A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: Self-driving cars can be disrupted using a laser pointer

A cybersecurity expert said that he can disrupt self-driving cars that use LIDAR sensors, with “just $43 and a laser pointer.”

LIDAR sensors on self-driving cars work by sending laser light — usually non-visible infrared beams — in order to detect objects’ shapes and distances. According to Jonathan Petit, there is a problem: “Anybody can go online and get access to this, buy it really quickly, and just assemble it, and there you go, you have a device that can spoof lidar.”

The LIDAR can be made to falsely perceive objects that do not exist, or to ignore objects that are actually present.

A simple attack would cause the self-driving car to run into another car or an object. A more sophisticated attack could cause the car to choose a different path. Petit says “[this] means that then the risk could be ‘I’m sending you to small street to stop you and rob you or steal the car.’”

The Business Insider article is unclear but it appears the $43 is for equipment in addition to the cost of the laser pointer. Also, although the article did not say, it may be that the laser pointer needs to emit infrared light instead of, or in addition to, visible light.

Petit is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

From an article in Business Insider, posted December 15 2016. The detailed article also discusses many other non-laser techniques of hacking self-driving cars.

US: Study examines 4 laser-caused eye injuries in children, at one medical practice

A study in the October 2016 journal Pediatrics described four cases where children had laser-related eye injuries, all being presented at a single clinical practice within a two-year period. The study is entitled “Retinal Injury Secondary to Laser Pointers in Pediatric Patients.”

For details, see this LaserPointerSafety.com article in the non-aviation incident section of our news coverage. We are cross-referencing the article in this section as well, for persons who are looking for articles about scientific studies of laser eye injuries.

India: (Not a laser) Hundreds of severe eye injuries from government pellet shotguns

[Note: We are including this article because there has been concern that lasers used in protests against police could potentially cause eye damage. The article describes actual, serious eye damage caused by a non-laser source to hundreds of protesters. As of August 29 2016, LaserPointerSafety is unaware of any serious or permanent eye injuries from lasers used in protests, riots, and similar civil disturbances.]

From mid-July 2016 to late August 2016, more than 570 persons have gone to the main government hospital in Srinagar, Kashmir for treatment of eyes that have been damaged by “birdshot” (lead pellets) fired from shotguns into crowds by Indian security forces trying to break up protests and crowds.

An August 28 2016 New York Times article describes some of the lead pellet-caused eye injuries:

“The patients have mutilated retinas, severed optic nerves, irises seeping out like puddles of ink.”

“[A] patient’s eyelids have been stretched back with a metal clamp, so his eyeball bulges out of glistening pink tissue. The surgeon sits with his back very straight, cutting with tiny movements of his fingers. Every now and then, a thread of blood appears in the patient’s eye socket. The patient is 8 years old…. Slowly, as residents stood around him in hushed silence, the surgeon flattened out the boy’s retina, as thin and delicate as a lace doily, and used a laser to reattach it to the back of his eye.

“In most cases, it became clear, the pellets had burst into through the cornea and out through the retina, leaving little hope of fully restoring vision…. ‘Once it goes in the eye, it rotates like this, and destroys everything there inside,’ Dr. Qureshi said. ‘It’s physics. This is a high-velocity body. It releases a high amount of energy inside. The lens, the iris, the retina get matted up.’”

The author, Ellen Barry, notes that “….most countries do not use them on unarmed civilians, as the pellets spray widely and cannot be aimed…. This year, the use of pellets on Kashmiri protesters increased sharply, with the police firing more than 3,000 canisters, or upward of 1.2 million pellets, in the first 32 days of the protests, the Central Reserve Police Force has said.”

From the New York Times

Saudi Arabia: Handheld blue-light lasers can cause macular hole in retina

Scientists and physicians in Saudi Arabia reported that momentary exposure to high-power blue-light handheld lasers can cause a full-thickness mhole in the macula, the oval-shaped area near the center of the retina. Damage to this area causes loss of central vision.

The study, reported in the July 2015 American Journal of Ophthalmology, looked at 17 eyes of 17 patients at two institutions, between January 2012 and May 2014. Most were youths (mean patient age 18 years; range: 11 to 30 years old). The eyes were exposed to blue laser light for less than one second, at a mean distance estimated to be about 1 meter from the laser. The time from exposure to the patient visiting the hospital for treatment ranged from two days, to almost 500 days.

