A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

South Korea: Firefighter suggests how laser pointers can help in fighting fires

A South Korean firefighter won first prize from eBay Korea for proposing a laser pointer that projects a “net-shaped” grid onto surfaces, to determine in smoky settings if the surface is flat or has a bump. Seo Bethel of Busan developed the idea after fighting a fire where his “flashlight couldn’t show that what I thought was a wall was actually an empty elevator shaft.”

The net-like grid will make the surface contour visible.

eBay Korea hosts a contest for firefighters to find and then develop useful firefighting tools. Bethel also has submitted ideas for laser-projecting messages from the back of fire trucks onto streets. He said, “The laser pointers will display signs, such as ‘no entry’ or ‘this lane is occupied by a fire engine’. By doing so, it can help firefighters save time spent setting up a perimeter using traffic cones.”

From a July 16 2018 story in the Korea Times

China: "Laser AK-47" assault rifle said to be manufactured; experts skeptical

Chinese researchers developed a prototype laser assault rifle, said to have a non-visible beam that can set fire to skin and clothing up to 800 meters away. The ZKZM-500 weighs about the same as an AK-47 at 6.6 pounds, can fire more than 1,000 shots on a rechargeable lithium battery pack, and will cost around USD $15,000 each. The rifle, from ZKZM Laser in Xian, is allegedly ready for mass production, to be sold only to Chinese military and police units.

2018-07-14 Chinese ZKZM-500 laser AK-47 assault rifle 02

The July 1 2018 report appeared the In South China Morning Post. It quoted a “researcher who had [taken] part in the development and field testing of a prototype at the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shaanxi province. The source said “The pain will be beyond endurance.” Another researcher said that because the beam is invisible and noiseless, “nobody will know where the attack came from. It will look like an accident.”

A technical document stressed the “non-lethal” nature of the laser rifle, listing attacks such as burning the banners or clothing of “illegal protests”.

The laser capability claims were disputed, however, by numerous news outlets.

TechCrunch writer Devin Coldewey first noted that military laser systems capable of delivering damaging heat over hundreds of meters require “on the order of tens of kilowatts, and those have trouble causing serious damage.” He calculated that a Tesla Powerwall using lithium ion batteries produces a few kilowatts of power and weighs over 200 pounds. (The complete laser rifle weighs 6.6 pounds.) Coldewey said the problem was atmospheric attenuation of the laser beam which is “non-trivial at anything beyond, say, a few dozen meters. By the time you get out to 800 [meters, the laser’s claimed range] the air and water the beam has traveled through [are] enough to reduce it [to] a fraction of its original power.”

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Canada: Restrictions on high-powered handheld lasers in three cities

Canada is restricting battery-operated, handheld lasers over 1 milliwatt in public areas of greater Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver, as well as within a 10 km radius of any Canadian airport or heliport. The ban comes in the form of an interim ministerial order announced June 28 2018 by Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

Persons are banned from possessing such lasers outside of their home, without a legitimate purpose such as work, school, education or astronomy.

Police can question anyone with a laser in one of the prohibited zones if they had a reasonable reason to search them. Examples given included if a member of the public contacted police with a specific description of a person they saw holding a laser, or if police themselves saw the person holding a laser.

Any person with a battery-operated, handheld laser in a prohibited zone 1) outside of a private dwelling and 2) without a legitimate purpose could be fined immediately and “on the spot” up to CDN $5,000. A corporation violating the law would be fined up to CDN $25,000. The fines are in addition to any criminal prosecution; intentionally aiming a laser at an aircraft could result in five years in prison and/or up to CDN $100,000 in fines.

According to Transport Canada, “You don’t need to carry any documentation, but you should be prepared to demonstrate to the officer why you’re in possession of a hand-held laser. Law enforcement will be trained to know when and where people may possess a laser. They will exercise their discretion and judgement when determining whether or not to issue a fine.”

Transport Canada has a webpage with details of the laser prohibitions, a question-and-answer page about the new laser safety measure, and an online forum “Let’s Talk - Lasers” seeking feedback on laser safety issues. The “Let’s Talk - Lasers” consultation closes for comments on August 27 2018.

They also have an online interactive map detailing the prohibited zones. Here are two examples of map output:

Canada laser prohibited zones 2018-06-28 nationwide 600w
Laser-prohibited zones in the entire country

Canada laser prohibited zones 2018-06-28 Toronto 600w
Closeup of laser-prohibited zones in the Toronto area



The three metro areas of Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver were included since, according to Transport Canada, “The majority of reported laser attacks have occurred in these regions. Transport Canada will continue to monitor the number and location of reported incidents and may adjust the included municipalities as warranted.”

The agency discussed how the fines were determined, and how law enforcement will decide on the exact fine amount: “These fines, called administrative monetary penalties, come from the Aeronautics Act and the Canadian Aviation Regulations. Law enforcement uses discretion on how much to fine an individual. The amount may depend on previous infractions and circumstances surrounding this infraction.”

When concluding his announcement, Garneau stated “we have the tools that law enforcement agencies need, including Transport Canada inspectors and police forces, in order to put an end to these careless and reckless actions — actions that could have tragic results.”

From the Canadian Press, the CBC, iPolitics, a video of Marc Garneau’s announcement on GlobalNews.ca, and the Transport Canada informational webpage and Q&A webpage.

For much more information and commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com:

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Israel: Laser-equipped drones to fight incendiary kites and balloons

The Israeli Defense Force has developed a laser-equipped drone to shoot down incendiary kites and balloons lofted by Palestinians to set fires in the Gaza Strip.

From late March to mid-June 2018, 450 fires caused by the aerial attacks burned about 7,500 acres of farmland and national parks, including 1,400 acres of wheat.

In response, the IDF has developed systems to locate the kites and balloons, either intercepting them or sending fire fighters to the landing locations. One interception technique uses a laser on a drone that in tests “has been successful in incinerating the incoming trajectory, neutralizing it and bringing it down.” It is expected to be deployed “soon” according to news stories in late June 2018.

From the JewishPress.com, L.A. Times, and The Times of Israel

US: Indiana medical groups working on resolution about laser pointers

According to an Indianapolis ophthalmologist quoted in a June 26 2018 news story, Dr. Ramana Moorthy says that the Indiana Academy of Ophthalmology and the Indiana State Medical Association are working on a resolution to deal with the laser pointer issue. They hope to release their findings by the end of September 2018.

The information was at the end of a story about an Indianapolis boy who injured his eye when playing with a laser pointer five years ago, when he was 12 years old. The story is summarized here.

From RTV6 The Indy Channel

Taiwan: 10-year-old playing with laser, trying to avoid eye, but still gets retinal damage

A 10-year-old Taiwanese boy playing with a laser pointer suffered retinal damage, according to a June 13 2018 news story.

The boy was playing with a classmate, trying to dodge the beam. At some point it hit the boy’s left eye. He felt a stinging sensation and became light sensitive.

During a routine eye exam two weeks later, a retinal burn was seen. The boy underwent photocoagulation treatment and will need regular follow-up exams to monitor the eye’s healing, but he did not suffer any vision loss, said Wu Pei-chang, director of the Department of Ophthalmology at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Kaohsiung (third-largest city in Taiwan).

From the Taipei Times

UK: Average of 50 laser illuminations of military aircraft per year in UK

From 2013 through 2017, there were about 250 “laser-related” air safety occurrence incidents involving military aircraft (planes and helicopters) in UK. airspace.

It is not clear if these military incidents are included in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) statistics about laser illuminations of aircraft.

The Ministry of Defence figures, made public June 11 2018, were rounded to the nearest 10. The list below shows the reported military-related laser incidents in the UK, along with the CAA numbers for the UK and for overseas UK operators

2013 - 40 military, 1396 CAA UK home, 329 CAA UK overseas operators
2014 - 70 military, 1447 CAA UK home, 317 CAA UK overseas operators
2015 - 70 military, 1440 CAA UK home, 355 CAA UK overseas operators
2016 - 30 military, 1258 CAA UK home, 274 CAA UK overseas operators
2017 - 40 military, 989 CAA UK home, 243 CAA UK overseas operators

The information was released in response to a written parliamentary question submitted by former defence minister Kevan Jones, who said “New laws to deter those stupid enough to carry out these attacks might not be enough, and the Government should give police operating around air bases the resources needed to catch offenders.”

From the Mirror. We have additional statistics and stories about the UK, plus a page with statistics about the UK and other countries.

World: Wicked Lasers sells white-light flashlights (non-laser) capable of burning objects

It is not just handheld lasers than can burn objects. Wicked Lasers sells the handheld FlashTorch and FlashTorch Mini, white-light flashlights advertised with the slogan “Why illuminate when you can incinerate.” This is from a June 7 2018 email advertisement:

Wicked Lasers Flash Torch Mini ad

A YouTube video demo shows the flashlight burning a swath of black plastic:

Wicked Lasers Flash Torch Mini video screenshot

Both the original FlashTorch and the Mini version have a regular price of USD $199.

Wicked Lasers is known for being the first widespread supplier of Class 4 handheld lasers, with a nominal 1 watt blue laser introduced in mid-2010. Since that time, Wicked has taken laser safety actions such as requiring a buyer to take a short safety test before allowing an order, voluntarily putting a label on the laser warning not to aim at aircraft, supplying safety information with the laser, and supporting laser safety efforts.

From a email sent June 7 2018. The FlashTorch webpage is here. Previous LaserPointerSafety.com stories about Wicked Lasers are here.

US: Advisory committee recommends pilot procedures, training and glare protection

An aviation safety advisory committee on June 2 2018 published recommendations about how pilots can recognize and recover from laser glare incidents. The document, Aerospace Recommended Practice 6378, is entitled “Guidance on Mitigation Strategies Against Laser Illumination Effects.”

ARP6378™ has three main parts:
  • A description of how lasers can interfere with pilots’ vision and operational performance, and how pilots can reduce adverse effects.
  • A recommendation for pilot training, including exposure to safe, simulated laser light in a simulator or other realistic flying environment
  • A description of Laser Glare Protection eyewear and windscreen film, with recommendations for whether and how to use these.

The document was developed by the SAE G10OL “Operational Laser” committee over a two-year period. It is available for purchase from SAE for $78. A three-page preview, which includes most of the Table of Contents except the appendices, is here.

From SAE ARP6378™, “Guidance on Mitigation Strategies Against Laser Illumination Effects”, published June 2 2018. Available from SAE.org.

For commentary about this document, Click to read more...

US: Marines to buy 1,653 eye-safe laser dazzlers

B.E. Meyers & Co. on May 29 2018 announced that the U.S. Marine Corps will be buying 1,653 “Glare Recoil” LA-22/U laser dazzlers. It contains a 250 mW 532nm green laser, with variable divergence from 4 to 70 milliradians. It uses three technologies to ensure the beam is eye-safe at any distance:

  • An infrared (1535nm) laser rangefinder determines the distance to a person or object. The closer the distance, the lower the laser power output.
  • Near-field detection shuts off laser emission if a person or object is too close to the laser output aperture.
  • A 3-axis gyroscope detects motion. If the Glare Recoil is suddenly moved, the laser shuts off until stability is resumed and an accurate determination of the distance to a person or object can be re-established: “This prevents hazardous irradiance in situations where Glare Recoil is moving faster than the laser rangefinder can detect objects and dose power output. This results in the prevention of eye hazard danger caused by rapid movement of the device (example: flagging) or improper situational awareness of the operator.”

With these technologies, the laser detects objects or people in the proximity of the beam and then self-adjusts the power output to maintain eye safety. The Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance is said to be 0 meters; the range is 10 feet to 10 miles.

Suggested uses include urban patrolling, cordon and search, crowd control, clearing facilities and security checkpoints.

BE Meyers Glare Recoil laser dazzler
The Glare Recoil is about the size of a Walkman tape player at 5.5” x 3” x 2”. It can mount on a rifle or be handheld.


Meyers also sells a Class 1M “Glare Helios” which has an FDA variance allowing sales to U.S. local, state and federal law enforcement, and U.S. flagged vessels.

From Marine Corps Times, Soldier Systems, and B.E. Meyers. A video produced by the company goes into detail about the specifications and how the person/object detection works.

US: Low-cost malaria detector uses a laser pointer and a magnet

Researchers at the University of Southern California have developed a low-cost, easy-to-use method of detecting malaria in blood samples. Light from a laser pointer is directed towards a blood sample. As a magnet is brought towards the sample, the light intensity will increase if the blood has been infected with malaria.

The portable device is about the size of a toaster. It “has been made simple enough to be used by everyone and is also compact and rugged so that it can be shipped worldwide.”

One of the principal researchers is working on making this commercially available.

Popular press account at CrazyEngineers.com. Scientific paper published May 21 2018: Rapid Diagnostic for Point-of-Care Malaria Screening, Samantha E. McBirney, Dongyu Chen, Alexis Scholtz, Hossein Ameri, and Andrea M. Armani, ACS Sensors Article ASAP, DOI: 10.1021/acssensors.8b00269

UK: New UK law provides stronger penalties, easier prosecution for aiming a laser at a vehicle


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US: Air Force wants 38,000 more laser eye protection glasses and visors

The U.S. Air Force on May 2 2018 issued a revised draft request for proposal (RFP), for 38,000 laser eye protection glasses and visors for aircrews.

While the original draft RFP was published for comments on March 27 2018, the revised request takes on additional urgency after the Pentagon on May 3 2018 accused China of aiming lasers at aircraft flying from a U.S. airbase in Djibouti. According to the Pentagon, two pilots had minor, short-term injuries as a result. The next day, China denied using lasers against aircraft in Dijibouti, calling them “groundless accusations.”

The current provider of the Air Force’s laser protection is Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, which was awarded a $30.1 million contract in July 2016 for 11.805 Aircrew Laser Eye Protection (ALEP) Block 2 glasses. The May 2 2018 RFP is for Block 3 glasses and visors. and will provide protection both during the day and at night from laser light.

The RFP’s Requirements Matrix does not specify the exact wavelengths to be blocked. It does say that the night version must have at least 50% visibility (Photopic Luminous Transmittance) and at least 14% for day versions. The document also states:

The ALEP Block 3 will not impair visual performance to the extent that it interferes with safety of flight or mission completion. The device will be visually compatible with the following devices/activities:
  • All USAF aircraft
  • Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS); Night Vision Goggles (NVG); Panoramic Night Vision Goggles (PNVG), Helmet Mounted Integrated Targeting (HMIT/HoBiT), and fielded/post- Milestone B visors and aircrew chemical warfare masks
  • Canopies/windscreens, HUD, and color cockpit displays
  • Detection, recognition, identification, and tracking of targets
  • Ability to distinguish terrain colors and geographical features
  • Cockpit interior lighting, external aircraft lights, and airfield lights
  • Ability to read charts, maps, and other printed materials in the cockpit
  • Ability to perform normal aircraft duties in cockpit

From Jane’s 360 and the Air Force Aircrew Laser Eye Protection Block 3 IDIQ Draft RFP. When navigating the FRP webpage, note that there is the Original Synopsis dated March 27 2018 and the “Changed” version dated May 2 2018. There may be subsequent versions as well. The Statement of Work and the Requirements Matrix are the primary documents in the RFP.

Ukraine: Developing countermeasures after 4 cases of laser eye injury

The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine will find countermeasures against Russian laser weapons, Interior Minister of Ukraine Arsen Avakov said, according to a May 5 2018 Interfax-Ukraine report.

