have also been cases where lasers were aimed at airport control towers.

In 2008, there were 1,048 European incidents.

A Eurocontrol safety expert said “Preventing and mitigating the current problem requires a harmonized approach throughout Europe. We need the full involvement of regulators, judicial authorities, police, airlines and their associations, air navigation service providers, laser manufacturers who must understand how serious the problem is, as well as research institutes.”

Most European countries do not have specific laws against aiming lasers at aircraft. Eurocontrol stated they should be subject to the same restrictions as firearms, covering the purchase, transportation and use of lasers.

German politician Volker Kauder said that high-powered lasers should be treated as weapons under the Geman Arms Act.

From the Washington Post

US: Va. Beach wants state of Va. to ban aiming lasers at airplanes

The commander of Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach is working with the City Council to ask the state of Virginia to ban the aiming of lasers at airplanes. This is a result of 10 to 15 laser incidents with Oceana pilots in 2010 and 2011. He said “It’s, at best, a very momentary distraction for pilots. At worst... it can actually cause retinal damage."

The City Council is considering a local law to make malicious shining of lasers a Class 1 misdemeanor (up to a year in jail and a $2500 fine). According to PilotOnline.com, in 1998 Virginia Beach “was one of the first in the nation to make it a crime to shine lasers at police officers or into people’s eyes.”

The city is also planing an educational campaign to inform people about the law and laser dangers.

Commenter “Lost_Sailor” said there already is a Virginia state code, 5.1-22, “Interference with operation of aircraft,” to address the problem. He linked to a 2002 Virginia Court of Appeals case upholding the conviction of a man for using a “million candlelight spotlight” to illuminate a police helicopter. The man unsuccessfully argued that he had no intent to interfere with the helicopter; he wanted to view its registration number for a noise complaint. The man also unsuccessfully argued that his spotlight did not interfere with the operation of the aircraft.

From PilotOnline.com. The comment by Lost_Sailor was submitted on Thursday, 10/06/2011 at 6:40 pm.

US: Politician says China blinded U.S. satellites with lasers

In a September 30 2011 radio interview, U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann claimed that “China has blinded United States satellites with their lasers.” She is a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and thus has access to top secret documents, although she says the information came from an “open-source document.” Read More...

US: Two FBI videos warning against lasers get 250,000+ YouTube views

The FBI issued a press release and YouTube video on September 26 2011, warning the public against aiming lasers at aircraft. Titled “Making a Point about Lasers”, the informational video garnered over 25,000 views on YouTube in three days:


The video highlights Justin Stouder, a St. Louis-area resident who was arrested in April 2010 for aiming at a police helicopter. He apologized at a news conference in July 2011 intended to publicize the illegality and hazards of lasers aimed at aircraft.

The FBI also released video excerpts of the Stouder laser incident and his subsequent identification by the helicopter and arrest. The incident/arrest video was about 10 times as popular on YouTube, with over 225,000 views:


The press release, and a transcript of the video, are below (click on the Read More… link). Read More...

US: Senate bill S. 1608 introduced to help move laser pointer legislation

U.S. Senate Bill S. 1608 provides penalties of a “substantial” fine and/or jail time of up to 5 years, for aiming laser pointers at airplanes. The legislation was introduced September 22 2011 by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Republican from Rhode Island. The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A news report on WPRI said Whitehouse introduced this as a standalone measure. In February 2011 Whitehouse had proposed the same provisions as Amendment 8 to S. 223, the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act which passed the Senate February 17 2011. Because House action on FAA funding was held up, Whitehouse decided to re-introduce the measure as its own bill.

The House version is H.R. 386 introduced January 20 2011 by Rep. Daniel Lungren, Republican of California. The House bill also provides a penalty of a fine and/or up to five years in prison. It was passed by the full House on February 28 2011.

It is likely that S. 1608 will successfully pass in the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate. If the bill is identical to H.R. 386, then the legislation would be sent to the President for his approval and signature. If the bill differs from H.R. 386 -- for example, if amendments are added -- then a House/Senate reconciliation committee would meet to work out the differences, in advance of sending a single piece of legislation to the President.

From WPRI.com. S. 1608 can be tracked on GovTrack.us; as of September 25 2011, the text of the bill has not yet been posted.

US: 3 sheriff's officers charged with illegal laser sales

Three officers in the Lake County (Indiana) Sheriff’s Department were indicted for illegally reselling laser sights and machine gun parts that are restricted for law enforcement use only. The officers resigned, accepted responsibility, and entered into a plea agreement announced September 22 2011.

92 laser sights and 74 automatic machine guns were ordered between Sept. 2008 and January 2010 on Lake County letterhead and purchase orders. The officers paid for the products with personal funds. The amount earned from Internet resales was not stated, although the three officers were also indicted for understating their personal income by a total of $387,000.

The laser products came from Insight Technology Inc. and Laser Devices Inc. The 92 restricted laser sights were purchased for approximately $1000 to $1400 each and were sold on eBay for around $2800 to $4200 each. A special agent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (which regulates laser devices) made an undercover purchase as part of the evidence-gathering process in the case. Read More...

US: Laser safety training part of UAW/GM labor pact

A new 4-year labor contract between the United Auto Workers and General Motors includes a provision for laser safety training:

Due to the potential for catastrophic injuries from lasers, the UAW bargaining team pushed hard to expedite safety training in this growing field. Within 30 days of ratification, the UAW-GM Health and Safety Training Department will schedule a train-the-trainer (T3) Laser Safety Awareness Training course to be taught at the CHR [UAW-GM Center for Human Resources].