Patients were given a full ophthalmic examination, including fundus photography, macular spectral-domain optical coherence tomography, and fundus fluorescein angiography.

The macular holes ranged from 0.17 millimeters to 0.62 mm, with a mean diameter of 0.35 mm.

In 14 of the eyes, surgeons went deep into the eye and removed vitreous gel (a pars plana vitrectomy); this removes clouded gel that may contain blood from the injury. At the same time surgeons also did a procedure called “internal limiting membrane peeling,” which uses an instrument to make a break in the membrane which is then peeled away with forceps.

In 11 of the 14 eyes, the operation completely closed the macular hole. Of the other three unoperated eyes, the eye with the smallest macular hole spontaneously closed.

Before the operation, the mean Snellen best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) was 20/210, or about 1/10th the normal visual acuity; the range was from 20/30 to 2/200. After the operations, the mean BCVA was 20/62 (range: 20/20 to 4/200). These statistics included all eyes (the 14 operated eyes and the three unoperated ones).

The authors concluded “Full-thickness MH can result from momentary exposure to high-power handheld laser devices. While spontaneous closure may occur in rare cases, most cases require early surgical intervention. Vitrectomy may be successful in closing the macular hole with visual acuity improvement in most of the cases.”

From the abstract of the study by Alsulaiman SM, et al., “Full-Thickness Macular Hole Secondary to High-Power Handheld Blue Laser: Natural History and Management Outcomes” in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, July 2015 Vol. 160, Issue 1, Pages 107-113.e1.

Note: Other studies have been published based on this data, an August 2013 LaserPointerSafety.com story about the first study is here.

US: Survey paper says "Injury from laser pointer trauma is a public health problem on the rise"

A review in the April 2015 issue of the journal Retina Today discusses injuries and incidents involving intentional laser pointer exposure.

It begins by summarizing misuse in sports, and in the thousands of incidents per year in the U.S. where lasers are aimed at aircraft.

The authors, Dr. Gregory D. Lee and Dr. David R. Lally, then write “Perhaps the greatest concerns are raised by reports of unsupervised children who have received these lasers as toys or gifts and expose themselves to the laser beams, causing permanent retinal injury with reduced central vision. From 2000 to 2009, there were five reports of 18 patients with injuries due to laser pointer exposure.”

They discuss the types of injuries (thermal, photochemical and mechanical) and locations of retinal injuries. There is a listing of laser classes, with “pointers” — Class 1, 2 or 3R (IIIa) — being distinguished from similar-looking but more powerful Class 3B and 4 “handheld” lasers.

The authors conclude as follows:

“Inappropriately used class 3B or 4 lasers should be considered weapons that can cause serious, permanent bodily injury. Even brief exposures to diffused rays of laser beams can cause temporary flash blindness that may last for hours in airline pilots, endangering the lives of passengers, particularly during takeoff and landing sequences. Cases of short-range laser exposure are becoming more common, often involving children who are inappropriately given these devices as toys, and these patients are referred to retina specialists after the damage has already occurred.

“No definitive experimental study, case report, or animal model has shown improvement in these injuries with any type of treatment, but typically these patients are treated with a short course of corticosteroids or nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. Secondary choroidal neovascularization has been treated successfully with intravitreal anti-VEGF agents.13,14

“Clinicians, particularly retina specialists, can raise awareness of this rising public health issue by educating patients and parents about the hazards of laser pointers. Legislation is currently being written to impose stronger regulations on the distribution and sale of these devices. If a patient presents with findings of a laser-related retinal injury, clinicians should report the incident to the FDA so that investigations can be performed into the manufacturers of these devices. Reports can be made at www.fda.gov/downloads/AboutFDA/ReportsManualsForms/Forms/UCM236066.pdf.”

From Retina Today

US: Laser show company has variance revoked for unauthorized audience scanning

A laser light show company had their FDA variance revoked for “a very significant public safety hazard”. This is the first time LaserPointerSafety.com is aware of such a revocation due to unsafe laser light shows, since the variance process began in the late 1970s.

On July 24 2014, the Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to David Fleenor of Epic FX, Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona. It stated that videos posted on the epicfx.com website “documents audience scanning with Class IIIb and/or Class IV lasers. Although much of the audience scanning was done with fanned beams, your projector is not designed nor reported for safe audience scanning. Your variance prohibits audience scanning. Any laser beams projected into the audience directly or indirectly is considered audience scanning. This is in violation of Condition 5 of your variance.” [The page has since been removed, and returns a 404 error.]
Click to read more...