“We already had several such cases (a laser injury of the eye retina) in the State Border Guard Service and in the National Guard. We are now developing countermeasures. We do not fully understand what they use, but we are already working on the instructions what it could be. We will install the appropriate filters, devices, use appropriate glasses,” Avakov said.

He reported on four cases of the laser injury of border guards and national guardsmen.

“The use of such weapons is a barbarous situation. We will discuss it at the international level,” Avakov emphasized.

From Kyiv Post

Canada: CDN $3M loan to MTI to manufacture laser eye protection glasses

The Canadian federal government has provided a CDN $3M loan to Metamaterial Technologies Inc. of Halifax, to manufacture laser protection eyewear in large quantities.

The company’s metaAIR eyewear uses holographic technology to reflect unwanted wavelengths of light while passing others. According to MTI founder and CEO George Palikaras, the clear glasses do not affect vision like current solutions that can be too dark or affect colors.

“What is innovative in our eyewear is that it does not affect the pilot’s vision. So when you put them on you can still see that green is green, blue is blue and red is red,” Palikaras said at a May 4 2018 press conference. In the photo below, Palikaras is wearing the glasses, which reflect some wavelengths but otherwise appear clear to the wearer.

MTI Palikaras glasses 01

The glasses’ ability to reflect unwanted wavelengths were demonstrated by blocking 99.9% of the green light from a handheld Class 4 (> 500 milliwatts) 532 nanometer laser:

MTI laser glasses 01

Palikaras said that besides pilots, MTI has had inquiries from the navy and from train operators. He cited incidents involving trains in Germany and Switzerland.

He said the glasses will be sold through MTI’s partner companies and directly to industry buyers.

As of May 2018, MTI has 27 employees, and is looking to hire 15 new full-time employees in production, marketing, research and development. MTI’s holographic technology is also used in developing aircraft windscreens with laser glare protection.

The $3M loan was provided by the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency.

From the Chronicle Herald

Scotland: Scientists develop way to shoot laser light from eyes

Researchers have developed a membrane-thin laser emitter, widely reported in the press with headlines such as “Scientists Create Superman-like Eye Lasers.” When pumped by outside light, the membrane re-emits spectrally pure laser light.

The team from the University of St. Andrews demonstrated the new technology by putting a membrane laser onto a standard contact lens (photo a below), then placing this on a cow’s eye (photos b and c). A cow’s eye is similar to human eyes and is widely available as a byproduct of meat processing. The researchers then illuminated the eye with safe pulsed blue light (“Pump” in photo d) and “observed a well-defined green laser beam emerging from the eye” (“Far field emission” in photo d).

Pic 2018-05-04 at 10.18.16 AM

The diagram below shows the narrow wavelength of the emitted light (emission power on the left-hand scale is in “arbitrary units”).

Pic 2018-05-04 at 10.22.27 AM


The pump light minimum fluence to cause lasing was 58,800 W/cm², which is about one order of magnitude less than the maximum power density permitted by the ANSI 2000 standard for intentional and repeated ocular exposure. The researchers state that “a membrane laser on a contact lens could thus—under appropriate pumping conditions—be safely operated while being worn in the eye.”

Applications of the membrane laser include use as a security device affixed to banknotes or the human body (researchers also put a laser on a fingernail). A pumping beam is shone onto the substrate (banknote, eye, fingernail) to see if laser light of the expected wavelength is emitted. In the future, “[f]urther optimization of the DFB grating will likely allow lower lasing thresholds and facilitate LED pumping of membrane lasers. By combining recently developed roll-to-roll nanoimprint and organic ink jet printing technology, membrane lasers could be mass-produced with high reproducibility and at low cost.”

The researchers’ paper received widespread publicity, often with photos such as the one below. However, one of the authors, Prof. Malte Gather told the Express, “When we thought about this idea of making the laser membrane, someone suggested it was the first step towards making Superman real. It was meant as a joke but I thought it could be serious after all in certain applications. What is important for a normal human – not being Superman – is that our lasers are extremely efficient and hence can emit laser light that is not very bright. That excludes it from being used as a weapon but means that you could put it on to your eye without blinding yourself.”

Superman lasers eyes 2


From Nature Communications, volume 9, Article number: 1525 (2018), doi:10.1038/s41467-018-03874-w, available online here. Press release from University of St. Andrews. Typical popular press stories from U.S. News, USA Today, and the Express. A more detailed, science-oriented summary and discussion is from Optics and Photonics.

UK: Terror suspect said to tell ISIS sympathizers how to use lasers to bring down an aircraft

A man was charged with five counts of terrorist-related crimes, including sending links to a person which included information on how to shoot down an aircraft with a laser.

Rashid was also alleged to have encouraged ISIS supporters to commit terrorism against 4-year-old Prince George (son of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge), against a New York City halloween parade, and against the Burmese ambassador to the U.K.

Husnain Rashid, 32, of Nelson, Lancashire, pleaded not guilty to the charges on April 30 2018. Trial was set for May 14 2018.

From the Express

India: Laser show attacked as "insult to Lord Shiva"

A “laser” show projected onto a Hindu temple has raised the ire of the “Congress” party which opposes the government of Uttarakhand state in India. The show depicts the story of Shiva, one of the main deities of Hinduism.

In an April 28 2018 news story, a Congress party leader said the April 29 - May 4 show on Kedarnath Temple is an insult to Lord Shiva and his devotees.

The 25-minute show is privately funded by the Akshar Travels group of companies, in part to attract visitors and pilgrims to the temple, which is so old its builders and date of construction are not known.

From a YouTube video of the show, it appears there are no lasers used. Instead, the show consists of video projected onto the temple plus narrow lights similar to spotlights or the Clay Paky “Sharpy” moving beam light. The video projector’s light source could possibly be from lasers but even then it is not a “laser show” by the conventional definition of a show using laser beams and/or cartoon-like simple outline graphics.

Kedarnath Laser Light Show,, Char Dham Yatra - Adi Anant Shiv

From The Statesman and the Pioneer

New Zealand: Pilots want high-powered laser pointers banned

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA) is calling for a total ban on high-powered laser pointers after recent laser attacks which pilots described as "the most terrifying thing they've ever gone through".

The April 18 2018 call for prohibition follows two recent reported incidents:

  • On April 12 an Air New Zealand plane was hit by a laser strike near Kerikeri Airport at about 6:10 am, just after taking off
  • On April 15 there was a laser illumination of a Mount Cook Airline plane flying over the Canterbury town of Rolleston

There were approximately 169 laser/aircraft incidents in 2017, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

NZALPA news from the New Zealand Herald, details on Kerikeri incident from Stuff Travel, details on Rolleston incident from The Press. Click the “read more” link for additional details in the NZALPA April 18 2018 press release.

Click to read more...

UK: NPAS says only 1.4% of laser perpetrators were prosecuted

From 2014 to March 2018, there were 279 incidents where lasers illuminated National Police Air Service helicopters. Of those, only three or four were prosecuted, according to the NPAS head of safety.

James Cunningham told Police Oracle in a March 21 2018 article that there were a number of reasons for the low prosecution rate, including being not being able to follow the laser perpetrator due to being focused on another job (e.g., completing the original mission).

Also, when lasers are pointed from a tower block area, the helicopter crew may not be able to locate the source.

In 2017 there were 67 incidents [not clear if this is NPAS only], compared with 70 in 2016 and 103 in 2015. Cunningham said the reduction is because NPAS is trying to locate and pursue laser perpetrators, and report the incidents as crime. He said the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill being considered in Parliament is a “step in the right” direction that could lead to more prosecutions.

In December 2017, NPAS purchased laser-reducing glasses which can enable pilots to continue even when illuminated by laser light.

From Police Oracle

US: $8 billion space telescope aligned for shipping with $70 hardware store lasers

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is a $8.8 billion dollar satellite weighing 7 tons. When it came time to transport the telescope, a special 165,000 shipping container was built to be airlifted by a modified Air Force C-5C airplane.

The container was 100 feet long and had to fit with a clearance of about six inches on each side.

In testing the container’s fit in the C-5C, engineers originally used cameras to line up the container within 1/2 inch of the aircraft centerline. However, the camera method did not work in practice.

So lead project engineer John Andersen suggested using laser guides from a local home repair store. One laser would shine along the centerline of the floor, the other would mark the centerline of the back of the shipping container. As Anderson explained, “So, for about $70, we bought the laser guides, set them up, and we were able to load the container perfectly by following the laser lines.”

He added, “I’m glad we came up with a cheap solution to load the container on the aircraft using the lasers. It didn’t cost thousands of dollars to do it or a lot of time.”

The space telescope is scheduled to be launched from French Guiana in 2019.

From the Dayton Daily News

US: Coast Guard evaluating laser strike protection for cockpit use

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center (RDC) is nearing completion of a market research project “to identify viable laser eye protection solutions for integration into Coast Guard aircraft.”

The Coast Guard cannot use standard laser eye protection, such as is used in laboratories and industry, because it blocks too much light. One of the options the RDC is looking at is “a flexible optical filter that is reflective of lasers only and has just a slight tint, so it doesn’t interfere with the pilot’s visibility. The material can be applied to any transparent surface, such as the cockpit windshield, to deflect harmful laser beams and prevent them from reaching the inside of the cockpit.”

The chief of the Coast Guard’s Safety Program Management Division indicated eyewear or visors would be short-term solutions, and laser protective coatings for the aircraft would be a long-term solution.

According to Coast Guard information, “[o]nce finalized, the RDC findings will be integrated into an ongoing laser eye protection project the Office of Safety and Environmental Health is conducting in partnership with the Naval Aeromedical Research University in Dayton, Ohio, and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.”

From a February 21 2018 blog post from the U.S. Coast Guard. Click the “Read more” link for the full blog text. Thanks to George Palikaras for bringing this to our attention.
Click to read more...

Canada: Looking at "all possible options" to fight laser incidents; perhaps a ban and mandatory labels

Minister Marc Garneau announced February 15 2018 that Transport Canada will explore “all possible options” to reduce the number of laser pointer/aircraft incidents, and will announce measures “in the coming weeks.”

The statement came after six laser incidents over two days earlier in the month, at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport. Garneau said these made him “very, very mad.”

A Transport official said the options include a ban on importation of powerful lasers, mandatory warning labels, and stronger penalties for those who are caught.

Garneau noted that it is hard to catch a laser perpetrator, making prosecutions “few and far between”. He believes that some people are not aware of the bright-light danger of laser light, but that others “know darn well what they’re doing” and are trying to “provoke something.”

Transport Canada currently has a program called “Not-a-Bright-Idea,” trying to educate the general public about the risks and legal consequences of aiming lasers at aircraft. Since implementing the program in May 2016, laser incident numbers have dropped. There were 590 reported incidents in 2015, 527 in 2016, and 379 in 2017.

Garneau said that despite the 28 percent drop, Transport Canada must do more, and that is why they are exploring other options.

From 660 News and AVweb

Note: In response to a LaserPointerSafety.com request, an email address for interested persons was provided: “Transport Canada is exploring options to reduce laser strikes. Canadians and industry members can provide information to the Civil Aviation Communications Centre by emailing: services@tc.gc.ca

Germany: Scientific study of laser pointer eye injuries finds 111 cases

The following abstract is from “Retinal Injury Following Laser Pointer Exposure: A Systematic Review and Case Series”, by Birtel et. al., in Deutsches Aerzteblatt International 2017; 114(49). The entire paper is worth reading for anyone interested in laser pointer injury numbers, causes, severity and treatment.


Background: Recent years have seen a marked increase in laser-pointer-related injuries, which sometimes involve severe retinal damage and irreversible visual impairment. These injuries are often caused by untested or incorrectly classified devices that are freely available over the Internet.

Methods: We reviewed pertinent publications retrieved by a systematic search in the PubMed and Web of Science databases and present our own series of clinical cases.

Results: We identified 48 publications describing a total of 111 patients in whom both acute and permanent damage due to laser pointers was documented. The spectrum of damage ranged from focal photoreceptor defects to macular foramina and retinal hemorrhages associated with loss of visual acuity and central scotoma. On initial presentation, the best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) was less than 20/40 (Snellen equivalent) in 55% of the affected eyes and 20/20 or better in 9% of the affected eyes. Treatment options after laser-pointer-induced ocular trauma are limited. Macular foramina and extensive hemorrhages can be treated surgically. In our series of 7 cases, we documented impaired visual acuity, central visual field defects, circumscribed and sometimes complex changes of retinal reflectivity, and intraretinal fluid. Over time, visual acuity tended to improve, and scotoma subjectively decreased in size.

Conclusion: Laser pointers can cause persistent retinal damage and visual impairment. In view of the practically unimpeded access to laser pointers (even high-performance ones) over the Internet, society at large now needs to be more aware of the danger posed by these devices, particularly to children and adolescents.

From Birtel J, Harmening WM, Krohne TU, Holz FG, Charbel Issa P, Herrmann P. Retinal injury following laser pointer exposure—a systematic review and case series. Dtsch Arztebl Int, 2017 DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2017.0831. Original in German, translation in English.


US: High-powered lasers can be obtained from inside a Christmas holiday laser projector

A hacker opened a three-color Christmas/holiday laser “star shower” type projector, to find high-powered blue and green laser diodes inside.

In a January 22 2018 Hackaday post, Tom Nardi purchased a “Home Accents Holiday Multi-Color Light Projector” from a hardware chain on clearance, marked down from $56 to just $14.

He removed the cover with four screws and found the parts inside used connectors instead of solder: “It’s like they wanted us to strip it for parts.”

The lasers were defocused inside. “…[A]t 3 meters the spots looked as large as dinner plates…. Once focused, it becomes pretty clear that these lasers are quite a bit more powerful than the <5 mW listed on the product’s warning sticker.”

Laser inside a Christmas projector
The green and blue laser diode modules inside the holiday projector

Nardi noted that the blue laser, when focused, was “easily able to burn pieces of paper and punch holes in black plastic.” He also estimated that the green laser was “at least twice as bright” as a laser pointer he owns that claims to be 50 mW: “…it certainly would not surprise me if they are both [green and blue] at least 100 mW.”

Nardi writes: “If your biggest take-away from this post is that the Home Depot is selling a 440 nm laser you can use to burn stuff, I certainly don’t blame you.”

From Hackaday. LaserPointerSafety.com has a page with more information, including measurements of the beam output of a Star Shower projector, here.

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: In fairness to Home Accents, the FDA-required warning sticker has to do with the laser power of the unopened unit in its factory configuration. Class 3R (IIIa) laser projectors like this are not allowed in the U.S. to be over 5 mW output power. It may be that after going through the holographic diffraction grating that creates the stars, that the Home Accents projector meets Food and Drug Administration requirements for user access to laser light.

US: MIT develops system to locate laser perpetrators using as few as two cameras, from miles away

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory has developed a system that can provide the ground location of someone directing a laser beam into the sky. The intent is to help find persons aiming lasers at aircraft.

The Laser Aircraft Strike Suppression Optical System (LASSOS) uses two or more low-light CCD sensor cameras that observe the night sky, each with a star tracker that determines the attitude of the sensor. The cameras observe a volume of airspace such as around an airport. Beam locations are identified by analyzing the two (or more) different views to find the endpoint of the laser beam.