From the UAW GM Report via DetroitNews.com

US: North Myrtle Beach considers laser pointer ordinance (UPDATED - Ordinance passed)

Due to increasing laser pointer harassment and misuse, the city council of North Myrtle Beach, S.C. drafted a laser pointer ordinance at its September 19 2011 meeting. It would ban sales and possession of lasers by minors, and would prohibit pointing at a moving vehicle, person or animal. A fine of up to $500 and 30 days in jail is proposed. The city will first hold an ordinance workshop. A vote would come later.

The city has received more than 100 complaints about laser misuse. A spokesperson for the city said “We've had many complaints this past summer about people, mostly people under 18, shining the green laser into the condominiums, into hotel rooms … at people on the beach, at animals, and even at turtles. When they were hatching, they would shine them on the small turtles and lead them away from the ocean.”

(Note: the city of North Myrtle Beach is separate from its neighbor Myrtle Beach which has enacted restrictions on pointers.)

From CarolinaLive-WPDE and WMBFnews.com

UPDATE November 28 2011: The ordinance passed its second reading and now will officially go on the books in North Myrtle Beach. From North Myrtle Beach Times and CarolinaLive.

US: Reporter discusses how U.S. Constitution covers laser pointers

A Washington Post reporter discusses the question “Which part of the Constitution governs the use of laser pointers?” He says the answer is a “legal loop-de-loop” where Congress states it is acting against lasers in order to protect ‘commerce’.”

Writing on Constitution Day, September 17, David Fahrenthold frames the issue to illustrate a new House of Representatives rule requiring every bill to reference it’s Constitutional authority. Read More...

US: Orlando Sentinel runs article on laser hazards

The Orlando Sentinel has run a story entitled “Lasers causing havoc for pilots in record numbers.” The story discusses FAA laser incident statistics nationally, as well as for Florida and the Orlando area. The author, Gary Taylor, also discusses Orlando area incidents such as these.

From the Orlando Sentinel

Switzerland: Laser pointer labels can understate their power

A study by the Swiss Federal Office of Metrology shows that 95% of laser pointers tested had output powers greater than what was indicated on the label. No additional details on the study’s findings were immediately available.

The Swiss government banned the sale of “powerful laser pointers” in May 2011. According to World Radio Switzerland, the country is considering a ban on owning such pointers.

From World Radio Switzerland

US: UPDATED - Myrtle Beach proposes severely restricting lasers

The beach resort town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is set to vote on a proposal to severely restrict lasers. The ordinance would prohibit minors from buying or using lasers. Businesses would be prohibited from selling lasers to minors.

For adults, the proposal would ban use in public such as beaches, parks or streets. It would be illegal to aim lasers at a person, animal or vehicle. Violation would be a misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to a $500 fine and one month in jail. Read More...

Worldwide: New 1 watt green handheld laser can distract pilots 20 miles away

Internet seller Wicked Lasers has introduced a nominal 1 watt green handheld laser for USD $1000. The company claims the laser’s beam has a power of 86 million lux, appears over 8,000 times brighter than looking directly at the sun, and can be seen at a distance of 85 miles (“beyond the atmosphere and into space”).

LaserPointerSafety.com’s analysis shows it is a distraction hazard to pilots up to 20 miles from the laser source. Read More...

US: St. Louis area sheriff's department to use anti-laser glasses

Law enforcement pilots and tactical flight officers in the St. Louis area will begin using laser eye protection glasses. The St. Charles Sheriff’s Department purchased 10 pairs of anti-laser glasses for $215 each.

The eyewear, made by NoiR, significantly reduces laser light, without adversely affecting pilot vision of cockpit instruments or airport lights. Because some laser light is transmitted, pilots and flight officers will still be able to track the source of a laser illumination.

The decision to purchase the glasses was made because of recent laser incidents in the St. Louis area. A spokesperson said the eyewear is “another tool to keep us in the air.”

From STLtoday.com

Russia: "Dragging its feet" on laser incidents

Russian news agency RIA Novosti says the country is “dragging its feet” on anti-laser glasses and on proposed laws to protect pilots against 30 laser incidents thus far this year (up from 5 in 2010). Read More...

US: Laser beams usually are not tracking aircraft; most do not enter cockpit windows

A 2011 study of almost 7,000 FAA laser incident reports shows that laser beams usually do not appear to be tracking the aircraft, and the beams’ light does not enter the cockpit windows in most incidents. Eye effects or injuries are reported in about 1.5% of incidents.

The analysis was done by Rockwell Laser Industries (RLI). They examined 6,903 incidents in FAA’s database, dating from 2004 to mid-March 2011.The cockpit was illuminated only in about 1,875 incidents (27%). Of these, the exposure appeared intentional in about 350 incidents (19% of the cockpit illuminations; 5% of all illuminations). “Intentional” was defined as multiple beam exposures or the beam tracking the aircraft.

There were about 100 incidents (1.5% of all incidents) reported eye effects or injuries to the eyes. (A separate analysis by LaserPointerSafety.com shows that the vast majority of eye effect/injury reports are of minor, temporary effects. There are a few claims of eye injuries, and a very few confirmed claims of retinal injury.)

RLI cockpit illuminations chart 450w

The RLI analysis was done by Kevin Donnelly, and was supervised and presented in August 2011 by RLI president Bill Ertle. Rockwell Laser Industries is a pioneer in providing services and products related to lasers and laser safety.

US: Military helicopters may use lasers to fight ground-based attacks

U.S. military helicopters may use lasers to dazzle ground-based attackers firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. There are two components to the system: detection and laser countermeasures.

Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters have been testing a acoustic detection system called “Helicopter Alert and Threat Termination”, or HALTT. This uses microphones to detect the sound of a bullet or RPG. Delays in the sound reaching the microphones enables them to determine the sound’s location. A similar truck-mounted system is already in use. It can automatically swivel and fire a gun in the direction of the sound.