Switzerland: After laser pointer attacks, first responders will have laser protective eyewear

In 2013, there were six laser attacks on police and rescue personnel in Basel, Switzerland. One officer was said to have permanent retinal damage.

After tests in mid-2013, the Basil Justice and Security Department purchased 1,000 pairs of laser protective eyewear, at 200 Swiss Francs each (USD $224).

All Basel police officers and rescue emergency vehicles are equipped with the glasses, as of December 2013. Other Swiss cantons are in the testing phase.

Pic 2014-01-26 at 12.01.32 PM
The Basel anti-laser glasses are demonstrated in this frame from a SRF video.


From a December 16 2013 report by Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen, (original German text and Google-translated into English). Thanks to Basel officer Ruedi Maier for bringing this to our attention. For additional news items from Switzerland, including the 2011 purchase of laser protective eyewear for air rescue helicopter pilots, click here.

Switzerland: Police want higher power laser pointers classed as weapons

A Swiss police association has called for regulation of higher power laser pointers as weapons under the Arms Act. This comes after an incident in early August 2013 where policemen at the famed Street Parade in Zurich were injured by a laser, and laser misuse against an officer in early July 2013 during a Basel demonstration.

Since 2011, laser pointers above 5 milliwatts are prohibited in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health is working on proposals to classify laser pointers as weapons and will present these by 2014.

From 20 Minuten (original German text and Google-translated into English)

US: Retina specialist says laser pointer crackdown needed to avoid serious injury

“Swift action” is necessary to prevent serious injury from high-powered laser pointers, according to Dr. Robert Josephburg, a retinal specialist at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla N.Y. A Yahoo Sports story says that Josephburg warned Congress about the danger, although no specifics of the warning or date were given.

The Yahoo Sports story noted that laser pens are often misused by European soccer fans. In late February 2013, two world-famous players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, were targeted during a pair of games.

Pic 2013-03-29 at 7.45.47 PM Pic 2013-03-29 at 7.45.55 PM
Ronaldo (left) and Messi, illuminated by lasers during matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona

Josephburg told Yahoo Sports that athletes could be especially at risk, since lasers could cause serious damage from an exposure of a few seconds. He said “If I was a ball player I would be terrified. I only hope that Congress acts on this before some real harm is done.”

Lasers with powers of over 50 milliwatts are dangerous, Josephburg said, and can have serious effects almost immediately. The only effective deterrent is to punish possession or use of high-powered pointers, according to Josephburg: “There is simply no need for a regular person to have one of these.”

From Yahoo Sports

US: Myrtle Beach area proposed ban on laser pointer sales

The Horry (South Carolina) County Council on November 14 2012 introduced an ordinance to restrict laser pointers. This is in response to ongoing problems in Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, and other Horry County jurisdictions.

The ordinance would make it illegal to sell lasers over 1 milliwatt, or to sell any green laser to persons under 18. Adults misusing lasers would be charged with assault and battery, with a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days in jail, and being held liable for any damage or personal injury. Minors misusing lasers would be prosecuted in Family Court, plus parents would be held responsible and could be fined or jailed.

In addition, a warning would be required with the sale of every laser pointer.

Under county procedure, it takes three “readings” at council meetings to pass an ordinance. Based on the council’s schedule, the earliest it could be passed would be in January 2013.

From CarolinaLive. This is part of continuing stories at LaserPointerSafety.com about ongoing problems at Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.

US: Ocean City MD having increasing laser harassment problems

Ocean City (Maryland) Police are facing increasing numbers of complaints about laser pointer misuse. This is despite a law since 2010 that prohibits possession by minors and shining lasers onto public or private property. It also requires buyers to be notified of Ocean City’s laser pointer laws.

On July 29 2012, the Police Department issued a press release detailing the law’s requirements and penalties. To see the release, click the “Read More” link below.

Via WGMD. See also a related story from DelMarVaNow.com.
Click to read more...

US: Myrtle Beach considering further laser regs; current ones aren't working

Laser pointer regulations passed in 2011 in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach have not proven effective in stopping laser misuse, especially against aircraft. There were 24 laser incidents in July reported at Myrtle Beach International Airport. Two Coast Guard helicopter missions were cut short due to laser interference.