LASSOS system artwork 600w

In one test, LASSOS identified the ground location of a laser beam aimed into the sky, using two cameras located nine nautical miles away. The locations was determined within 30 seconds. The system was so accurate that it could differentiate between locations separated by only 5 meters.

A key attribute of LASSOS is that the final output is a Google Earth map with the beam and perpetrator location overlaid. This makes it easy for law enforcement to know the area they will be searching for the perpetrator.

An MIT press release gave no indication of potential installation and operational costs, and did not indicate any further plans for testing or implementation.

LASSOS was developed under Air Force Contract No. FA8721-05-C-0002 and/or FA8702-15-D-0001.

From a September 2017 MIT Lincoln Laboratory press release, reprinted below (click the “read more” link.) MIT also has a YouTube video of the system; the LASSOS description begins about 56 seconds into the video. Thanks to Greg Makhov, who brought this to our attention via a Tech Briefs article printed in January 2018.

Click to read more...

US: 6,753 laser/aircraft incidents reported to FAA in 2017; 9% lower than 2016

During 2017, there were 6,753 laser illumination incidents reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. This compares with 7,442 reports in 2016, and 7,703 reports in 2015. This is a 9% drop compared with 2016, and a 12% drop compared with 2015.


2017 laser strikes FAA 2004-2017 600w



Here is the same data, plotted to show the average number of illuminations per day, during each year:

2017 laser strikes FAA each day 600w

For additional charts and statistics, click the “read more” link.

Click to read more...

UK: "Call for evidence" response summarizes many groups' views on laser eye, plane incidents; sets forth actions

[NOTE: This news item includes commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com, as we feel the U.K. report is a must-read which gives important guidance on laser pointer hazards and actions.]

The U.K. government published on January 8 2018 a 14-page report on laser pointer safety and potential regulation. The report includes two new actions the government will take to reduce the number and risk of unsafe laser pointers:

     1) “strengthening safeguards to stop high-powered lasers entering the country”, and
     2) “working with manufacturers and retailers to [voluntarily] improve labeling.

Separately, the U.K. government published the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill on December 20 2017. This makes it illegal to point a laser at vehicles, with a prison term of up to five years and an unlimited fine.

“Laser pointers: call for evidence - government response”


From August 12 to October 6 2017, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy opened a “Call for Evidence” consultation. BEIS set forth 19 questions, asking the public to give their views on laser pointer hazards and what actions to take.

The January 8 2018 government response summarizes the 265 responses received.

The report is especially useful because it incorporates the views of many disparate groups: pilots (64% of respondents), “concerned members of the public” (14%), professional laser safety advisors (9%), users of laser pointers (6%), ophthalmologists (6%), and Trading Standards authorities (2%).

The report then distills these views, finding surprising commonality. It is a good overview for the non-expert on two topics:

     1) Actual laser pointer hazards — separating fact from fear
     2) Potential actions to reduce the number and severity of laser pointer injuries and incidents — including what actions may not work (e.g., licensing).

We have summarized the findings below (click the “read more” link). However, reading the complete document is well worth the time of anyone interested in this issue.
Click to read more...

UK: Laser pen imports to be more restrictive

According to a January 8 2018 story in The Telegraph, “additional support will be offered to local authority port teams and border officials in order to help identify and confiscate the high powered lasers” that are said to be responsible for many of the over 1,200 incidents in 2017 when lasers were aimed at aircraft in Britain.

In addition, “new measures are also being introduced to tackle the sale of unsafe pointers, including more stringent testing.”

The move was supported by the British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA).

It may help reduce the number of laser pen illuminations of trains (578 incidents were reported between April 2011 and November 2017) and eye injuries (more than 150 reported since 2013, mainly involving children).

Consumer Minister Margot James said the ministry is “going further than ever before” to police the sale of unsafe lasers.

The Argus quoted Professor John O’Hagan, of Public Health England’s laser and optical radiation dosimetry group.He said: “Over time we have become increasingly concerned about the dangers of growing numbers of unlabelled and incorrectly labelled high power laser pointers being bought by the public. It is tragic that we continue to see eye injuries, especially in children. Laser safety experts at Public Health England have worked closely with local authorities in stopping large numbers of these lasers reaching UK consumers. The extra protections proposed should help even further - if you have a laser and you don’t need it, remove the batteries and get rid of it.”

From
The Telegraph and The Argus. The stories seem to be a result of the U.K. government publishing, on January 8 2018, a response to their fall 2017 Call for Evidence. The government response included the increased import enforcement actions.

See also the December 2017 news of a new U.K. law that provides stronger penalties for aiming at aircraft. The new import/consumer initiative seems to be part of the government thrust against illegal and overpowered laser pens.

US: Nationwide recall of Santajoy Christmas laser lights sold at Walmart

The following is from a December 22 2017 Business Wire press release:

On Dec. 22, 2017, Santajoy initiated a nationwide recall of Galaxy Holiday Laser Lights and Northern Lights Holiday Laser Lights. These laser projection products may incorporate a laser having a higher output than intended and fail to comply with FDA performance standard requirements (21 CFR 1040.10 and 1040.11). These higher-power lasers have the potential for eye injury.

Consumers who purchased any of the 5,254 units of Galaxy Holiday Laser Lights and Northern Lights Holiday Laser Lights sold by Walmart between August 1, 2017 and October 25, 2017 should stop using them and return them to any Walmart store for a full refund.

The Galaxy Holiday Laser Lights and Northern Lights Holiday Laser Lights were manufactured from May through September 2017 and distributed from August through October 2017. The affected products sold by Walmart can be identified by the packaging photos and UPC numbers shown below.

Santajoy voluntarily recalled these products after becoming aware that the product presented a potential safety hazard and has notified the FDA of this action. There have been no reports of injury related to the use of these products. Santajoy is notifying the public through this press release, and Walmart is accepting the return of these products for a full refund.

Walmart Stores Inc. distributed these products nationwide. Consumers with questions may contact Walmart via telephone at 1-800-Walmart from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. CT Monday through Friday or online at www.corporate.walmart.com/recalls for more information.


2017 laser recall - Santajoy Galaxy Laser - Sold at Walmart 2017 laser recall - Santajoy Northern Lights Laser - Sold at Walmart

Note: As of January 1 2018, neither laser was listed on the Walmart Product Recalls webpage. The product recall also did not appear to be at FDA’s recalls webpage or enforcement report webpage, as of January 1. The only online source on that date was the December 22 2017 Business Wire press release, or a few publications and news sources such as KCTV that reprinted the Business Wire press release.

New Zealand: Laser pointer/aircraft incidents increase about 11% in 2017

In New Zealand for the first 11 months of 2017, there were 155 reported incidents where pilots were illuminated by laser light. This is greater than the totals for 2016 (152) and 2015 (104).

If this rate of 14 incidents per month holds for December, the 2017 total will be around 169. This would be an 11% increase over 2016.

The information comes from the Civil Aviation Authority which noted that most incidents occurred in metropolitan centers. The CAA deputy director of air transport and air worthiness, Mark Hughes, warned "People are not aware of the significance of it. It's sort of a lark, or a fun thing to do, not recognizing that actually they're causing a real safety issue and creating a danger for pilots and passengers…. It could cause an accident if the pilot is visually impaired at a critical phase of the flight.”

From Radio New Zealand

UK: New UK law to provide stronger penalties, easier prosecution for aiming a laser at a vehicle

The following press release is from the U.K. Department of Transport, published December 20 2017. The Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill is a pending law so as of this date, it is not in force. (UPDATED January 8 2018 - The bill will be read on January 9 2018 in the House of Lords. Thanks to John O’Hagan for this update.) (UPDATED May 10 2018 - The bill gained Royal Assent so now is a law, the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act. The act’s penalties take effect starting July 10 2018)

The text of the bill is here. A House of Lords Summary Briefing, giving some background, is here.


Tough new penalties for misuse of lasers

People who target transport operators with laser devices could be jailed for up to 5 years under new laws designed to protect the public.

The Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill, which was published today (20 December 2017), will also expand the list of vehicles, beyond just planes, which it is an offence to target with lasers.

Drivers of trains and buses, captains of boats and even pilots of hovercraft will be among those protected by the new legislation.

The bill will make it easier to prosecute offenders by removing the need to prove an intention to endanger a vehicle.

And it will remove the cap on the amount offenders can be fined – which is currently limited to £2,500 – paving the way for substantial sanctions. Fines could be issued in isolation or alongside a prison sentence.

The police will also be given additional powers to catch those responsible for the misuse of lasers.

Aviation Minister, Baroness Sugg said:

     “Lasers can dazzle, distract or blind those in control of a vehicle, with serious and potentially even fatal consequences.”

     “The government is determined to protect pilots, captains, drivers and their passengers and take action against those who threaten their safety.”

Alongside their existing powers of arrest and the ability to search a person once arrested, officers will no longer need to establish proof of intention endanger to a vehicle, aircraft or vessel, making it easier to prosecute swiftly. It will be an offence to shine or direct a laser towards a vehicle if it dazzles or distracts the operator, if done deliberately or if reasonable precautions to avoid doing so are not taken.
Click to read more...

US: FAA issues warning about holiday laser lights

From a November 2017 press release by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration:

Enjoy Your Holiday Laser-light Display Responsibly
Each holiday season for the past several years, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has received reports from pilots who said they were distracted or temporarily blinded by residential laser-light displays.

The FAA's concerns about lasers – regardless of the source – is that they not be aimed at aircraft in a way that can threaten the safety of a flight by
distracting or blinding the pilots. People may not realize that systems they set up to spread holiday cheer can also pose a potential hazard to pilots flying overhead.

So if you’re going to install a holiday laser-light system, please make sure the lights are hitting your house and not shining up into the sky. It may not look like the lights go much farther than your house, but the extremely concentrated beams of laser lights actually reach much further than most people think.

If the FAA becomes aware of a situation where a laser-light display affects pilots, we start by asking the owner to adjust them or turn them off. However, if someone's laser-light display repeatedly affects pilots despite previous warnings, that person could face an FAA civil penalty.


Note: The FAA press release was reprinted in a number of news sources including KUSA, the News Tribune and SFGate.

LaserPointerSafety.com has a
separate story about the number of FAA laser incident reports in 2017 due to actual or suspected holiday light displays.

US: FDA issues warning about laser toys

On November 24 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a “Consumer Update” warning of the dangers of laser toys.

FDA gave these examples of laser toys:
  • Lasers mounted on toy guns that can be used for “aiming”;
  • Spinning tops that project laser beams while they spin;
  • Hand-held lasers used during play as “light sabers”; and
  • Lasers intended for entertainment that create optical effects in an open room.

According to the Consumer Update, “Toys with lasers are of particular interest to the FDA because children can be injured by these products. Because they are marketed as toys, parents and kids alike may believe they’re safe to use.”

The FDA had tips for safe use, including:
  • Do not aim at persons or animals
  • Do not aim at any vehicle, aircraft or shiny surface; or persons playing sports
  • Children’s toy lasers should be Class I.
  • Children should not be allowed to own or use laser pointers. Pointers are not toys.
  • Do not buy or use any laser that emits more than 5 milliwatts.
  • See a health care professional in case of a known or suspected laser eye injury.

The FDA’s health warning was referenced in numerous news and publication sources over the 2017 holiday season.

From the FDA Consumer Update, “Laser Toys: How to Keep Kids Safe”. FDA also linked to a 2015 FDA YouTube video on laser pointer safety.

For background, LaserPointerSafety.com has a series of webpages about laser toys which begin with a summary
here.

US: Artist uses sixteen 1.2 watt lasers to make "wormhole" sculpture

An art installation in New York City uses sixteen 1.2 watt lasers to create a wormhole shape.

Rita McBride Particulates laser wormhole
Particulates by Rita McBride

Spectators are prevented from accessing the beam by means of a fence-like barrier.

Artist Rita McBride created Particulates out of her interests in space, time travel and quantum physics. From the exhibition brochure:

     “The 2017 commission by Rita McBride, Particulates, features a type of high-intensity laser that is normally reserved for industrial, military, and scientific use to harness light’s efficient capacity to articulate space. At first glance the lasers clearly define the geometry of a hyperboloid of revolution, a hyperbola rotated around a single axis. Yet the contours of this shape are dispersed by the constant motion of particulate matter—ambient dust and molecules of water circulating in the air—that becomes visible as it passes through the beams of light….. However, the real and imaginative spaces conjured by Particulates remain elusive, and are protected by a series of custom carbon-fiber panels, titled Guidance “Barriers” (2017), which the artist designed to keep us at a lawful distance.”

It is on exhibition at the Dia:Chelsea from October 27 2017 until June 2 2018. CT Lasers provided technical support.

From Engadget. Photo by the artist.

US: FDA recalls certain X-Laser light show projectors

On November 18 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced recall Z-2870-2017 of X-Laser Laser Light Show projector models Aurora, Caliente Aurora, PSX-400, Mobile Beat Max, Mobile Beat Max MKII, X-Beam, and Hawk 500, for failure to comply with performance standard requirements (21 CFR 1040.10(f)) when operated in the user accessible auto and music modes of operation.

FDA listed the following actions:

X-Laser LLC will bring into compliance:
     1. All purchasers and associated dealers of affected LLS projector models will be notified by mail and email of their failure to comply with the performance standard. The notification will follow the format and include the information required by 21 CFR 1003.21. Those that do not respond within 14 days will be notified a second time. Those not responding to the second attempt will be notified again every 6 months for the next 2 years. Non-responsive dealers will be ineligible for future orders.
     2. All affected LLS projectors will be repaired by removing the auto and music modes from the dipswitch accessible settings, after which, these modes will only be accessible through the DMX connection. These actions, including transportation of the LLS projector, will be made free of charge.
     3. All LLS projector models that X-Laser receives, regardless of purpose, will be checked for dipswitch accessible auto or music modes and repaired if needed.
     4.Corrective actions will be completed within 120 days of receipt of this letter.
For further questions please call (866) 702-7768.

For additional details from X-Laser, click the “read more” link. Click to read more...

US: FDA recommends against using Laserworld and Ray Technologies laser projectors

On November 7 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a Safety Communication “recommending [that] entertainment venues, and other laser light show manufacturers stop using Laserworld and RTI [Ray Technologies International] Class IIIb and Class IV laser projectors because they lack required safety features that protect the user and general public from harmful exposures to high-powered laser radiation. Missing features can include a manual reset mechanism and remote interlock connector. These features prevent unintended laser exposures that can be harmful.”

Laserworld set up a special website, www.cdrh.info, with a statement and information from their viewpoint.

The International Laser Display Association published guidance for ILDA Members and others who are doing shows in the U.S. with Laserworld and RTI projectors.

New Zealand: Researcher considers drone-mounted lasers to burn weeds

New Zealand researcher Dr. Kioumars Ghamkhar is studying lasers to determine their ability to target and kill plants that are identified, through their chemical spectrum, as weeds. The next step would be to mount the weed detector and laser equipment on drones. They would then kill the weeds from the air.

He said a drone-mounted laser could take 2-3 hours to do a weed-killing job that would take a farmer 2-3 days.

Ghamkhar hopes to start testing the lasers in the lab, in early 2018, with drone-mounted laser tests in the late summer or early fall of 2018. The project has been funded with NZD $1,000,000 for three years.