For helicopters, HALTT can be combined with guns and/or lasers. Infrared lasers help confuse missile guidance systems, while visible lasers would dazzle and flashblind anyone aiming at the helicopter. An engineer said the principle is to “make it impossible for a human to observe your aircraft … by creating a distracting light source. That has been done in the past and is a proven technology…”. The HALTT/laser countermeasure system could be in use by 2017.

The military already uses laser dazzlers at checkpoints, to warn approaching vehicles and to cause glare on anyone taking aim at soldiers.

From Wired and Defense Tech. A video of how the IR system would work against a missile is at YouTube.

Uzbekistan: Meeting held to discuss laser "attacks"

Uzbekistan Airways held a seminar covering laser beam illuminations, their potential effects on pilots and how to detect and prevent such incidents. Attendees learned about the dangers of laser pointers and higher-power lasers. A strategy for detection and prevention was developed. Government officials said perpetrators will be punished, and the use of lasers against aircraft will be equated with terrorism.

Among those attending the meeting were representatives from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, committees of the city, flight crews and air traffic controllers.

[Note: News reports did not indicate whether laser incidents had yet taken place in Uzbekistan. A Google News search for anything to do with lasers in Uzbekistan turned up no results.]

From Trend and Central Asia Online

Philippines: Bill introduced to penalize laser assaults

A bill has been introduced into the Philippines Senate to penalize laser assault on persons. The primary intent of the bill is to punish persons aiming at aircraft, but it also applies to any distraction, annoyance or attack on a person.

Senate Bill 2888 was introduced by Antonio "Sonny" Trillanes IV, as a result of laser illuminations on aircraft at Manila International Airport.

The Manila Bulletin reports the bill's provisions as follows:
  • “Any person who uses a laser pointer, pen or similar device to distract, annoy or attack another person” faces prison terms of from three to six months, or a fine ranging from P10,000 to P100,000.
  • When the attack results to damage or destruction of property, the penalty shall be three times the value of the damaged property and imprisonment of six months to one year.
  • When the person attacked suffers from temporary or permanent disability or injury of any kind, the penalty shall be imprisonment from one year to three years.
  • When the person attacked is operating a motor vehicle, the penalty shall be four years to eight years.
  • When the person is operating an airplane or helicopter or a ship at sea, the penalty will be imprisonment ranging from eight to ten years.
From the Manila Bulletin

Canada: Calgary astronomers agree with $5000 fine

The Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada agrees with the CDN $5000 fine imposed July 26 2011 on Chris Saulnier. In a newspaper opinion article, three representatives of the group note that “lasers are powerful tools, not playthings.” They state that lasers are capable of causing temporary flash blindness that could “severely limit” pilots.

Saulnier told police he had the pointer because he was an amateur astronomer. The Calgary representatives of the RASC said Saulnier was “not an RASC member, nor [was he] known to us.” They pointed out that responsible amateur astronomers would use lasers only on astronomical targets on clear nights when others are present: “There is no legitimate solo use of pointing a laser pointer into the sky that we can think of.”

From the Calgary Herald

US: LIA warns against dangers of laser pointers

The Laser Institute of America warned the public that high-powered laser pointers are a danger to eyesight. Specifically, LIA cautions that such lasers are a “real, immediate and often unrecognized danger.”

LIA did not give specific recommendations to avoid eye injuries, other than individuals being cautious. They did note that “[t]here is an active debate about what should be done. Is the solution education, regulation or prohibition for this type of hand-held laser device?…. Until the time that these lasers are statutorily banned, regulated through licensing or are widely recognized as a hazard, many more injuries will occur. The public should take note of these dangers immediately and keep these high-power, hand-held devices away from children and the untrained user.”

Full text of the July 26 2011 press release from LIA News is below (click the “Read More…” link). Read More...

Canada: Health Canada warns about dangers of pointers, handhelds

Health Canada has issued a warning about the dangers of laser pointers and handheld lasers: “Looking directly into a beam from a laser for even a fraction of a second could cause permanent eye damage, depending on the power of the beam.”

They caution that laser pointers should be limited to IEC Class 3R (less than 5 milliwatts for visible beams). Health Canada says that higher powered Class 3B and 4 lasers “should not be used as laser pointers or in any other application unless operated by individuals who have been professionally trained in laser safety.”

The full text of the press release, including instructions on how to report suspected laser injuries, is available by clicking the “Read More...” link below.

From Marketwire Read More...

New Zealand: Laser restrictions to be proposed in Parliament

New Zealand national MP Dr. Cam Calder is to introduce a Members Bill to Parliament to control the use of handheld laser pointer devices. The proposal comes after 18 cases have been reported in New Zealand over the past 12 months. Details of the bill were not available, although Calder said it is “designed to reduce the chances of laser misuse.”

From Scoop Independent News

US: New Illinois law bans aiming lasers at aircraft

Illinois governor Pat Quinn signed House Bill 0167, on July 21 2011. The measure makes it a misdemeanor to “knowingly discharging a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft in the process of taking off, landing, or while in flight.” The bill becomes Public Act 097-0153, and takes effect January 1, 2012.

From the Chicago Tribune

See LaserPointerSafety.com’s prior coverage of the bill here.

Germany: "Iron Man" laser fires Class 4 beam from a hobbyist's palm

A German laser enthusiast can fire a 1 watt, Class 4 laser beam from his palm. He fabricated the device in a weekend, using a laser diode similar to those harvested from Casio video projectors. (The same type of diode is used in the infamous Wicked Laser Spyder III Arctic handheld laser.)