A meeting was held with local officials, including representatives from Myrtle Beach, the Coast Guard, the Chamber of Commerce and the Horry County Council, to discuss options. The director of airports said that existing ordinances are not enough. He wants “a way to look at regulating the size and power of lasers that are sold in our community and region.”

Rather than local cities passing ordinances, one approach is for county-wide regulations. The topic will continue to be discussed at future county council meetings.

From CarolinaLive. This is part of continuing stories at LaserPointerSafety.com about ongoing problems at Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.

US: Myrtle Beach area man hit in eye; wants laser ban

It is a “war zone” on the beach, according to a man from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, a seaside town south of Myrtle Beach. Dwain Patrick told WPDE-TV news that “green lasers [are] being shined on everything that moved.” He was hit in the left eye and lost vision for about two hours. It was immediate and painful, Patrick said.

A vacationer staying in a local campground says the park banned green lasers. Patrick has written to the Horry County Council and has spoken at a local Public Safety Committee meeting to get rental property owners to ban them. He says “They serve no useful function at all. In fact, the only function they have is to harass people.”

Patrick would like a complete ban on lasers.

In the city of North Myrtle Beach, there have been 10 warning tickets issued between November 2011 and July 2012 for violations of a local laser pointer ordinance.

From CarolinaLive. This is part of continuing stories at LaserPointerSafety.com about ongoing problems at Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.

US: "Epidemic" of laser misuse in Myrtle Beach

A Myrtle Beach (South Carolina) Police spokesperson called green laser pointers an “epidemic” in 2012. Police are called multiple times a day after pointers are aimed at persons, hotel rooms, and aircraft. This is despite the fact that both Myrtle Beach and nearby North Myrtle Beach have recently passed restrictions on laser pointer misuse and possession by persons under 18.

Laser pointers are available for as little as $4 at many beachfront stores catering to tourists.

The president of a Myrtle Beach helicopter tour company says that his aircraft are hit “two, three times a week, sometimes more.” He says the increase makes him nervous for his pilots and clients. He says there is no education for laser pointer buyers about the potential hazard.


Click for video interview with Huffman Helicopter president Jeremy Bass.


From CarolinaLive. This is part of continuing stories at LaserPointerSafety.com about ongoing problems at Myrtle Beach.

UAE: Concern over lasers in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

An article in Gulf News discusses the easy availability of high powered lasers in the United Arab Emirates. The article says that Abu Dhabi youths have been arrested “over the years” for disorienting helicopter pilots flying over residential areas.

DragonMart in Dubai claims to be “the largest trading centre for Chinese products outside mainland China,” with almost 4,000 shops. A Gulf News reporter found shops selling lasers under-the-counter for AED 40 to AED 80 ($11-$22). An internet search turned up lasers for sale in Dubai and Abu Dhabi around AED 500 ($136) that were described with terms such as “draw a line in the sky,” “extremely bright green,” and could cause “permanent eye damage”.

The article noted that United Arab Emirates officials have said that illegal use of lasers could lead to fines and jail time.

From GulfNews.com and DragonMart. We have found two articles about youths in Abu Dhabi being arrested after aiming lasers at a helicopter, in June 2010 and in October 2007. Video of the June 2010 incident, uploaded by the Abu Dhabi Police, is available on YouTube (click the photo to go to the YouTube page).

Pic 2012-02-20 at 10.49.27 AM
Two lasers, one from the left and one from the center, are briefly aimed at an Abu Dhabi Police helicopter, in a June 2010 video.

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.”

Click to 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.

US: Casio sends cease-and-desist letter to "harvesting" hobbyist

Casio’s law firm sent a cease-and-desist letter to a laser hobbyist who was selling laser diodes harvested from a Casio video projector. The letter objected to the removal of the diodes (“disassembly is prohibited”) and to the use of Casio’s name in the eBay auction.

The hobbyist indicated “I will comply since the things don’t really bring me much money.”

A link to the hobbyist’s post and the text of the letter are after the break (click the “Read More...” link below). For background information on the Casio diode harvesting, see the June 2010 alert.Click to read more...

US: Ocean City NJ discusses a ban on laser pointers

The city council of Ocean City, New Jersey, on August 26 2010 discussed banning laser pointers after a rash of incidents including seven aircraft illuminations. The mayor said that eight out of ten Boardwalk stores had planned to stop sales voluntarily. The city hoped “to convince the remaining shops to voluntarily remove them from their shelves.”