The researcher noted possible laser-related hazards: "There are issues we would have to consider such as heat generated by the lasers, and the risk of starting fire, and we'll be very conscious of this particularly where there are dry days or drought conditions. We'll also be looking at using a group of small lasers to direct at the weed, as opposed to one large and powerful laser that might generate more heat."

From an October 4 2017 story at Stuff.co.nz

Worldwide: Computer presentation remote has no laser pointer due to brightness, safety concerns

A maker of computer accessories has developed a remote presentation device without a laser pointer, “to help address the growing need for a presentation tool that can be used where laser devices are not allowed.”

Kensington’s new $99 Ultimate Presenter with Virtual Pointer instead uses a software program to create an on-screen dot to highlight PowerPoint and similar computer presentations.

The company noted that “[b]right LED screens or safety regulations can pose limitations with traditional lasers.” A spokesperson said “The presenter overcomes the screen limitations and regulatory restrictions of traditional laser pointers….”

The screen limitations referred to are that bright screens can wash out a laser dot, especially a relatively dim dot such as the one from a Class 2 (<1mW) red pointer.

Pic 2017-09-30 at 12.46.40 PM
Screenshot from a Kensington video. In the background, the red dot is the software “laser pointer” dot.


Kensington also continues to sell a line of presentation remotes that use red or green laser pointers.

From a September 26 2017 Kensington press release

UK: UPDATED - BAE Systems developing laser-reducing film for pilots; lab tests successful

Aerospace and defense contractor BAE Systems is developing a film to block laser light from pilots and cockpits.

According a September 12 2017 BAE press release, a “series of successful laboratory trials have proven our method is effective against a wide range of laser wavelengths.”

BAE researchers told LaserPointerSafety.com: “The film, when installed can be programmed with a number of critical wavelengths (typically three). This film can be upgraded at a later date by either replacing it entirely or adding on a new layer retrospectively to give protection against a new or emerging threat.”

They noted that the film has been measured as having 70% visible light transmission in a multi-wavelength blocking configuration.

The BAE film may be similar in general concept to another film from Metamaterial Technologies Inc. which has been tested by Airbus and is entering the production and deployment stages.

More information about anti-laser windscreen film in general and the MTI version specifically is here.

A press release from BAE is printed below. BAE also made available a graphic with similar information; click the blue “Click to read more…” link to see these.

UPDATED September 13 2017 We reached out to BAE for additional details about their film; answers are after the press release and graphic.
Click to read more...

US: FAA requests comments by Oct 31 2017 regarding form used to report outdoor laser operations

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is asking for public comment on Form AC 7140-1, “Notice of Outdoor Laser Operations” (which is part of FAA Advisory Circular 70-1).

The form is filled out by commercial and professional users who want to operate lasers outdoors, including laser light shows, observatories, LIDAR operators, and satellite communications.

According to FAA, there have been about 400 laser operators who filled out the form. The agency also says it takes 4 hours to gather information needed for the form and to fill it out.

FAA needs to periodically review whether the form is useful and whether the 4-hour estimate is accurate. The deadline for comments is October 30 2017.

The August 31 2017 Federal Register notice states:

       “In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, FAA invites public comments about our intention to request the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval to reinstate a previously approved information collection. In order for the FAA to ensure safety it proposes to collect information from potential outdoor laser operators. The FAA will review the proposed laser activity against air traffic operations and verify that the laser operation will not interfere with air traffic operations.”

The notice details what information specifically is requested:

       “You are asked to comment on any aspect of this information collection, including (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for FAA's performance; (b) the accuracy of the estimated burden; (c) ways for FAA to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information collection; and (d) ways that the burden could be minimized without reducing the quality of the collected information. The agency will summarize and/or include your comments in the request for OMB's clearance of this information collection.”

Form AC 7140-1 does not impact laser pointer users per se, but it can affect professional outdoor laser users.

  • The most impacted are outdoor laser light show operators. They are required by the Food and Drug Administration to submit their shows to FAA, and to receive a “letter of non-objection” from FAA, before FDA will grant permission (a “variance”) for a show.

  • All other outdoor users are requested to submit Form AC 7140-1, but are not legally required to do so. This is because FAA has no regulatory authority to restrict outdoor laser usage. There may be organizations such as NASA or observatories that have internal requirements to submit AC 7140-1 and receive a letter of non-objection. This is usually done in the spirit of cooperation and/or to help avoid liability issues in case of problems.

Additional information, including instructions on how to submit comments, is at the Federal Register notice webpage. LaserPointerSafety.com has a webpage with suggested corrections to Advisory Circular 70-1, and advice on filling it out.

US: Apple repair guidelines include laser damage to iPhone cameras

Apple iPhone cameras are damaged often enough by laser light that the company has repair guidelines for replacing the camera.

A few pages and graphics were leaked from a 22-page Apple document, the March 3 2017 “Visual/Mechanical Inspection Guide,” including this page showing the service eligibility for common problems:

Pic 2017-09-05 at 2.21.43 PM

The page lists common items such as liquid damage, broken screens, cracks — and “Damage due to laser contact with camera.”

Pic 2017-09-05 at 2.21.24 PM


It is likely that elsewhere in the leaked document are details about the laser damage, along with other example photos. However, only a few pages of the document were publicly revealed.

A page like this was first revealed in 2014. The document leaked September 1 2017 covers Apple’s most current iPhones: 6, 6S, 7 and associated “Plus” versions.

From Business Insider via MacRumors.

US: Utah National Guard reluctant to report laser cases to FBI, apparently after suspect's suicide

Utah National Guard pilots have not reported incidents where lasers were aimed at their aircraft since at least September 2009, according to an August 30 2017 news story in the South Valley (Utah) Journal.

In an interview, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Williams discusses the hazards of laser interference with pilots. He recounts an episode in mid-July 2017 where he and a co-pilot were lased. They identified the source of the laser beam. Ground officers found that the perpetrator was a teenager. Williams said “We specifically requested that the cops not get the FBI involved. I don’t want any kids going to jail or getting felony charges on their record.”

He added, “When the cop showed up at the door and explained to the dad what was going on, the dad broke the kid’s laser there on the spot.”

The reluctance to report appears to stem from a 2009 lasing incident which was reported to the FBI. A 30-year-old man, Joshua Don Park, “on a whim” decided to aim a cat laser pointer at a Utah National Guard helicopter. Park told arresting officers that he was unaware the laser’s light could interfere with pilots’ operations. The Journal story says Park “faced up to five years in prison. [Another source says he faced up to 20 years.] Tragically, he committed suicide shortly before he could be sentenced.”

The story continues, “Since that sobering incident, no Utah National Guard pilots have reported lasing incidents to the FBI—but not for lack of occurrences. ‘My unit alone has had two incidents in the past three months,’ said Williams.”

From the South Valley Journal. More details about the original February 2009 lasing and September 2009 suicide are here.

UK: 19 questions UK government is asking advice on by October 6 2017

The following are the 19 questions the U.K. government asked on August 12 2017, regarding use and misuse of laser pointers. This comes from their 23-page Call for Evidence PDF document.

Interested parties are requested to submit answers to these questions — and any free-form answers as well — via an online survey, by postal mail, or by sending an email by October 6 2017.

Additional information and links about the U.K. call for evidence are here.

1.
What do you consider to be the scale of the problem with laser pointers? Is the problem specific to high-powered laser pointers (those with a strength of 5 mW or above), or a particular class of laser pointers? What evidence do you have to support your view?

2. How well do you think the current legislation is working? Is the current guidance on safe use of laser products sufficient?

3. Is the current guidance on manufacturing and importing laser pointers sufficient?

4. Do you have any further evidence about the nature and misuse of laser pointers?

5. What legitimate uses are there for high-powered laser pointers?

6. Have you ever purchased, sold or made a laser pointer? If so, can you provide more information about where you bought or sold the product (or its component parts), and what the intended use was?

7. (Enforcement Bodies) Do you know/can you estimate the number of manufacturers, retailers, importers and/or distributers within your Local Authority area?

8. What strength laser pointers do you make/sell? What is the price of each strength laser pointer that you make/sell? Is this a seasonal product (e.g. do you sell more at Christmas)? How many do you sell annually?

9. What is your target market?

10. (If you are an enforcement authority) Have you undertaken any enforcement actions with respect to laser pointers, and if so what were they?

11. (If you are an enforcement authority) What do you estimate as being the level of compliance with the General Product Safety Regulations for laser pointers in your area? On what evidence do you base this?

12. Do you think a licensing system to control the sale and purchase of laser pointers would be effective?

13. What do you estimate the costs of implementing a licensing system to be? How should these be recovered?

14. How might a licensing regime operate? Who should administer a licensing system? Who should enforce it?

15. Are you aware of any other licensing systems in the UK or in other countries – either for laser pointers or for similar products - which might provide the Government with a useful comparison?

16. Do you think that a ban on advertising laser pointers would be effective? Why?

17. How else might Government and other public authorities increase public awareness about the potential dangers of laser pointers?

18. How else do you think that the supply of high-powered laser pointers could be restricted? Why?

19. Do you have any other comments or views which might inform the Government’s recommendations?

UK: Government asks for ways to crack down on laser misuse; deadline is October 6

The U.K. government on August 12 2017 issued “a call for evidence into the regulation of laser pointers, including the potential value of retail licensing schemes, advertising restrictions, and potential restrictions on ownership in order to address serious public safety concerns.”

The government is concerned both with hazards from aiming laser pointers at pilots, drivers and train operators, and the potential for retinal damage among consumers when high-powered lasers are aimed into eyes.

They opened a consultation asking for suggestions for eight weeks, starting August 12 and closing at 11:45 pm on October 6 2017. A 23-page Call For Evidence PDF document is posted at the open consultation webpage. It includes background information on laser hazards and misuse.

There are 19 specific questions asked by the government, plus it is possible to respond with free-form text. Persons can respond via an online survey, by postal mail, or by sending an email.

The full text of the government’s press release is below.

From the UK government press release “Government crackdown on misuse of laser pointers”, the open consultation “Laser pointers: Call for evidence” webpage, and the call for evidence online survey webpage.
   Click to read more...

US: Mosquito-targeting laser still not ready

In a February 2010 TED talk, former Microsoft chief technical officer Nathan Myhrvold demonstrated a mosquito-targeting laser intended for use in disease prevention. (The device is demonstrated using a green laser in this video, starting at about 13:25.)

How has the “Photonic Fence” device progressed? The short answer is that it is still being developed. It is just about to have its first excursion outside the lab.

In a 2,500-word article in the July 24 2017 New York Magazine entitled “Where’s Our Laser-Shooting Mosquito Death Machine?” writer Carl Swanson looked into the Photonic Fence progress.

Swanson visited Myhrvold’s company Intellectual Ventures. He watched a demonstration which he says “is, as you might expect, enormously satisfying. There is the laser itself, aimed by a mirror that is synced to a camera that identifies the pest marked for death based on its shape and size and the distinctive beat of its wing, and a monitor that allows you to watch its autonomous targeting. And it does so fast: 100 milliseconds is the time allotted to see the bug and shoot it for the 25 milliseconds it takes to kill it.” He said the system has killed more than 10,000 mosquitos in the lab.

But the mosquito-targeting system is still in the testing phase. Swanson notes “It’s taken years of development to figure out how to continuously track and identify a specific type of insect and then dispatch it safely and efficiently.”

Eye safety for humans is one consideration: “For instance, for the demonstration, I had to wear protective goggles since that type of laser is not safe for your eyes; I was assured that when it’s market-ready, the laser they deploy will not potentially blind human passersby.”

A major barrier is cost: “And no one has yet worked out how to make the device cheap enough to be useful in the places it is most needed, places where most people’s mosquito-defense system consists of sleeping under nets every night.”

The system “will finally be tested later this summer in Florida, in a screened-in structure, against the Asian citrus psyllid, an invasive bug that is devastating the state’s orchards.” If that goes well, it will then be tested in the open.

From New York Magazine

US: 2017 laser incidents on pace to be lower than 2016

As of June 30 2017, there were 2,933 laser illuminations of aircraft reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. This is 15% fewer than the 3,441 illuminations reported as of June 30 last year (2016).

The chart below shows cumulative laser illuminations for the period Jan. 1 - June 30, for each of the past 10 years. The blue 2017 line shows that thus far there have been fewer incidents in 2017 than in 2016, but more than in 2015.

Cumulative laser illuminations Jan 1 - June 30 for 2007-2017 741w

How to read this chart: Each year starts with 0 illumination reports. Each colored line then plots the cumulative (year-to-date) illumination reports for that year since January 1. For example, looking at the 2016 top green line, there were about 1000 reports between Jan. 1 and Feb. 12 (where the green 2016 line crosses the 1000 horizontal line). In contrast, in 2013 (purple line) there were roughly 500 reports between Jan. 1 and Feb. 12 (where the purple 2013 line crosses the 500 horizontal line).

Based on historical data, LaserPointerSafety.com projects that there will be around 7,200 laser illuminations reported to the FAA in 2017. This would be about 4% lower than the 7,442 reports in 2016, and about 7% lower than the 7,703 reports in 2015.

2004-2017 FAA incidents per year 50pct


The next chart shows the number of laser illuminations per day. Each line is a different year. The lines have been smoothed by averaging the previous 30 days (a 30-day moving average). For this reason, the lines do not start until January 30.

This shows trends within a year. For example, in both 2016 and 2017 the number of reports dropped significantly in early May, while in 2015 the number of reports was more constant during that period.


Laser illuminations Jan 1 2017 - June 30 2017 741w


The chart below shows the number of laser illuminations for every single day between Jan. 1 2007 and April 29 2017. The light spiky line shows each day’s illumination reports. This number can vary widely from one day to the next. The dark line is a 60-day moving average. This helps smooth out the data, in order to show longer-term trends.

Laser-illuminations-Jan-1-2007---Apr-29-2017 - colorized 1024


From these charts, it can be seen that illumination reports grew slowly, or even declined, in the first few months of 2015, 2016 and 2017. However, in the final months of 2015 and 2016, the number of illumination reports picked up significantly. The estimate above (that there will probably be around 7,200 reports in 2017) takes this effect into account.

Statistical note: The careful reader will see that the blue 2017 line in the first chart falls between the 2016 and 2015 lines. Yet LaserPointerSafety.com predicts 2017 as a whole (Jan-Dec) will be lower than both 2016 and 2015. This is because we used all ten years, 2007-2016, to estimate the year-end total as a proportion of the first six months. Both a simple average of these ten years, and a weighted average — where more recent years have a larger effect — indicate that the 2017 total will be in the ballpark of 7,200 illuminations. In other words, 2015 was an atypical year where illuminations in the last eight months of the year grew much faster than any other year.

US: Navy tests green beam across Chesapeake Bay

The U.S. Navy announced that they would be testing a green laser across the width of the Chesapeake Bay in the evenings on June 26-30 2017.

The information was released to help reassure any residents who might see the beam. The Navy called the beam “eye-safe” and said the beam would be turned off if an aircraft or watercraft is within 300 meters.

The purpose of the test is to “evaluate the performance of a laser system at long range over water,” according to a spokesperson. The laser would be aimed from the source to a target as far as 13 miles away.

There was speculation that the laser was 150 kilowatts, based on an earlier speech by the vice chief of naval operations. However, the spokesperson said the June 27 test would not be using the 150 kW laser.