Hobbyist Patrick Priebe’s inspiration was the comic book character “Iron Man”, who has “repulsor rays” in the palms of his armor’s gloves. Priebe’s device is self-contained, with the battery in a case that wraps around the back of the hand. Simply flexing his hand triggers the beam to fire.


Priebe’s 1 watt, 445 nm blue laser beam ignites a match


His inspiration: Iron Man’s repulsor ray glove, as seen here in the motion picture with Robert Downey, Jr.


Priebe made a number of versions. He is selling limited numbers (not mass-produced) of kits and assembled gloves on laser pointer forums for $200-500 depending on the version.

From
Popular Science and many other sources. Details on the construction are at Hacked Gadgets. Videos of the device in action are here and here.

US: Second Ocean City NJ vote against pointers makes laser ban official

Laser pointers over 1 milliwatt are now officially banned from sale and possession in Ocean City, New Jersey. The resort town’s council voted unanimously and without discussion on July 14 2011. The council’s “second reading” confirms a June 23 initial vote against laser pointers and thus the ban now goes into effect. Violators will be fined up to $500 for a first offense, and up to $1000 and 30 days in jail for any subsequent offense. Read More...

Russia: Jail proposed for laser "hooligans"; media asked to not report incidents

The United Russia party has introduced legislation calling for 10-year jail terms for laser “hooligans”. The bill was sent to the lower house of the Russian Parliament, the State Duma. It is unclear from news reports whether the legislation’s 10-year penalty is simply for aiming at or illuminating an aircraft, or if it is for cases that result in deaths.

The Moscow Times said Rostov-on-Don’s police chief wanted a 10-year term for people who blind pilots if their actions result in deaths. Alexi Lapin also blamed media attention for encouraging copycats: “Publicity in the media only encourages them to act. In medicine, this is called an epidemic, and it has yet to peak.”

Others agreed with the police chief’s media theory, including the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, who banned laser pointer sales (and by some media accounts, possession) on July 4 2011. A senior Transportation Ministry official asked media to stop covering the incidents: "Judging by the European experience, the less information there is on the issue, the fewer cases"

The attention comes after more than 50 reports of “laser hooliganism” thus far this year in Russia. This compares with five incidents in all of 2010.

From RIA Novosti., the Moscow Times and Bloomberg. See also other LaserPointerSafety.com stories about Russian aviation incidents and laser statistics.

Russia: Chechnya bans laser pointer sales after one incident

Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia's North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, on July 4 2011 banned sales of laser pointers in the republic after one was used to shine into pilots' eyes as they flew into Grozny. Read More...

Worldwide: Laser pointers reach 2000 milliwatts (2 watts)

An online laser seller has announced a number of 2000 milliwatt (2 watt) laser pointers. This is a new high power for handheld lasers intended to be sold to consumers. And the end-user price of under USD $200 is remarkably low. Only a few years ago, a small portable 2 W laser would have cost thousands of dollars.

To give an idea of its power, here are some comparisons:
  • The U.S. limit for a laser to be sold as a pointer is 5 mW (0.005 watt). The new lasers are 400 times more powerful than a “legal” laser pointer.
  • The infamous Wicked Laser Spyder III Arctic is nominally a 1000 mW laser (1 watt). However, most Arctics actually emit around 800 mW, so if the new lasers really reach 2000 mW then they are 2.5 times as powerful as a Wicked Arctic.
  • The most dangerous laser classification, Class 4, begins at 500 mW (1/2 watt) for visible light. Class 4 lasers can cause instant eye damage, skin burns, and can be a fire hazard for certain materials. The new devices are four times the minimum for a Class 4 laser.
  • A 2000 mW laser is an eye hazard up to about 1,000 feet away from the laser.
Read More...

US: Ocean City NJ initially votes to ban sales, possession of laser pointers

The city council of Ocean City, New Jersey, voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance to ban the sale and possession of laser pointers over 1 milliwatt. The “first reading” vote took place on June 23 2011; the ordinance will take effect if the council votes again for it at a “second reading” on July 14. An initial violation would be fined $500; subsequent violations would be fined $1000 and/or up to 30 days in jail.

The move comes after significant laser misuse during the resort city’s 2010 summer season, and a rise in 2011 incidents against aircraft, vehicles and citizens. The “straw that broke the camel’s back” may have been a June 7 illumination, where a 21-year-old purchased a green laser pointer from a Boardwalk store and almost immediately aimed it at a Coast Guard helicopter two miles offshore. The man, Eric Bouda, was arrested within minutes. (More on the story here.)

Last year, the local merchants’ association and the police asked for a voluntary ban on sales. However, the ban was not successful, with merchants resuming sales for competitive reasons. Read More...

UK: 270% rise in Surrey-area laser pen incidents

Surrey Police say there is a “significant rise” in laser pens being pointed at people and vehicles. In the first six months of 2011, there were 14 incidents involving lasers and aircraft, 8 involving lasers and vehicles, and 15 involving lasers and “people or premises”. This is an increase of 270%, compared with the same period in 2010, when there were 2 aircraft, 2 vehicle and 6 people/premises incidents.

A spokesperson pledged to “deal robustly with any incident involving laser light whether it is an assault on another member of the public or a device being pointed at a vehicle. Laser pen owners should also be aware that Surrey Police’s collision investigation unit can pursue a manslaughter charge if it is found that a fatal or life changing injury collision is due to the use of a laser light. All offences have a power of arrest and could result in a term of imprisonment.”

Police are especially concerned about aircraft illuminations in East Surrey, near Gatwick Airport.

From Elmbridge Today, BBC News, and Redhill and Reigate Life. A list of laser pen offences, compiled by the Surrey police, is here.