The move came after a report one week earlier about seven incidents when aircraft landing at Atlantic City International Airport had been illuminated by lasers. Police noted that while pointing at an aircraft is a crime, owning or selling lasers is not against the law.


Ocean City, New Jersey, location in relation to Atlantic City International Airport (“A” on the map above)

From the Press of Atlantic City. An earlier story (August 18 2010) has additional details about the aircraft illuminations and the efforts to stop sales; see this Press of Atlantic City article. A January 23 2011 Press of Atlantic City article updates the laser situation in the Ocean City area.

Related LaserPointerSafety.com news stories about Ocean City and New Jersey laser troubles

US: More than 30,000 lasers are "out of control" in Ocean City MD

In the summer of 2010, laser pointer abuse is “out of control” in Ocean City, Maryland, according to Police Chief Bernadette DiPino: “The Boardwalk is just inundated with these green lasers.” Police said 23 local stores had sold more than 30,000 laser pointers this year (2010). A city councilman said it was “like Star Wars” on the Boardwalk.

Perpetrators are shining beams onto the faces, “chests and private parts” of passers-by; the latter starting fights with boyfriends according to the chief. One family complained that their child had a seizure after a laser was shone on their eyes. A councilwoman said “a young boy ... shined a green laser directly into her eyes. She said her vision is now hazy and impaired, though a doctor advises her it will eventually return to normal.”

An article from delmarvanow.com quoted 29-year-old Richard Drake of Ocean City, who in 2009 “sustained serious damage to his left eye after having a red laser shone purposefully in the face. Now he sees everything with a pinkish hue.” He is campaigning to have laser pointer sales banned in the resort town.

The town council was poised to ban sales to minors and possession by minors, to make it illegal to aim lasers at people and vehicles, and mandating signs in stores and handouts to buyers that describe the city’s ordinances. (The legislation passed; see story here.)Click to read more...

US: Lasers being used to burn string in arcade games (to get prizes to drop)

A maker of arcade games with hanging prizes has asked operators to change the strings’ color from black or colored to white, to prevent powerful lasers being used to cut the strings.

BarBerCut Lite

Namco America sent the notice to arcade operators of BarBerCut Lite and other hanging prize type games in May 2010, after powerful handheld laser pointers became available online at relatively low cost. Namco noted that “a criminal armed with one of these can steal a number of prizes from a merchandiser in a short period of time.”

White cords and zip ties are recommended, since they reflect most of the laser’s power. In 2009, Namco changed from black and colored fasteners, which absorb the laser’s light.

From Vending Times

Australia: Readers comment on laser lout incident

Readers of the Melbourne Herald Sun commented on the “laser lout” incident at a football match. Some selected comments:

“This sort of madness just should not be tolerated - it is at best a risk or blinding an individual, yes, just even a Joe Citizen: at worst it could bring down a plane. Typical of all our soft governments - and our soft judiciaries.”

“A laser in the eyes can permanently blind, these brain dead individuals are not just louts or plain footy fans they are criminals and should be treated as such.... Why the hell does anyone need to carry around a laser light ? They are of no legitimate use to an idiot, except to cause nuisance, they should be classed a concealed weapon and treated accordingly.”

“The practice of directing laser beams at aircraft is incredibly dangerous as is the potential of using these beams in any other situation. There were reports of the same thing happening to footballers at the weekend. The penalties suggested going to the Senate today are insufficient to say the least and should not only cover aircraft but any use of these lasers intended to injure other people.”

Additional comments are at the Melbourne Herald Sun article.

Australia: Lasers banned at football game; jail possible

Football [soccer] fans caught shining laser lights into players' faces during matches will be booted out of grounds.

The league has vowed to work with police and venues to crack down on the problem following at least two incidents in Friday night's Richmond-Collingwood clash.

"The AFL will work with police and our venues to ban anyone caught using laser lights to distract players during the course of a match," said league operations manager Adrian Anderson.

"It's unacceptable for players in a contact sport having something shine in their eyes while playing the game.

A sharp jump in the number of lasers aimed into aircraft cockpits has sparked new laws to allow offenders to be jailed.
The draft laws will be put before the Senate today. The legislation comes as Transport Minister Mark Vaile reported there had been 170 laser incidents in 2007 and the dangerous practice was happening more often.
Click to read more...