From the Baltimore Sun, WTOP and the town of Morningside, Maryland

Taiwan: CAA considering restrictions after 8 laser incidents in first six months of 2017

Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration is preparing an amendment to the Civil Aviation Act, to make it illegal to aim laser beams at aircraft.

In previous years the Air Navigation and Weather Service had 4-5 reports per year of laser interference. As of late June 2017, there had been 8 reports.

The most recent incident happened June 21 2017, when China Airlines flight 163 was landing at Taoyuan International Airport. Laser beams were coming from near to the runway. The pilot “requested that the interference be moved, after which the flight landed safely.”

From the Taipei Times

UK: Pilots upset after proposed anti-laser law dropped

The following is the text of a June 22 2017 press release by the British Airline Pilots’ Association. The formatting has been changed slightly from the original.

Despite “dangerously high” figures on laser attacks on aircraft, the new Government has dropped plans to introduce tougher laws, a move which the UK pilots’ association says is “infuriating and dangerous”.

BALPA had been campaigning for the tougher laws in response to consistently high reports of laser attacks on planes year on year. Last year’s figures stood at more than 1,200 reported attacks.

Before the
[June 8] general election, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) was pleased to see a specific laser offence included in the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill. The new offence proposed that offenders could face up to five years in prison if they shone a laser at an aircraft.

However, BALPA has now learned that the Bill will not now include the laser regulations.

The association has constantly warned that shining a laser at aircraft is extremely dangerous, particularly in critical phases of flight such as take-off and landing, putting the lives of passengers at risk. BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said:

“It is infuriating to see the changes we’d hoped for appear to have been discarded. Not having this legislation is dangerous and puts the lives of passengers and crew at risk.

“The proposed tougher laws received cross-party support so it’s baffling that they have been dropped.

“When a laser pen is pointed at an aircraft it can dazzle and distract the pilot, and has the potential to cause a crash. Last year’s incident figures remain dangerously high, with the equivalent of more than three laser attacks a day across the UK.”


The Guardian has a June 22 2017 story about BALPA’s criticism, with additional information and statistics on U.K. laser incidents.

An April 20 2017 analysis of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill, written by the law firm of Addleshaw Goddard LLP, had this description:

The Bill makes it an offence to direct or shine a laser beam at a vehicle in such a way as to dazzle or distract the person driving, piloting or navigating that vehicle.

This offence is not completely new. Under section 225 of the Air Navigation Order 2016, it was an offence to 'dazzle or distract' the pilot of an aircraft and under section 240 it was an offence to 'recklessly or negligently act in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, or any person in an aircraft'. Many have argued these offences are insufficient as they are limited to aircraft, and are summary offences only which restrict police powers. The new offence therefore applies to all 'Vehicles', which are defined as anything used for travel by land, water or air and so will apply in relation to trains, buses and other forms of transport. The penalties remain the same: a maximum fine and imprisonment for up to 5 years.

However, many still consider the new offence insufficient. A number of organisations and rights groups wanted lasers to be reclassified as offensive weapons when used in some circumstances, particularly following the failure last year of a Private Members Bill which had sought to make the sale of high wattage lasers unlawful in certain circumstances.


Canada: Laser protection windscreen film offered by Airbus subsidiary for civil aviation

Aviation parts supplier Satair Group agreed on June 21 2017 to market metaAIR anti-laser protective film for aircraft windscreens. The “metamaterial optical filter” reflects unwanted laser light while having high visibility for other desired light wavelengths. It can work even against high laser powers, and beams coming from wide angles.

Satair Group is a subsidiary of Airbus which offers parts management, service and support for all types of aircraft. Satair expects to receive a Supplemental Type Certificate from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the European Aviation Safety Agency, and Transport Canada Civil Aviation in early 2018. Other jurisdictions will follow.

The metaAIR film was invented and is manufactured by Metamaterial Technologies Inc. (MTI) of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The company previously worked with Airbus to evaluate, verify and test metaAIR for use in Airbus aircraft; initially for the A320 family. The Satair agreement will bring metaAIR to all commercial aircraft including Airbus and Boeing.

From a June 21 2017 MTI press release. For more details, click the link below for an interview with MTI’s George Palikaras, discussing the technology and this agreement.
Click to read more...

Worldwide: 3D printing creates mechanical "laser show" using a pointer

Software engineer Evan Stanford created a mechanical “laser show” using 3D-printed gears, cams and supports.

It works by putting a standard pen-type laser pointer between two cams. Cranking a handle turns the cams which bounce the laser pointer up/down and left/right to create projected patterns:

Evan Stanford mechanical laser show 01


By using different cam shapes, different patterns can be projected:

Evan Stanford mechanical laser show cams

Instructions and plans are available online, including Thingiverse 3D printing files.

Stanford noted “At this point I think it is unlikely I will continue the project. But if I did, here’s what I could do:” He then listed adding blinds to make discontinuous patterns, making the device motor driven, and adding a web service to make it easier to create new cam patterns.

From Evan Stanford’s Hackaday.io page, posted in mid-June 2017

US: Editorial wants warning labels on lasers

A May 11 2017 editorial in the Press of Atlantic City advocates “an education campaign and warning labels” for lasers sold to consumers.

The editorial notes that in the late 2000s, New Jersey beachfront cities had problems with widespread laser sales — followed by widespread misuse. Ocean City NJ banned laser sales and possession in the summer of 2010, as did another Jersey Shore city, North Wildwood, a few years later.

The paper wrote “Apparently, coverage of the incidents and bans was enough to spread the word that pointing lasers at aircraft is dangerous and illegal, as incidents in the area greatly diminished.”

The editorial then noted that despite this local decrease, there are “still about 7,000 reports of lasers aimed at aircraft each year [in the U.S.].”

The article concluded with the suggestion to “[r]equire a warning about the five years in prison and $250,000 fine on every laser for sale (on the packaging or on a handout to the buyer).”

From the Press of Atlantic City

US: New Michigan law targets directed energy aimed at aircraft, trains

A new law in Michigan will take aim at perpetrators who aim laser pointers at aircraft. The penalty is up to 5 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The bill was signed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder May 9 2017 and will take effect 90 days later.

The bill was introduced February 27 2017 after a number of laser pointer incidents in the state.

Although there is a similar federal law (5 years in federal prison and fine up to $250,000), the legislators who introduced the Michigan bill said the state can now prosecute, whether or not federal officials choose to prosecute. Prior to passage of the law, state or local law enforcement could not arrest laser perpetrators unless they committed a separate offense under state or local law.

The bill makes it illegal to intentionally aim “a beam of directed energy emitted from a directed energy device at an aircraft or into the path of an aircraft or a moving train.” The bill defines “directed energy device” as “any device that emits highly focused energy and is capable of transferring that energy to a target to damage or interfere with its operation. The energy from a directed energy device would include the following forms of energy:

-- Electromagnetic radiation, including radio frequency, microwave, lasers, and masers.
-- Particles with mass, in particle-beam weapons and devices.
-- Sound, in sonic weapons and devices.”

As with the federal law, there are exceptions in the bill for FAA and DOD authorized users, and for persons using a laser emergency signaling device to send an emergency distress signal.

There were actually two bills introduced by Republican state representatives Laura Cox and Tom Barrett. House Bill 4063 made it a crime to aim directed energy at aircraft or a moving train. HB 4064 also adds the laser provisions to sentencing guidelines.

HB 4063 originally passed the House March 16 2017 by a vote of 107-1. An amended version passed the Senate April 25, 111-37 and passed the House May 2, 105-2. It was sent to the Governor on May 4.

From the Detroit News (March 16 story, May 2 story), U.S. News and World Report, and the Michigan legislature website page for HB 4063.

US: Student builds device to automatically shoot eyes with a laser pointer

A 19-year-old Northern Arizona University student posted a YouTube video showing a device he built that tracks a face, and aims a laser beam towards the eyes.

Michael Reeves’ tongue-in-cheek narration states “…it’s really doing its job of lasering me in the eye which is the real innovation here. To my pleasant surprise I found that this machine also solved another of society's problems; the fact that you're not seeing little tiny dots in your vision all day long. I know where to go when I wanted to see little dots, now I can't focus on anything.”

Michael Reeves laser pointer in eye 01
The inset photos show what the camera is seeing (left) and the red box indicating face detection (right)


The laser in the video looks substantially more powerful than the U.S. FDA limit of 5 milliwatts. (However, it can be difficult to estimate laser power from a video. For example, the camera may be more red-sensitive than human eyes which might explain why the beam seems so large and bright.)

Anyone doing this should be aware of the problem of laser pointers often being more powerful than the label states, and more powerful than the U.S. limit of 5 mW.

Fortunately for Reeves’ vision, the laser is mechanically aimed by two devices that move it left-right and up-down. This makes the aiming relatively slow and lagging the facial recognition, so the beam can be dodged much of the time. He moves to avoid the beam, and is hit in or very near to an eye about once every couple of seconds.

The screenshot below shows the camera (blue arrow) and a laser module mounted on two servos (yellow arrow).

Michael Reeves laser pointer in eye 02


As befits a student budget, the housing is an old pizza box. Reeves wrote the facial recognition and aiming program in C#, using Emgu CV, a .Net wrapper for the OpenCV computer vision library.

In about a day, the video received 80,000 views as well as being featured at tech blog The Verge.

From The Verge. Original YouTube video here.

UPDATED April 19 2017: Michael Reeves told C/Net “My eyes are fine. A lot of people seem concerned about that, which I admit is warranted. I used a 5 mW laser diode, and never had it in my vision for more than a fraction of a second."

UK: Firm developing active optics to block laser light, for use in glasses and visors

Folium Optics, a firm from Thornbury near Bristol, is developing an anti-laser shield consisting of two thin layers of plastic containing liquid crystals. When laser light is detected, the shield acts as a shutter to block the detected wavelength, while still giving good visibility to other colors.

It can be integrated into visors, goggles or other eyewear. Below is an “early prototype” showing detectors above the nose bridge and batteries on one earpiece:

Folium Optics multicurve active visor prototype for laser dazzle

They began work on the “laser dazzle visor” in 2014 and hope to start selling to military, airline suppliers and emergency services in 2018.

From Folium Optics and the Express

UK: 1,258 laser/aircraft incidents in 2016, a 12.6% drop from 2015

The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority reported that in 2016, there were 1,258 pilot reports of laser illuminations within the U.K., and an additional 274 reports of incidents that occurred outside the U.K.:


UK laser incidents 2009-2016

Note: Previous stories and charts elsewhere on LaserPointerSafety.com may have slightly different figures for some years. This is due to CAA updating numbers after a “SDD Coding Backlog”. The numbers above are all as reported in February 2017 by CAA.


The 1,258 home incidents in 2016 represent a 12.6% decrease from the 1,440 home incidents that occurred in 2015.

Similarly, the 274 overseas incidents in 2016 represent a 22.8% decrease from the 355 overseas incidents that occurred in 2015.

Here are the 1,258 home incidents in 2016, month-by-month:

UK laser incidents 2009-2016 monthly

CAA listed the top 10 locations reporting laser incidents for 2016. It is not known whether these incidents all occurred at or near the indicated airports, or whether this also includes incidents (such as helicopter strikes) that occurred elsewhere but which were tallied to the closest airport.


Top 10 UK laser incident locations 2016

As in the United States, the majority of laser illuminations were reported to be green. The figures below are for U.K. incidents; the color distribution is roughly the same for overseas incidents as well.

UK laser events by color, 2016


From a February 2017 report by the Civil Aviation Authority. This report contains additional details such as a monthly breakdown for each year 2009-2016, and for each of the top 10 home and overseas locations in 2016.

Canada: Airbus agrees to commercialize anti-laser windscreen material; eliminates need for laser protective eyewear

Airbus has entered into an agreement with Halifax-based Metamaterial Technologies Inc. to “validate, certify, and commercialize” MTI’s laser glare reducing filter for use on aircraft windscreens. This means that pilots will automatically be protected from the visual interference of bright laser beams — at least, lasers that have the same wavelength (color) that the filter protects against.

The film is not designed to fully block the laser light. It will significantly reduce the glare and temporary flash blindness effects that can occur when a laser is aimed at an aircraft cockpit. This in turn reduces the potential hazard of a laser illumination.

The announcement was made at a February 21 2017 press conference. In a press release kit photo, MTI’s founder and CEO, George Palikaras, demonstrated the laser-reflecting properties by holding up a windscreen that included MTI’s metaAIR film:

George Palikaras MTI Lamda Guard metaAir laser windscreen

The press release did not indicate a time frame for introduction of the windscreens into service, nor details such as an estimated cost, or aircraft to be outfitted. An Airbus spokesperson did say that there are applications beyond the company’s commercial aircraft division. Palikaras said that metaAIR “can offer solutions in other industries including the military, transportation and glass manufacturers.”

For more detailed information on Airbus’ and MTI’s plans, see this page which includes interview Q&A questions with George Palikaras a few days after the February 21 press conference.

UPDATED April 14 2017: Metamaterials Technologies Inc. closed an $8.3 million round of funding. This will be used to support commercialization of the windscreen film and to add needed staff. MTI can produce metaAIR sheets 80 cm wide by 100 cm long, which is sufficient for standard cockpit windows that are 60 cm wide. However, the process is currently semi-automated and needs to be fully automated. MTI is also looking for new headquarters. From the Chronicle Herald.

UPDATED July 5 2017: MTI will be making its metaAIR anti-laser windscreen film available to non-Airbus aircraft, through aviation parts supplier Satair. An interview with George Palikaras goes into details.

Metamaterial Technologies Inc. issued a press release dated February 21 2017, which is reprinted below.
Click to read more...

US: Student develops experimental laser location detection device

A university student has designed and built a prototype laser illumination detector to determine the approximate location of a green laser source. It was developed by Nate Hough, a student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

The system is intended for use in cockpits, and is self-contained — it does not need to interface with any aircraft instruments. For location, altitude and orientation data, it has a GPS and a 3-axis magnetic compass.

A laser is detected by a camera sensor, currently with 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution. The camera detects the bright “bloom” from a direct or near-direct laser illumination (left image, below). To distinguish laser light from a bright non-laser light such as the sun, it looks at surrounding pixels to see whether they saturate the green channel of the sensor. (The system currently looks only for green laser beams since those represent over 90% of FAA-reported laser incidents. But future versions could look for other color laser beams as well.)

Pic 2017-02-13 at 11.54.52 AM


As the laser aims away from the camera, the bright center of the laser is still visible (right image, above). The system then looks at the center of the bright area to find the pixel location. Knowing the camera’s orientation, location and altitude, a Raspberry Pi computer running a Python program written by Hough calculates the approximate location. This is automatically sent via text message to pre-programmed recipients which could include law enforcement.

In ground testing on a slope, at a relatively short distance, the error was 15 meters. As the photo diagram shows, the system was successful in determining an approximate distance and location.

Pic 2017-02-13 at 11.41.46 AM


Hough notes that the system is a low-cost proof-of-concept. Suggested improvements include “more precise location sensors [that] would improve target location accuracy. Tapping into the high quality compass and GPS sensors on a commercial aircraft, for example, would drastically improve the ability of the system.” He also stated that smartphones include all the equipment needed: camera, compass, GPS, processor and display. So it should be possible to make a smartphone application to accomplish the same task.