Russia: UPDATED - Laser "blindings" increase

Russian air transport regulator Rosaviatsiya noted an increase this year in cases of pilots being blinded by laser pens during landing at Russian airports, with 30 such incidents registered as of June 8 2011. Only five cases were registered in 2010.

On June 8, a pilot was blinded by a laser pointer while landing a Boeing passenger plane in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, but managed to land safely. The beam came from the area of a local market.

Earlier in the week a pilot of an Airbus A320 plane was blinded by a laser light during landing at the same airport

From RIA Novosti. In addition, Pravda carried a story with some additional details. See also other LaserPointerSafety.com stories about Russian aviation incidents and laser statistics.

UPDATED - June 24 2011: The German news agency DPA reported that these attacks, and additional ones in June in Rostov-on-Don, are the result of Islamist insurgents in the Caucasus region. See this story for details and sources.

UPDATE 2 - July 5 2011: A spokesman for the Federal Air Transport Agency said there have been more than 50 cases of “laser hooliganism” thus far this year in Russia, according to Bloomberg.

Canada: Pilots want lasing to be a criminal offense

The Air Canada Pilots Association, the largest pilots’ union in the country, has asked Transport Canada for new federal laws to make lasing an aircraft a criminal offense. A spokesperson said this would lead to better education of laser users: “Having it added to the Criminal Code would strengthen the understanding that what they are doing is illegal.”

Currently, violations of the Aeronautics Act can lead to fines of up to $100,000 and up to five years in prison. Despite this, laser illuminations continue to occur.

In 2010, there were 182 reported laser pointing incidents. Ontario had the highest number, 69, followed by Quebec with 53 incidents. Transport Canada and the ACPA said this was due to increased reporting, copycat laser use, and the increased availability of laser pens and pointers.

“This is just like shooting a gun at an airplane around [an] airport,” according to Nick Stoss, formerly with the Transportation Safety Board.

From Global Winnipeg

US: FAA to impose civil penalties of up to $11,000

The Federal Aviation Administration announced on June 1 2011 that they will impose civil penalties of up to $11,000 on any person who aims laser beams at aircraft. According to CNN, the agency’s authority comes from a new legal interpretation “concluding that laser beams can interfere with a flight crew performing its duties while operating an aircraft.” The flight crew interference regulation, first imposed in 1961, was originally intended to combat hijackings and has been applied only to passengers on board or next to an aircraft.

The Wall Street Journal states that “[t]he change is intended to make it easier to punish violators without resorting to time-consuming criminal proceedings.”

Previously, FAA did not go after laser violators directly. FAA will now routinely bring civil charges, and these will be in addition to any other civil or criminal charges brought by others such as the FBI, or state and local law enforcement. Read More...

South Africa: Incidents are increasing; pilots express concern

South Africa is experiencing about 12 incidents a week as of April 2011, according to the Air Line Pilots Association of South Africa. The most-affected airports are at Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Lanseria. Apparently, there is no central reporting requirement or agency in South Africa, so “the figure was probably much higher”, according to an ALPA SA spokesperson. She also characterized the incidents as “pranks” but said due to the danger, criminal charges should be pursued.

A representative of the Civil Aviation Authority said that laser misuse violates two sections of the Civil Aviation Regulations, and can be punished with a fine and/or imprisonment of up to 10 years. (There was an arrest in 2010 during the World Cup, when 35-year-old Yusuf Ebrahim temporarily blinded a helicopter pilot.) The CAA representative said the Authority would consider new standards or regulations if they were recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

To report a laser illumination incident in South Africa, CAA said to email information to cahrs@caa.co.za or fax it to 011 545 1453.

From Independent OnLine Scitech. An IOL story about Yusuf Ebrahim’s first court appearance is here. Read More...

South Africa: Up to 12 incidents per week, say pilots

Between 10 and 12 laser illuminations of aircraft each week are reported to the Air Line Pilots Association of South Africa (ALPA-SA). A spokesperson said the number is likely much higher since pilots for large airlines would report directly to the airline. (Of four airlines contacted by the Cape Argus, one said they had “infrequent instances” which they had reported to authorities, two said they had received no complaints from flight crews, and one did not respond to requests for comment.)

ALPA-SA is calling for public education and a ban on handheld laser sales. According to the organization, there was a temporary drop in the number of incidents after media reports earlier in 2011, but the incidents are now on the rise again.

A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said “a few cases” had been reported thus far in 2011. He added that if the International Civil Aviation Organization introduced new regulations, the CAA would “definitely look into implementing it.”

From the Cape Argus

US: UPDATED - Gun-shaped laser pointer for sale

A company is selling a gun-shaped laser pointer on the internet. The “gun” uses two AAA batteries to generate a 50 mW green beam:



The seller says this is “a good tool for pointing to the faraway target or stars and sending out the SOS signal, making your travelling [sic] funny and interesting.” Fortunately, they also note that “Laser is harmful to people, following uses are forbidden: A. Point the laser at people's faces, especially eyes; B. Point at mirrors or highly reflective surface; C. For children play; D. Observe the laser lines with a telescope; E. Disassemble, test or repair laser pens.”

Thanks to Phyllis Monahan of Lighting Systems Design Inc. (LSDI) for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATED - June 7 2011: Gun-shaped laser pointers have been noted in two police reports we have recently seen. One is a confiscation in Virginia Beach after a teen aimed a gun/pointer at a mounted policeman and his horse. The other is a May 7 incident reported by the Buffalo Grove (Illinois) Patch where police briefly detained youths who had been pointing a gun-shaped laser pointer at vehicles in a parking lot. “The officer contacted the parents who came to pick up their sons. The officer made it very clear to the parents and the youths how dangerous a situation the boys placed themselves into.”

UPDATE 2 - September 16 2014: A 13-year-old Indiana boy was suspended for a week from school, for waving a laser pointer around in a school parking lot. Police said the laser pointer “could look like a gun.” It is unknown if the pointer actually was gun-shaped like in the above photo, or if it was a different shape, such as the cylinder of a barrel, that could be mistaken for a gun.

Onion satire: Pilot about to crash

Humor publication The Onion is at it again. This time, they have written a fictitious P.A. announcement being made by a pilot who has been temporarily blinded by a laser pointer and is about to crash. In addition to the black humor, the article makes excellent points about the severity of this problem. It ends by exhorting the reader to not shine laser pointers at aircraft.

The article begins: “From the flight deck, this is your captain ....in case you're wondering why the plane feels like it's completely out of control, well, there's currently some [idiot] standing on the roof of his car down near the tarmac shining a laser pointer directly into in my eyes. I literally can't see a goddamn thing.”

The “captain” goes on to explain that “ there were almost 3,000 lasering incidents last year alone.... [t]hat's eight instances per day in which a human being—someone with a conscience who ostensibly knows the difference between right and wrong—drives to an airport, gets out of his car, and entertains himself by shining a [very bright] laser pointer directly into a pilot's eyes.” Read More...

New Zealand: Pilots call for restrictions after 16 incidents to date in 2011

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association on April 13 2011 called for restrictions on the sale and distribution of “commercial-strength” Class 3 and Class 4 lasers, after 16 incidents in New Zealand in 2011. This came on the heels of an April 11 incident where a green laser illuminated the cockpit of a Pacific Blue aircraft during landing at Auckland Airport.

According to NZALPA’s vice president Glen Kenny, “There is no restriction on the sale and distribution of commercial-strength lasers in New Zealand. In Australia they treat Class 3 lasers or higher as a potential weapon."

NZALPA had previously proposed restrictions in New Zealand “two or three years ago” but the organization wanted it given a higher priority. A spokesman for the Ministry of Health’s National Radiation Laboratory said the issue was “still being considered.” He did note that there have been “successful police prosecutions where people had carelessly or deliberately aimed lasers at vehicles or aircraft.”

From the New Zealand Herald

Grenada: Increasing incidents

A number of pilots have reported lasers being aimed at their aircraft, reports the Grenada Airports Authority. The incidents occur when landing at Maurice Bishop International Airport.

Violators could be charged with interfering with air crew duties. The Authority is looking for the laser perpetrator(s), and has posted notices in newspapers stating that shining lights at aircraft is “a security offense”. Also, several pilots have filed complaints with the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority.

From the
Virgin Islands News Online

Switzerland: Incidents double to 80 in 2010

In Switzerland in 2010, there were 80 incidents where aircraft pilots were “injured” by lasers. This compares with 40 in 2009, according to Vaud police.

From GenevaLunch.com

Norway: Registration now required for laser pointer possession and use

Norway has restricted possession and use of Class 3R, 3B and 4 laser pointers (over 5 milliwatts in power), starting 1 Jan. 2011. The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) took the action because of aircraft illumination incidents and cases where young people received eye injuries after playing with the laser pens.

Under the new regulations, a laser pointer is defined as “a handheld laser, battery-operated or otherwise self-powered, designed to be held in the hand and pointing at something in the distance.”

NRPA’s restrictions on use do not appear to apply to use inside a private home. However, permission is required if the laser is to be aimed out the window of a home.

Links (in Norwegian; use Google Translate or similar as necessary)
General notice from NRPA
Laser pointer regulations and application (PDF document)
Thanks to Arild Instebø for bringing this to our attention

Highlights of the Norwegian regulations, and the application for laser possession, are below (click on the “Read More...” link). Read More...

Germany: Homemade laser pulse gun packs 1-megawatt punch

Homemade lasers, using diodes from DVD burners and video projectors such as the Casio Green Slim, are common among hobbyists. However, a new homemade laser is the first we have seen with a 1-megawatt pulse.

This differs from most pointers and handheld lasers, which use lasers that emit continuous light. This one emits a single, strong pulse each time the trigger is pulled. It is “enough to punch holes in plastic sheets, scorch wood, and pop balloons from several feet away” according to Dvice.com.



The maker, Patrick Priebe, posted a YouTube video showing the gun in action. He also was offering it for sale. According to Priebe, the gun uses a Q-switched Nd:YAG laser. It takes four seconds to charge the capacitor; the gun then fires a 100 nanosecond, 1 megawatt burst of infrared 1064 nanometer light. The gun took Priebe about 70 hours to build. His YouTube page offers to help others wanting to build their own laser gun.

SAFETY NOTE: Because the laser emits an invisible pulse, it would not be a visual interference hazard to aircraft (e.g., it could not cause glare or flashblindness). At close range the Q-switched pulse would definitely be an eye hazard, causing an explosive steam “pop” on the retina rather than the relatively slow burn of a continuous-wave laser. LaserPointerSafety.com has not done an analysis to determine the “safe” distance, beyond which it would not pose an eye hazard to pilots or others.

From
Dvice.com and Hacked Gadgets forum

Italy: 479 incidents in 2010

In Italy during 2010, there were 479 “operations concerning a signal disturbed by aircraft laser beam”. Milan’s Malpensa and Linate airports reported 20 incidents each, and there were 9 at the Orio al Serio airport. The L’Eco di Bergamo newspaper states that efforts are underway to reduce these, involving regulators, aviation officials, public security officials and judicial authorities.