From “Detection and Location System for Laser Interference with Aircraft”, December 2016. Thanks to Nate Hough for bringing this to our attention and allowing us to host the PDF. Note: A similar system, which does not calculate the laser source location, is the Laser Event Recorder.

UK: New law proposes prison for aiming laser pens at aircraft, trains, cars, other vehicles

The U.K. Department for Transport on February 5 2017 said it would propose a new law making it illegal to shine laser light towards an aircraft, train, or road vehicle.

It is more stringent than the current law which 1) only applies to aiming at aircraft, 2) requires prosecutors to prove that the perpetrator endangered the aircraft and 3) has a fine of up to £2,500 (USD $3,112).

The new law will 1) apply to a wider variety of transport modes including automobiles, 2) require prosecutors only to prove that the laser was directed towards the transport vehicle and 3) will also add the prospect of prison time to the potential punishment. The exact new fines and prison terms were not stated in the DfT announcement.
Click to read more...

US: Study shows FAA-reported eye effects or injuries for four recent years

LaserPointerSafety.com has analyzed pilot reports of eye injuries and effects which were sent to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for four years: 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016.

The data shows that pilots reported eye effects or injuries in less than 1% of laser illumination incidents. Flashblindness was the most-reported effect, followed by “Pain, burning or irritation in eye.” Blurriness was also frequently listed, along with unspecified “eye injury.”

In 20% of eye effect/injury cases, the person affected sought medical attention.


Pic 2017-01-17 at 12.22.24 AM copy



Pic 2017-01-17 at 12.21.32 AM copy

From the FAA weekly Laser Report

US: 7,442 laser incidents in 2016; slight decrease compared to 2015

According to FAA data, there were 7,442 laser illuminations reported by pilots in 2016. This is a slight decrease of 3.5%, compared to 2015. However, both 2015 and 2016 had far more incidents than the previous four years, 2011-2014.

Pic 2017-01-10 at 2.41.31 AM


Here is the same data, arranged to show the average number of incidents per day:

Pic 2017-01-10 at 2.46.39 AM

Laser color(s)


As in previous years, green was by far the most-reported color:

FAA 2016 reported laser colors pie chart - 0600w


An October 2016 U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposal would allow the manufacture of laser pointers only in the 610-710 nanometer wavelength (orange-red to deep red). This chart shows the 2016 laser illuminations arranged according to those colors:

FAA 2016 reported laser colors pie chart nanometers - 0600w

Eye injuries or effects


There were 24 laser illumination incidents in 2016 where eye effects or injuries were listed. This is 0.32% of the total number of incidents. These are the effects listed; the total adds up to more than 24 due to multiple effects in some cases.


Pic 2017-01-16 at 12.00.46 PM

From the FAA weekly Laser Report, January 9 2017 with data January 1 - December 31 2016

US: Amazon aggressively lowers pricing on Star Shower home laser projectors

The Star Shower is a laser device intended for homeowners, that projects red and green dots or “stars” of light. It is marketed for instant home decorating at holidays, especially Christmas. Since it was introduced in 2015 by Telebrands, there have been warnings from the Federal Aviation Administration to avoid aiming the lights into the sky. In a few incidents, pilots reported seeing or being distracted by the laser beams, and authorities went to homeowners asking them to re-aim or stop using the laser lights outdoors.

A December 14 2016 article in the Wall Street Journal describes a price war between sellers of the updated Star Shower Motion, which adds movement to the laser dots.

The list price from Telebrands was $49.99. It appears they lowered the price to around $35, then Amazon and other retailers lowered their prices to $31-33. The wholesale price of the Star Shower Motion is around $30, meaning that Amazon is barely making money on selling this laser projector.

For consumers this may be good news. However, Telebrands is watching a major distributor undercut its own pricing. And, the lower prices are putting more laser projectors in the hands of consumers.

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Summary at Consumerist. LaserPointerSafety has run previous stories about he Star Shower, since they first became popular in 2015. Click for stories about aviation incidents and for general stories about the lights and their potential hazards.

Portugal: Irish investigators ask Portugal to make aiming lasers at aircraft illegal

In a report issued December 5 2016, the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit recommended that the National Institute of Civil Aviation of Portugal “should review the current civil aviation legislation with a view to taking account of occurrences of deliberate or reckless illumination of aircraft, or persons involved in the operation of aircraft, by laser light or similar.”

This was the sole recommendation resulting from a September 5 2015 incident when the two pilots in a Ryanair flight, on approach to Porto Airport, were illuminated by laser light. The pilot flying was distracted and had to use his hand to shield his eyes. The pilot monitoring had temporary flash blindness lasting a few seconds. This contributed to the aircraft’s approach being “unstable.” The pilots executed a missed approach and did a go-around for a second approach; the plane then landed safely.

Portuguese officials told the Irish investigators that there is no law in Portugal against aiming a laser at an aircraft.

In 2014, there were 294 laser incidents reported in Portugal; in 2015 there were 264 such incidents. In 2014, 107 of the incidents occurred at Porto Airport; in 2015 there were 105 incidents at the airport.

From the Irish Examiner

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: FAA Eastern Region warns against holiday & Christmas laser light display misuse

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Eastern Region issued a statement December 14 2016 warning homeowners to keep holiday laser light on their houses.

The full text of the statement is as follows:

“The FAA’s concern is that lasers -- regardless of the source -- not be aimed at aircraft where the beams can threaten the safety of a flight. Consumers who buy laser light displays should take precautions to make sure that the lights are hitting their houses and not shining off into the sky. In situations such as this, we would start by asking the person to either adjust them or turn them off. For more information on lasers, please go to www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/lasers/

From an FAA Eastern Division email to LaserPointerSafety.com, and from the Boston Globe. LaserPointerSafety has run previous stories about Christmas and holiday laser lights such as the Star Shower, since they first became popular in 2015. Click for stories about aviation incidents and for general stories about the lights and their potential hazards.

US: Laser-emitting binoculars being sold for "night vision"

Binoculars that emit a diffused green laser light onto a person or subject of interest are being sold by online and catalog retailers such as Amazon.com and Sharper Image.

The Cassini K-9 “Day and Night Vision Binoculars” are normal magnifying binoculars (for day vision) with a green laser light added between the lenses to illuminate objects for “night vision.” Holding down a button activates a 532 nanometer laser, said to be less than 5 milliwatts, with a spot diameter of 4 meters at a distance of 50 meters.

Cassini K-9 laser binocular


Looking through standard night vision devices, the user typically sees a green glow from the image intensifier that allows enhanced vision in the dark, without any visible light being added to the scene. In contrast, the Cassini K-9 emits very visible green laser light, simulating the look of a night vision device without requiring any other change to the binoculars.

The product manual warns “Please note the green laser is a device and can be harmful if used improperly, and laser radiation can be harmful to the eyes. Do not look directly into the laser beam output aperture during operation. Laser light when reflected off a mirror like surface can cause serious damage and injury. Since the Laser binocular is not a toy, please keep out of reach of children.”

The manual also includes this cautionary graphic:

Cassini K-9 laser binocular warning

Representative prices range from $94 (Amazon) to $160 (Sharper Image). At Amazon, the product has 3.5 out of 5 stars from 13 reviewers. Amazon reviewer comments include:

  • “Didn't realize it would have the bright beam of green light...Very grainy, hard to make thing out….”
  • “If you are looking for something to view the dark, without being detected, this is not the one. The green laser is visible!! That's, like you can see it in the dark! The range is not up to par. The beam is cone shaped and is approximately 2 feet wide at 7 yards, carry that out to 100 yards, my scope works better at night with my mag-light.”
  • “Much better than reviews indicated. Not for tactical use but adequate for bird watching or varmint spotting.”

From Amazon.com and Sharper Image

US: Bird wearing tiny goggles safely flies through laser beam

In a scientific study, a small parrot was equipped with tiny 3D-printed laser safety goggles, to protect its eyes as it flew through a sheet of laser light used to record the bird’s airflow.

2016-12-8 Tiny bird on perch


Researchers at Stanford University wanted to get data on how much lift a bird generates. To monitor the wing wake and vortices, they used a laser beam spread by a lens into a plane of light. The light source was a Litron brand double-pumped Neodymium-doped yttrium lithium fluoride (Nd:YLF) laser. The light was green at 527 nanometers, and had a pulse repetition rate of 1 kHz.

A non-toxic mist in the air illuminated the light sheet, just like theatrical fog used at concert laser light shows. As the bird flew through the light, the mist scattered and showed the air patterns, in a technique called “particle imaging velocimetry” or PIV.

2016-12-8 Tiny bird in laser


Bird-sized goggles were used to prevent any harm to the bird’s eyesight. The lenses came from human laser safety glasses and had an optical density of 6, meaning that they transmitted only 0.0001% of the laser light. The frame was 3D printed and was held on by veterinary tape. The goggles weighed 1.68 grams, which is roughly 6% of the bird’s body weight (equivalent to 9 pound glasses on a 150 lb. human).

2016-12-8 Tiny bird goggles


Before beginning the series of experiments, the researchers trained four parrotlets “through many small stress-free steps of habituation.” After “several months of effort” with the birds, only one — a parrotlet named “Obi” — voluntarily flew with the laser goggles. According to the researchers, “[a]ll training and experimental procedures were approved by Stanford's Administrative Panel on Laboratory Animal Care.”

2016-12-8 Tiny bird in flight


Twelve cameras were used. Four high-speed stereo cameras were for PIV particle motion recording and recorded 4000 frames per flight. Eight cameras were for recording Obi’s wing and head kinematics as it flew from one perch, through the laser light plane, to a landing perch.

The results give “the clearest picture to date of the wake left by a flying animal.” Unexpectedly, the wing tip vortices did not stay stable as happens with aircraft, but instead broke up quickly and violently. This had not been predicted by any previous models.

2016-12-8 Tiny bird vortex visualization


From a Stanford University news story, picked up by numerous websites and news outlets including Popular Mechanics, NBC News, The Verge, Optics.org and many others. The results were published December 6 2016 in the journal Bioinspiration & Biometrics, volume 12, number 1. Thanks to Drs. Ronald K.A.M. Mallant, MSc. for pointing out an error in our description of OD 6 density; the error has been corrected.

US: Mobile app planned for detecting laser illuminations

A U.S. company will be releasing a mobile app allowing smartphones to detect, measure and record the location of laser illuminations. Pilots are the primary intended users for the app, which is currently called “Laser Event Recorder” or “LERapp”. In a planned upgrade, the app will also notify other nearby pilots of the illumination event.

LERapp was developed a few years ago by Dr. Craig Williamson of the U.K. Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). The app uses the smartphone camera; when a laser or bright light event is detected, the app makes a digital record. This includes a picture of the event, the GPS location of the phone, the user’s heading, the date and time, and laser parameters such as the beam color and estimated irradiance. A March 2013 paper, presented by Dr. Williamson at the International Laser Safety Conference, describes the app in more detail.

LERapp-screenshot 300w
Screenshot from the 2013 version of the Laser Event Recorder app


As far as LaserPointerSafety.com can determine, the app was never made publicly available such as being put on an app store.

To commercialize LERapp, in December 2016 it was licensed to Profound Technologies, Inc. of Warner Robins, Georgia, who will be doing further development and marketing in major regions such as the U.S., U.K. and Europe. Profound’s president Randall Fitzgerald said that there are two planned versions.

One version will be a free or low-cost basic app that has the current features of LERapp. Profound will also be developing a central database where laser incident reports will be automatically filed, which then can be pushed out to other users of LERapp such as nearby pilots. These notifications would be available in a higher-cost version, or perhaps the notification feature would be a “freemium” add-on to the basic app.

The app will not directly be able to locate the laser’s location — the only geographic information stored is the GPS location and heading of the smartphone at the time of the incident. However, having a photo of the laser illumination may allow law enforcement to locate landmarks or street patterns. Also, Profound is considering future versions which could triangulate a ground location or area based on multiple illumination events reported to the database within a short timespan.

LERapp currently runs on Apple’s iOS operating system for iPhones. There is as yet no public release schedule for the basic or database versions. At the time of Apple App Store release, Profound also intends to have an Android-compatible version available.

From a Profound Technologies press release dated December 4 2016 and a December 8 telephone interview with Randall Fitzgerald. LaserPointerSafety.com previously ran a story about the Dstl version of the LERapp in March 2013.

US: Airport police can go off property to find laser attackers

Police officers at Detroit Metro Airport could exercise their powers outside airport boundaries under a new law designed to combat laser strikes at planes.

The measure aims to address people pointing lasers at planes that are taking off or landing and the proliferation of drones near airports. It was signed Tuesday November 22 2016 by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The lasers often are used off airport property but directed at planes while in protected airspace. The beams can fill cockpits with green light and temporarily blind pilots or blur their vision.

From the Detroit Free Press, November 23 2016.

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: We have been unable to find details about this law. For example, a search of the Michigan Legislature website for bills introduced in 2015-2016 with “laser” as a keyword did not appear to turn up any relevant text. For example, adding “airport” as a search term found no bills at all. A similar search for completed signed bills (“Public Acts”) found a list only with entries prior to August 2016. If anyone has more details about this bill, please contact us.

US: UPDATED - FDA wants to allow only red laser pointers, calling all other colors "defective"

On October 25 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed to designate all laser pointers that are not red as “defective.” This designation would prohibit U.S. sales of green, blue and other non-red pointers and would make it easier for FDA to control and seize imports of such lasers.


spctrm3  FDA laser pointer proposal 0680w

FDA’s primary concern is green lasers’ interference with the vision of vehicle operators including pilots. Green lasers are involved in over 90% of incidents where pilots reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that they saw or were illuminated by laser light during a flight. (The charts below were added in January 2017 after the 2016 FAA final numbers came out.)

FAA 2016 reported laser colors pie chart - 0600w



FAA 2016 reported laser colors pie chart nanometers - 0600w


FDA is also worried about blue lasers which can have greater visibility to night-adapted eyes than red lasers of equivalent power.

Thus FDA is applying the “defective” label — giving them added authority over potentially injurious products — because of what they consider to be a well-known, established public safety hazard to operators of vehicles, aircraft and watercraft.

What FDA is trying to accomplish


FDA has two main goals:

     1) “Turn back the clock” to the 1990s and early 2000s when almost all laser pointers were red. According to the agency, red light has the least interference with pilot vision, compared to equivalent-power green beams which can appear up to 28 times brighter. During this period there were dozens or low hundreds of reported laser/aviation incidents per year, compared with 7,703 incidents in 2015 and 7,442 incidents in 2016.

     2) Make it much easier for customs and law enforcement to identify illegal laser pointers simply by their color. Red and orange-red laser pointers would be permitted; all others would be prohibited for general sales.

In addition, FDA sought to address requests from legislators including Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). After high-profile incidents, lawmakers have written to FDA, asking for a ban on green pointers due to their vision-blocking abilities being a risk to pilots and passengers.

Who would be affected


FDA’s proposed color-based prohibition would only affect the manufacture, importation and sales of laser pointer products introduced into commerce. Although pointers fall under the FDA’s “surveying, leveling and alignment” (SLA) control, only pointers as defined by FDA would be restricted to red. Standard SLA equipment would not be affected — they could use any color beam.