From L’Eco di Bergamo (in Italian)

US: NY Times says injury increase feared from higher powered lasers

The New York Times reported on persons who are concerned about eye injuries caused by misuse of lasers which are easily available and are “10 to 20 times as powerful” as the U.S. limit of 5 milliwatts. Experts quoted in the article say the incidents are “the beginning of a trend” and that “in the hands of children it’s a very scary proposition.”

The article listed four injuries to youths. In three of the incidents, a young person deliberately stared into a laser beam, while the fourth was caused by a high-schooler whose friend waved a 50 mW laser in his face. (Besides these anecdotal accounts, the article gave no overall statistics on injuries except to say that an ophthalmologist association is “unaware of any increase in eye injuries caused by lasers.”)

Author Christine Negroni covered a number of topics, including:
  • There has been “ninefold increase over five years” in laser illuminations of aircraft
  • Eye doctors are “shocked” that high-powered lasers are available on the Internet with no purchase restrictions.
  • A U.K. physician says the U.S. limit should be 1 mW, that even at 5 mW laser pointers have “acute” dangers.
  • FDA says that noncompliant (“illegal”) lasers are available despite agency seizures.
  • Wicked Lasers says that its products are compliant, that they are “extremely clear” about eye and fire hazards on their webpages, and that they will be offering online safety lessons “before checkout”.
  • A “large community” of laser enthusiasts wants to keep lasers available.
  • An 18-year-old laser hobbyist, who wears goggles and is supervised by his parents, said he was learning about electronics, soldering, physics, light, optics and mechanics.

From the New York Times, online on Feb. 28 2011, in print on March 1 2011 on page D5 of the National edition.

US: House and Senate pass legislation against laser pointer aiming

The U.S. House of Representatives on February 25 passed, by voice vote, H.R. 386, the “Securing Aircraft Cockpits Against Lasers Act of 2011.” The same language passed the Senate on Feb. 17 as an amendment to an FAA funding bill. Because the House passed a bill, while the Senate passed an amendment to a different bill, a joint House-Senate committee will meet to “agree on a common format” before sending the legislation to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The bill makes it a crime to aim or illuminate an aircraft with a laser pointer. From the bill:

Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both. As used in this section, the term ‘laser pointer’ means any device designed or used to amplify electromagnetic radiation by stimulated emission that emits a beam designed to be used by the operator as a pointer or highlighter to indicate, mark, or identify a specific position, place, item, or object.


There are three exemptions in H.R. 386: 1) R&D and flight testing approved by FAA, 2) Defense or Homeland Security department operations, and 3) use of a “laser emergency signaling device to send an emergency distress signal.”

From an AP story running in many locations including
here.

COMMENTARY: LaserPointerSafety.com has a page with
our analysis of H.R. 386, written before the bill was introduced into the current session of Congress.

Germany: 273 (or 388) incidents in 2010; call for ban on pointers

In 2010, there were 273* laser “attacks” on aircraft in Germany, an increase of 800 percent. This is according to the deputy chairman of the CDU / CSU Parliamentary Group, Dr. Günter Krings, who spoke to a safety group in Potsdam.

He recommended fast action. He discussed a European import ban, as well as classifying lasers as a weapon, and prohibiting private possession of Class 3 and Class 4 lasers. He said, “I call on the competent authorities to submit to the problem of dangerous laser fast red tape as possible solutions, before something happens and people get hurt.”

The pilot’s union Vereinigung Cockpit said an import ban is not sufficient, because customs checks are difficult. Cockpit board member Joerg Handwerg said "Although lasers may not be sold in shops with a capacity of more than one milliwatt in Germany, but you get the devices in the Internet.” The group wants to prohibit the possession of equipment for private individuals.

Original articles (in German) from
Rettung Magazine, Fluege.de News, and Heute.de.

*NOTE: An April 23 2011 article from N-TV.de says there were 388 “attacks with laser pointers at pilots” in 2010. This is according to the German air traffic control agency, DFS. The article had no additional information that might account for the discrepancy with the 273 incidents in 2010 that is quoted above.

Canada: Man gets lower fine, in part because pilot did not lose control

In a case which may have Canadian implications for laser users’ defense, a judge reduced the fine for an Edmonton man charged with creating a hazard to aviation safety.

Provincial Judge Paul Sully said the August 19 2009 incident was "not as serious” as the prosecutor described, since the pilot did not lose control, but instead was "momentarily blinded from viewing his instruments [and] was able to complete his orbits.” In addition, the judge noted that the pilot was familiar with the dangers of laser light.

Judge Sully also rejected the prosecution’s notion that the man should have culpability: “The offender had a momentary loss of common sense which resulted from his failure to recognize the high standard of care needed when handling a laser.” Read More...

US: Pentagon delayed using laser dazzers in Iraq

Wired magazine reported that laser dazzler deployment was held up in Iraq for nine months due to bureaucratic red tape. The nonlethal dazzlers are small, weapons-mounted or handheld lasers that temporarily blind potential threats with pulses of green laser light.

During the U.S. phase of the Iraq war, Marine Corps leaders requested the handheld devices as a way to warn and stop drivers who were overrunning military checkpoints. Wired’s David Axe estimates that “as many as 50” Iraqi civilians were killed by gunfire -- instead of being forced off the road by dazzlers -- during the nine month delay.

There is some dispute over the safety of laser dazzlers. According to the Inspector General’s report,

Laser dazzlers provide a nonlethal capability by emitting an intense light capable of temporarily obscuring the vision of approaching individuals; however, using lasers poses a risk of serious eye injury and permanent blindness. This mode of employing a laser, shining a laser directly into the face or eyes, increases the inherent dangers of using the laser. Using nonlethal laser dazzlers would give Marine operating forces an additional capability to increase stand-off distances, safeguard civilians who venture too close to Marine positions, and help prevent unwarranted escalation of force incidences; however, DoD [Department of Defense] policy prohibits the use of lasers designed to cause permanent blindness. Operating procedures and laser safety measures are essential to ensure the safe and proper use of the lasers.