Individuals such as hobbyists who manufacture their own laser products for their personal use would be free from FDA laser product regulations. This is because such individuals would not be considered manufacturers by FDA.

Since federal law cannot control individual use or misuse, states and localities could impose their own regulations. (A few states and localities already have their own restrictions on use and/or possession; these are not currently based on the color of the laser.) One benefit of FDA’s proposal is that any new state and local laws could “piggyback” on FDA’s color-based restrictions. That would make it easier for local law enforcement to use color to easily identify whether a person possessed a prohibited or permitted laser.

FDA’s proposal and rationale was stated in draft amendments presented October 25 to an FDA advisory panel known as “TEPRSSC”.

Click to read more...

Northern Ireland: "Laser Lunacy" drama visits schools to warn students not to aim lasers at aircraft

Belfast International Airport is trying to reach local youths to warn them against aiming lasers at aircraft. The airport worked with Arts & Business to develop a dramatic performance called “Laser Lunacy”. The 20-minute show will be performed for over 2,000 students in six Belfast-area schools.

According to an October 19 2016 story in the Irish News, the performance depicts an aircraft crew member being blinded, which leads to a crash that injures 17 people. The subsequent investigation highlights how a criminal conviction can ruin a young person’s life.

After the performance there is a question-and-answer session to reinforce the message.

BIA’s Jaclyn Coulter told the newspaper “We have a very serious message to get across to young people and we thought that the most effective way of doing that was through drama…. [W]e are delighted with the response we have had both from schools and pupils. We want this practice to be stamped out. It is not fun. It is not a game.”

There were 35 aircraft illumination incidents last year, and 16 thus far in 2016.

From the Irish News

International: (Not a laser) Over 10,000 air rage incidents worldwide in 2015

There were 10,854 incidents of unruly passengers in 2015, according to the International Air Transport Association. With over 13 million flights, this means there was one “air rage” incident for every 1,205 flights. The total is an increase over 2014’s 9,316 reported incidents.

In 11 percent of incidents, there was “physical aggression towards passengers or crew, or damage to the aircraft,” IATA reported.

IATA’s Director General stated “There is no easy answer to stem the rise in reported unruly behavior. We need a balanced solution in which all stakeholders can collaborate. The industry’s core principles can help to manage the small percentage of passengers who abuse alcohol. And it must be balanced with efforts by governments taking advantage of all their deterrence mechanisms….”

From a
September 28 2016 press release from the International Air Transport Association. LaserPointerSafety.com is publishing this as an interesting comparison with the number of worldwide incidents of laser illuminations of aircraft, which are roughly on the same order of magnitude as that of air rage incidents.

UK: Statistics on police helicopter laser attacks; one has been struck 100 times "over the last year"

A September 12 2016 news article in The Star states that “[t]he police helicopter used in South Yorkshire has suffered nearly 100 laser attacks over the past year.” The article also states this is “more laser attacks than any other police aircraft in the country.”

Assuming “over the past year” means “in the last 12 months”, that would be an average of about two laser illuminations per week.

A separate article from BBC News states that in 2015 there were 91 reported laser illuminations of National Police Air Service aircraft. The largest number was 20 attacks against NPAS helicopters taking off from its Carr Gate headquarters near Wakefield, West Yorkshire.”

Reasons for the apparent discrepancy in numbers are not clear. It may be that South Yorkshire is not a member of the NPAS, which provides centralized air support to local police forces.

The BBC News chart below shows the 2015 NPAS laser attacks:

Pic 2016-09-14 at 1.58.41 PM

The NPAS is testing laser protective eyewear, as a means to help protect flight crews.

From The Star and BBC News. Interestingly, a September 14 search of the South Yorkshire Police website, to find more information about these incidents and police concern regarding lasers, did not find any results when searching for the term “laser.”

US: Anti-laser laser for drone defense

The cameras and sensors on drones can be disrupted by laser light. This is of special concern to the military.

To help defend drones against laser light, a California company has developed a defensive laser to be mounted on the drone. When it detects a laser attack, it first analyzes the incoming beam’s power, wavelength, pulse frequency and source. It then uses its own laser to counter the incoming beam.

The exact method is secret. New Scientist speculates “…it may involve fooling the control system into thinking it is hitting its target despite the laser actually pointing a few metres to the side. A direct hit would have produced a big burst of reflected light, so a pulse sent back by an anti-laser laser could make it look like the original laser was on target.”

The company is Adsys Controls of Irvine, California; the anti-laser laser system is called Helios. According to the company, “Helios is a low SWaP [Space, Weight and Power], completely passive Counter Directed Energy Weapon system capable of nullifying the enemy’s DEW [Directed Energy Weapon]. Consisting of a small UAV-mounted sensor package, Helios provides full analysis of the incoming DEW beam including localization and intensity. With this information it passively jams the enemy, protecting the vehicle and the payload.”

From Popular Science and New Scientist

UK: BALPA calls for high-powered lasers to be treated as offensive weapons

The British Airline Pilots’ Association called for greater regulation of lasers and drones, at a Trades Union Congress meeting in Brighton on September 14 2016.

BALPA noted that there were 1,439 reports of laser attacks in 2015, and that 55% of pilots experienced a laser attack in the past 12 months. A spokesperson said BALPA “has been campaigning for a long time for high-powered lasers to be treated as what they are — offensive weapons.”

The association was also concerned with the threat of incidents involving drones.

A motion to ask for improved regulations passed at the meeting.

From a BALPA press release

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

Ireland: Laser incidents decline over past two years

Incidents of lasers aimed at aircraft in Ireland fell from 153 in 2014, to 134 in 2015, and could be less than 50 in 2016, according to the Irish Aviation Authority.

In 2014 the State Airports (Shannon Group) Act made it illegal to aim laser pens at aircraft. According to the Irish Examiner, “Since the legislation was introduced, there has been a significant decrease in the number of laser incidents reported by Irish pilots in Irish airspace to Irish Air Traffic Control.”

As of August 26 2016, there were 31 reports of lasers deliberately pointed at aircraft in Irish airspace. If the remainder of 2016 continues at that rate, there would be about 47 laser incident reports for the entire year.

Except for mentioning the 2014 legislation, the news report did not indicate any other reason for the decline.

From the Irish Examiner

UK: Arrest persons carrying "high-powered" laser pointers in public, says top aviation regulator

The head of the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority said that persons carrying “high-powered” laser pointers in public should be arrested even if they are not using them. He said that CAA and the British Airline Pilots Association want legislation outlawing possession of high-powered laser pens without a license. The chief executive of CAA, Andrew Haines, was speaking in late August 2016 to the Press Association about the misuse of lasers, which he considers to be a greater threat than drone near-misses, since laser misuse is “a deliberate attempt to cause harm.”

According to Haines, laser attacks have permanently damaged pilots’ vision, and it is conceivable that they could cause an aircraft crash. In 2015 there were 1,439 laser incidents reported to CAA.

Haines said there is no legitimate reason for a person to have a high-powered laser pen in public. Press reports did not indicate Haines’ definition of “high-powered”. (In the U.K., lasers used as pointers are limited to 1 milliwatt [the U.S. limit is 5 mW], so it is possible that “high-powered” would mean any handheld laser above 1 mW.)

Haines asked “Why does Joe Bloggs walking down the street need a laser that can pop a balloon at 50 miles, that can cause permanent damage to a pilot?”

The CAA chief wants new, restrictive legislation because at present, it is difficult to find laser perpetrators and to prove they had intent to endanger aviation, under the Air Navigation Order 2009.

A U.K. government spokesperson said "We take this issue very seriously and we continue to work with other Government departments, the CAA and industry to determine how best to control the sale, use and possession of laser pens. We are looking to make changes as soon as possible."

From the Daily Mail, BBC, the Mirror, and other news sources. For commentary about Haines’ statements, click the “Read More…” link below.
Click to read more...

Australia: Study shows inexpensive green laser pointers are mislabled and significantly over-powered

A study done by researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Victoria, found that inexpensive green laser pointers had output power up to 127 times the Australian legal limit of 1 milliwatt. Results of the study were presented by Dr. Kate Fox at the IEEE Engineers in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) scientific conference, on August 19 2016 in Orlando, Florida.

The researchers purchased eight laser pointers from sources including electronics stores and online stores. They bought four lasers with green beams and four with red beams. The cost of each laser was less than AUD $30 (USD $23).

All of the lasers were advertised to have a maximum output power of either less than 1 mW or less than 5 mW. The green laser pointers’ actual output power measured from 51 to 127 milliwatts. Dr. Fox said “At that upper level, the beam would cause catastrophic retinal damage.”

Apparently much of the green lasers’ power was in the infrared. These types of lasers work by generating non-visible infrared light which is then converted by a crystal into visible green light. A filter is normally used to block the infrared light, and only let the green light through. However, “[t]he research team found that imported laser pointers were poorly made, with manufacturers tempted to skip installing infrared-blocking filters to hold down costs.” The researchers did not measure how much of each lasers’ output was in the visible, and how much was in the infrared.

The 127 milliwatt green laser was labeled as a Class 2 device, with maximum output power of 1 mW. In a previous study from the U.S. NIST, the highest power output they measured was 66.5 mW from a green laser labeled as having a maximum output power of 5 mW.

Three of the four red laser pointers were found to be within the legal limit of 1 milliwatt. The fourth red pointer was about 8.5 milliwatts. The researchers felt that the red lasers’ spots were less focused than green lasers, meaning there was less risk of retinal damage. Also, red lasers use diodes. The maximum power output of these diodes is limited; excessive current will destroy the diode’s lasing capacity instead of providing a more powerful beam.

The researchers noted that “Our experiment raised two very pertinent concerns – first, why were class 3B lasers so easily purchased via the internet without licensing? This suggests that there are many loopholes in the importation of these products and more stringent processes need to be reinforced. Secondly, why did green lasers labeled as Class 2 reach up to a power output of 127mW, effectively attaining a class 3B classification? It is very likely that there is a significant infrared component. This drastic degree of non-compliance suggests that there needs to be more rigorous testing and quality control of these commercially available lasers – merely imposing a power limit of less than 1mW is insufficient.”

The researchers concluded by stating that “Authorities such as the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and medical authorities such as the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) ought to advocate more strongly for stringent testing, quality control and licensing of green DPSS lasers.”

From an
RMIT press release, “Over-the-counter laser pointers a threat to eyesight” and an advance copy of a paper, “Green lasers are beyond power limits mandated by safety standards,” which will be published in the Proceedings of the 2016 IEEE Engineers in Medicine and Biology Conference, online at the IEEE Xplore website. Thanks to Dr. Kate Fox for the paper.

Israel: Lasers are seen as potential terrorist tool

A study published August 16 2016 by an Israeli-based counter-terrorism center states that lasers are one of the technologies that are likely to be used by terrorist organizations against aircraft.

The laser portion of the 21-page document is four paragraphs long. The analysis appears to be sourced primarily from news accounts and public documents.

The fourth paragraph, which concludes the laser discussion, states: “Although no real damage has yet been caused by the laser threat against airplanes, the possibility cannot be ignored that terrorist organization will use laser beams against pilots in order to carry out a terror attack. This issue becomes even more significant in light of the fact that there are particularly powerful laser devices that can be found in the possession of terrorist organizations.”

Other potential aviation threats described in the document include drones, anti-aircraft missiles, recruiting disaffected airport employees, and cyber-terrorism.

The study was published by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) of Herzliya, Israel, a non-profit organization that calls itself “one of the leading academic institutes for counter-terrorism in the world.”

From
Trends in Aviation Terrorism (PDF document)

Canada: Students developing laser scarecrow to keep geese from crops

A group of students at the University of Victoria developed a prototype system that uses green lasers to drive geese from farmers’ fields. In an August 8 2016 radio report, CBC News interviewed Peter Rashleigh, a farmer and 4th-year mechanical engineering student, who worked with five other students on the project.

The group’s research found that green lasers, even at low power levels, scare geese at night when they are roosting in fields, eating the green shoots of crops such as wheat and barley. They can do “significant damage,” Rashleigh said.

There is a solution during the daytime involving noise from pyrotechnics, but this can’t be used at night in a residential area.

For nighttime geese deterrence, the students looked at other options and concluded that using lasers was the best way to solve the problem. They developed a device placed about 12-15 feet off the ground, installed in the center of the field. It moves the laser across an area, throughout the night. So far, it appears to be “fairly effective.” Response has been “quite positive” from other farmers.

Rashleigh told CBC News that “safety is a huge concern.” The laser only shines where it is intended, in the field. The beam is less powerful than most handheld laser pointers; a person would have to stare into the beams for “about 8 seconds” to have any risk of damage. To protect aircraft, the device can detect if it is being pointed above the horizon, and can shut itself off.

From
CBC News, via Forbes

US: Pilot group forms to combat laser strikes

A group of pilots has formed Pilots Against Laser Strikes, LLC. The group’s mission statement says the non-profit volunteer organization is “dedicated to educating and informing the public of the dangers of laser strikes on aircraft and reducing the number of laser strikes that occurs on a daily basis.”

Pilots Against Laser Strikes logo smaller 250w

On the education side, volunteers will visit schools and airports to provide information about why people should not aim lasers at aircraft.

On the legislative side, the group wants to create a National Laser Registration List for Class 4 lasers (those over 500 milliwatts of power), with federal law mandating registration.

PALS was founded in March 2016 by pilot Craig Pieper, who was illuminated by green laser light in December 2015 while on approach to Newark Liberty International Airport. The organization’s website is at pilotsagainstlaserstrikes.org.

From Aero Crew News August 2016, pp. 26-27 and Metropolitan Airport News, August 2016, p. 10.

UK: Money from convicted terrorist used to buy laser pointer

Funds provided by a convicted terrorist were spent on items including a laser pointer pen and a night-vision telescope.

There was no indication as to any intended use for the devices.

According to a July 28 2016 report, Adeel Ul-Haq, 21, received a five-year sentence for “helping in the preparation of an act of terrorism” and a one-year sentence for “funding terrorism.”

Ul-Haq raised approximately £4,200 (USD $5560) via Twitter donations. Some of the money purchased the laser and night-vision equipment.

The money was confiscated, and was redistributed by the Charity Commission to two registered aid charities.

From CivilSociety.co.uk

US: Army looking for battlefield goggles which include laser eye protection

The U.S. Army is looking for prototype Next Generation Eye Protection (NGEP) which will include protection against laser light. The solicitation notice is expected around August 3 2016. Below is text from the pre-solitication notice issued July 20 2016. The laser requirement is in boldface.

The US Army Contracting Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Natick Contracting Division (NCD) on behalf of the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) intends to issue a solicitation under Authority of FAR Part 15 for Research and Development (R&D) efforts to deliver prototype systems capable of meeting Next Generation Eye Protection (NGEP) requirements. Eyewear must be capable of exceeding military ballistic fragmentation protection requirements for eye protection as currently outlined in MIL-PRF-32432, meet optical quality requirements, provide configuration(s) with laser eye protection, accommodate varying light conditions, and be compatible with the Universal Prescription Lens Carrier (UPLC) to accommodate Marines requiring vision correction. Since follow-on production is envisioned, the ability to produce protective eyewear in production quantities is also a key consideration.

The Government is anticipating awarding 1 or more firm fixed price (FFP) contracts with a period of performance of 12 months for the required services. The Government reserves the right to award one or no contracts as a result of the solicitation.