The Inspector General’s report contains additional details about the range, capabilities, safety concerns and policy issues related to military use of laser dazzlers. For example, the 1995 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons states that the signatories (which include the U.S.) “shall take all feasible precautions to avoid the incidence of permanent blindness to unenhanced vision.”

From
Wired.com.

Australia: 2008 "cluster attack" caused by boys on bicycles

In an incident in late March 2008, six planes had to alter their flight paths into Sydney’s airport after pilots reported a “coordinated cluster attack” of “up to four” laser beams. This incident has been cited numerous times as perhaps being a dry run or test for some more sinister laser usage.

However, it turns out that this incident was caused by boys on bicycles, apparently acting without pre-planning and not knowing how the lasers would affect pilot vision. During a Feb. 2011 briefing to the SAE G10T laser safety group , FAA flight standards liaison Patrick Hempen said that the truth about Sydney has not caught up with the news stories: “The attacks are usually spontaneous in nature, perpetrated by careless or malicious persons.”

Hempen said that investigation by US and Australian officials revealed that the Sydney "cluster attack" was caused by youths, riding their bicycles on a golf course at night, who stopped and took the occasion to illuminate landing aircraft. He noted that the youths’ local community had a history of acrimony directed at the airport authority due to the construction of a new runway which caused more flights over their residential area.

Hempen also investigated several laser events in the Mideast and found many of the so-called "deliberate attacks" to be similar; they were “events perpetrated by youths, in a party-like atmosphere, without care or knowledge of the havoc that they were causing.”

Based on a Feb. 1, 2011 presentation to SAE G10T.

US: UPDATED -Law proposed in Illinois to criminalize laser pointing

An Illinois state representative introduced HB0167, which amends the state criminal code to make “discharging a laser into the cockpit of an aircraft” a Class A misdemeanor. Republican Dave Winters of Shirland is a pilot who wants to give state police jurisdiction over the crime.

HB0167 is similar to HR 386, a bill currently in the U.S. House of Representatives. One difference is that the state bill criminalizes using any “laser” that illuminates a cockpit, while the federal bill only applies to “laser pointers”. Another difference is that HB0167 contains two of the three exceptions in HR 386. While it provides an exemption for R&D and flight tests, and for the Defense and Homeland Security Departments, the Illinois bill does not provide any exemption for lasers used to signal in emergency rescue situations.

The full text of the bill, along with the status and other information, is available from the Illinois General Assembly.

From the
Chicago Tribune (Jan. 26 2011) and St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Feb. 17 2011).

UPDATED - June 15 2011: The bill was passed February 24 by the Illinois House and May 17 by the Senate, and has been sent to the Governor for his signature. From the Illinois General Assembly status page on HB0167.

UPDATE 2 - July 21 2011: The Governor signed the bill. It becomes Public Law 097-0153 and will take effect January 1 2012. From the Chicago Tribune.

US: New York Times calls attention to pilots' laser risk

A January 21 2011 New York Times article describes how “High-Powered Laser Pointers Pose Risk to Pilots”. Author Christine Negroni discusses how laser light can distract pilots, the number of incidents in the U.S., and what steps are being taken. The article extensively quotes Samuel Goldwasser, author of Sam’s Laser FAQ, regarding laser technology. Goldwasser is quoted as saying that poor regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a problem.


From the New York Times. Readers of the Times article may also be interested in clarifications, tips and links compiled by LaserPointerSafety.com.

US: 2,836 laser events reported in 2010; FAA expresses concern

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said there were 2,836 reports of lasers being pointed at aircraft during calendar year 2010. This is over seven incidents every single night, and is 185% greater than 2009’s figure of 1,527 reported incidents.

FAA spokesperson Laura Brown told LaserPointerSafety.com that in roughly 90% of the reports, the cockpit and/or pilot was illuminated by the laser. (In the other 10%, a beam was seen outside the aircraft but light did not enter the cockpit.) As far as injury reports, Brown said that these were “fairly rare”.

The FAA’s press release listed the top 20 affected airports, with Los Angeles International Airport topping the chart with 102 “laser events” in 2010. LaserPointerSafety.com has further analyzed the airport data to show that for these top 20 airports, an event occurred once every 7,000 takeoffs and and landings; the analysis is here.

According to the press release, “[t]he increase in reports is likely due to a number of factors, including the availability of inexpensive laser devices on the Internet; higher power levels that enable lasers to hit aircraft at higher altitudes; increased pilot reporting of laser strikes; and the introduction of green lasers, which are more easily seen than red lasers.”


The FAA released the photo above, illustrating what a direct laser illumination of a cockpit can look like.


To read the full FAA press release, and see the list of 20 most affected airports, click the “Read More...” text below. In addition, updated statistics for the current year are
here.

Read More...

UK: Laser "dazzler" from BAE Systems for use against pirates and other threats

Defense specialist BAE Systems demonstrated a prototype laser intended for commercial vessels to distract, disorient and deter pirates. According to the company, the custom Nd:YAG laser “is capable of providing a visual warning to pirates at distances greater than 2km, and of disorientating attackers sufficiently at lesser distances so that weapons cannot be targeted effectively. At all times the power levels of the laser remain eye safe.”

Roy Clarke, BAE Systems capability technology lead for laser photonic systems, said: “The effect is similar to when a fighter pilot attacks from the direction of the sun. The glare from the laser is intense enough to make it impossible to aim weapons like AK47s or RPGs, but doesn’t have a permanent effect.”

From the BAE Systems press release.