From the pre-solicitation notice at FedBizOpps.gov. The Solicitation Number is W911QY-16-R-0043.

US: Air Force buys 11,805 laser eye protection glasses for $30.1 million

The U.S. Air Force Materiel Command is purchasing up to 11,805 Aircrew Laser Eye Protection (ALEP) Block 2 spectacles. According to the June 25 2016 notice,

“Air Force aircrew members require an ALEP system for day and night applications that balance requirements for laser eye protection, mission/aircraft compatibility, and flight safety. The ALEP Block 2 system provides aircrew members with enhanced protection against hazard and threat laser devices in combat and training situations while minimizing visual acuity degradation. The ALEP Block 2 system also provides sufficient protection to prevent permanent eye damage and temporary effects (glare, flash blindness, etc.) from laser weapons/devices. The Block 2 system is compatible with current aircrew flight equipment, cockpit/cabin displays, exterior aircraft lights, and airfield lights, night vision devices, helmet mounted displays, and exterior scenery.”

The supplier is Teledyne Scientific & Imaging. The contract amount is $30.1 million, meaning the cost amortized over each spectacle is $2,550. The sole source contract stated “Teledyne is the only firm capable of providing the supplies without the USAF experiencing substantial duplication of cost that could not be expected to be recovered through competition and unacceptable delays in fulfilling its requirements.”

From GovTribe and airforce-technology.com. The federal solicitation number for this contract is FA8606-15-C-6370.

Worldwide: Star Wars drones feature aerial laser battles

Quadcopters shaped like Star Wars vehicles, which have lasers for aerial combat, are set to be sold in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in September 2016, with release in North America scheduled for later in the year.

The “Star Wars Battle Quads” can move at speeds of 40-50 mph, and have clear propellers on the bottom to help maintain the illusion of a Millennium Falcon, X-Wing, TIE fighter or speeder bike flying on its own.

According to the manufacturer, Propel, up to 24 drones can have a laser battle simultaneously. A publicity photo shows laser beams clearly visible in a smoky environment:

Propel Star Wars lasers 01

Below is a freeze-frame from a Propel video that shows the drones (upper left corner) flying in a public demonstration. The circles show where the laser beams are shooting onto an audience.

Propel Star Wars lasers 02

According to the Verge, “When a ship is hit by a laser from an opposing ship, its paired controller … shakes in the pilot’s hands. After three direct hits, the drone will slowly spiral to the ground the game is over. Although the prototypes weren’t ready for one of these battles when we saw them, the lasers alone were pretty striking.”

The caption of this photo from the Verge states that the lasers are “Around the strength of a laser pointer.” Empire vehicles have green lasers, Rebellion vehicles have red.

Propel Star Wars laser 03


The cost is reported to be between $200-$400.

From Wired, Engadget and the Verge. Freeze-frame from a video in a PC Mag article.

US: FAA bill mandates quarterly reporting of laser incidents and prosecutions; increases civil penalties

On July 15 2016, President Obama signed the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016. One of the provisions provides funding for the agency to report four times a year to Congress about the following:

  • the number of laser pointer incidents reported to FAA
  • the number of civil and criminal enforcement actions
  • the resolution of any incidents that did not result in a civil or criminal action
  • any actions taken to help deter laser pointer incidents

In addition, the maximum civil penalty that FAA can impose was raised to $25,000. It was formerly $11,000.

U.S. Government Printing Office. The full text of the laser pointer provisions of the Act is below (click the Read More… link).
Click to read more...

US: Cleveland bans lasers from area around convention; guns are allowed

Lasers, light bulbs, tennis balls, hammocks and toy guns are among 72 items the public is banned from possessing in a 3.3 square mile “event zone” surrounding the site of the July 18-21 2016 Republican National Convention. However, the public is permitted to openly carry real guns in the area.

The prohibition lasts from July 18 through July 22. The list of items was first published by the city of Cleveland as part of regulations issued May 25 2016.

In the list, some items have specific descriptions, such as a restriction on “Lumber larger than 2” in width and 1⁄4” thick, including supports for signs” or “Umbrellas with metal tips.” For lasers, the list simply bans “Lasers;” there is no additional description such as allowing lasers under a certain size or power output.

The general public can possess a banned item if it is used in a workplace or at a home within the restricted zone, and if the item is used within the business or home.

The public is allowed to have guns in the event zone due to an Ohio state law allowing open carry by licensed gun owners. The event zone covers most of downtown Cleveland.

A much smaller security zone inside the convention arena, under the jurisdiction of the Secret Service, has banned guns.

From Wired and Q13 Fox. The city of Cleveland regulations are here. Click the “Read More…” link for a map of the event zone and the complete list of 72 banned items.
Click to read more...

Vietnam: Proposal to make it a crime to aim a laser at an aircraft

The head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam in early July 2016 asked the Ministry of Transport to make aiming lasers at aircraft illegal, with both criminal charges and “administrative punishment for violating civil aviation safety.”

In three airports in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Pleiku, there were six incidents where lasers were aimed at aircraft between May 28 and June 14 2016. The perpetrators remain unknown as of July 6 2016.

From Vietnamnet.vn

US: Hobbyist builds 200-watt portable laser from scrap parts

A video on YouTube shows a homemade 200-watt portable laser “bazooka” made from cast off parts and broken electronics. One week after being posted on June 28 2016, the video from user “Styropyro” (Drake Anthony) had 1,733,000 views. Stories about the laser were also featured on major media sources including the Daily Mail, the Mirror, Popular Science, Yahoo News/Popular Mechanics, Gizmodo, and TechCrunch.

Anthony started by harvesting lasers used in DLP video projectors, such as the Casio “LampFree” series:

Casio LampFree laser hybrid projectors

He purchased four broken projectors, each with an array of blue laser diodes totaling 50 watts, to get a grand total of 200 watts of laser output. He then used knife-edge optical components to help superimpose all the laser beams.

When energized, the beam is immense and powerful:

styro-small

The highest (most hazardous) laser classification is Class 4, which starts at 500 milliwatts (0.5 watts). Such lasers can cause instant eye injury, skin burns and can burn materials. Anthony’s 200 watt laser is 400 times more powerful than the 0.5 watt limit where Class 4 begins.

In the video, Anthony says “this feels like I’m holding a bolt of lightning in my hands. This is definitely my new favorite toy.”

Adding a magnifying glass to the end focuses the beam onto a spot that can almost instantly burn a block of wood:

200w styropyro laser 02

When operating the laser, Anthony wears a welder’s mask with laser goggles fitted. This prevents potential retinal burns caused by looking at the concentrated laser light. Below he is shown with the laser and mask.

200w styropyro laser instagram

At the end of the video, he says “I'm glad to have finally finished this beast because that means I can start working on some of my other projects, and in the coming months I have a lot of crazy stuff planned including impulse lasers that peak in the megawatts as well as explosively pumped lasers, so I'm looking forward to that….Until the next time, stay safe and happy lasing!”

Drake Anthony is a 23-year old senior at Southern Illinois University, who has been accepted into the University of Rochester PhD program. In a Feb. 2016 newspaper profile entitled “SIU student turns passion for lasers into potential career”, the author notes that “What really excites Anthony is the science behind the beam.” She quotes him as saying “From a theory perspective, it’s beautiful. It uses physics, it uses quantum physics, chemistry, good things of math, engineering. It’s just this conglomeration of all the best things that humans have come up with.”

From the YouTube video
“My Homebuilt 200W LASER BAZOOKA!!!!!”, posted June 28 2016

US: Statistics for second half of 2015 show unusual rise and sudden decline

An analysis of daily laser pointer illumination reports finds an unusual rise in the second half of 2015, with a sudden decline just before Christmas.

The chart below, showing FAA laser illumination reports for the past nine years, demonstrates how the number of reports increased and even more dramatically decreased (yellow area):

FAA incidents 2007 - May 28 2016 1150w
Click for larger image

A closer look at the past two years shows this more clearly:

FAA incidents past 2 years 50pct
Click for larger image

A possible cause of the increase is that on July 16 there was widespread nationwide publicity about 11 flights that were illuminated on July 15 in and around New Jersey.

However, this event is not a full explanation. While the publicity may have triggered a “copycat” effect, incidents had been increasing at least two weeks prior to July 16.

LaserPointerSafety.com is not aware of any other external events such as new laser pointer products, changes in laws, etc. that could also account for this increase. And, we have no explanation for the dramatic fall-off starting December 23. We have reached out to FAA to find out if there were any changes in pilot reporting requirements or in data gathering procedures.

Knowing reasons for the increase — and especially for the sudden decrease — could provide clues in the effort to reduce laser pointer incidents in the U.S.

US: 2016 laser incidents up 33% over same period in 2015

From January 1 through May 28 2016, pilots filed 2,925 reports of laser illuminations with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. This is a 33% increase over the 2,194 reports filed during the same period in 2015.

2016-05-28 Number Jan 1 - May 28 600w



LaserPointerSafety.com estimates there will be over 8,500 laser incidents reported for 2016. This is based on comparing the number of illuminations Jan 1 - May 28 2016, with the average of the same period in the past four years.

2016-05-28 Number per year 600w


Australia: Study shows laser pointers are #2 cause of pilot incapacitation

A February 2016 study by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that from 2010 to 2014, laser strikes were the second leading cause of flight crew incapacitations, after gastrointestinal illnesses.

There were 113 flight crew incapacitations in Australia during the study period — an average of about 23 per year. Of these, 15 (13.3%) of the reported incapacitations were due to laser strikes.

The study looked at “high-capacity” and “low-capacity” air transport, as well as general aviation.

During the study period there were 1,316 laser strikes reported to the ATSB in high-capacity operations. Of these, eleven (0.8%) of the laser strikes resulted in flight crew incapacitation.

A summary of the ATSB study is here. The full 30-page PDF document is available online from ATSB or from a local copy here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

Canada: Transport Canada warning of laser dangers via social media

Transport Canada on May 24 2016 launched a social media awareness campaign, warning Canadians of the dangers and consequences of aiming lasers at aircraft.

The campaign began with a press conference where Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport and Tony Cusimano, Superintendent of York Regional Police spoke about the hazards.

Garneau said, "Pointing a laser at an aircraft is not only a reckless act that puts people at unnecessary risk, it’s simply not a bright idea. As Minister of Transport, I take this type of behaviour seriously because Canadians and their families deserve to feel safe while flying. We want people to know there are serious consequences, including $100,000 in fines and up to five years in prison. Transport Canada and law enforcement across the country are working together to ensure offenders face the fullest force of the law.”

Transport Canada has set up a website at www.tc.gc.ca/NotABrightIdea. It includes a catchy animated video, “Dumb Ways to Blind” aimed at millennials, plus three other more conventional videos on the topic.

According to the website, “[i]n 2015, there were almost 600 reported incidents.” This was an increase over the 502 incidents reported in 2014.

Transport Canada urges those interested to use the hashtag #NotABrightIdea. On Twitter, since January 1 2016 there have been about 40 posts with this hashtag; 33 of them about lasers and 7 about other topics that are “not a bright idea.”

From a news release issued by Transport Canada

US: Coast Guard seeks FDA waiver; wants to use laser illuminators on helicopters

The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking a waiver from Food and Drug Administration laser safety regulations, so that CG helicopters can use laser illuminators to enhance video vision. The problem is that the laser illuminators do not have a minimum altitude interlock. This prevents use when the laser is used so close to a person that the irradiance is above the FDA’s Maximum Permissible Exposure levels, and thus could cause eye injury.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Defense is permitted to self-certify their laser equipment and usage. The DoD’s Army, Air Force and Navy agencies do not need FDA approval of their helicopter-based laser illuminators. However, the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which does not have a self-certification waiver. The Coast Guard must currently apply for FDA approval.

On April 14 2016, Rep. Duncan Hunter sent a letter to FDA, asking that the Coast Guard be permitted to self-certify their laser systems. Hunter called FDA’s policy “onerous and burdensome”.

One issue may be that the helicopter-based video system already has low-light and infrared capabilities. Although the laser illumination can further enhance the image, it may not be considered a necessity for operations.

From Seapower magazine

US: Scientist uses "laser-pointer-in-a-can" to discover dinosaur eyes, feathers

A scientist using what he describes as a “laser-pointer-in-a-can” has discovered evidence of dinosaurs’ soft tissues including eyes, skin, feathers and scales. Tom Kaye illuminates a sample with the laser light, and photographs it with a camera that is filtered to see fluorescence of the sample, caused by the light. The entire apparatus costs about USD $500.

In a social media post around late March 2016, Kaye posted photos of a dinosaur’s eye that is only visible with his technique.

Tom Kaye laser pointer dinosaur eye

A science story notes that Kaye is “maybe the only person on Earth not named Sam Neill who can say he’s looked into the eyes of a pterosaur.”

In previous studies he used green (532 nm), blue (457 nm) and violet (407 nm) laser modules with powers from 150 to 500 milliwatts. This provides much brighter illumination of the subject. For example, a standard 20 watt ultraviolet fluorescent lamp has an irradiance (power over a given area) of 510 milliwatts per square centimeter. A 500 milliwatt (1/2 watt) laser, by comparison, provides an irradiance of around 4000 to 8000 milliwatts per square centimeter.

Tom Kaye laser pointer paleontology
Kaye with his laser apparatus


The story “What Did Dinosaurs Look Like? Tom Kaye Finds Answers, Feathers With Lasers” appeared online at Inverse.com on April 19 2016. Inverse also featured a previous story, “Lasers Can Tell Us More About Fossils Than Before” on October 8 2015. A May 27 2015 paper by Kaye and associates, written for the online journal PLOS ONE, “Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence in Paleontology”, is here.

UK: Consumer lasers hazardous up close, but will not injure pilots, say 3 top UK experts

Three top U.K. laser safety experts published an overview of consumer laser hazards in the April 19 2016 British Journal of Ophthalmology. The key finding that made news (at sources such as CNN, ABC and the Daily Mail) was that lasers aimed at aircraft have not caused eye injuries to pilots, and are not likely to do so.

But in addition to this declaration, the authors also provided a succinct summary of the current state of consumer laser pointer misuse, and how ophthalmologists should proceed when studying a patient’s laser exposure.

Experts John Marshall, John O’Hagan and John Tyrer began by noting that low-powered Class 2 (less than 1 milliwatt) and Class 3R (1-5 mW) lasers “are not an eye hazard, and even if used inappropriately will not cause permanent eye damage.”

However, consumer laser devices with Class 3B (5-500 mW) and Class 4 (above 500 mW) powers have begun to cause injuries. “….[C]lass 4 devices are capable of causing irreversible retinal damage if directed into the eye over short ranges, up to several metres. Such devices have resulted in foveal injuries in children with current estimates of 150 cases in the UK. The [UK] media has given significant coverage to this growing problem.”

Ophthalmologists were advised that in cases of close up exposure, there may potentially be permanent damage. A detailed examination would be warranted, although there is no treatment to reverse permanent damage.

The hazards from this short range misuse differ from the hazards of aiming a laser towards pilots. Because the laser-to-aircraft distance is typically “hundreds to thousands of metres”, and because of scattering from the windscreen, eye injuries are nonexistent: “Fortunately, these exposures are at irradiances that are incapable of producing irreversible retinal damage even at distances of 100 m.”

They said that only one case of alleged retinal damage has been reported in pilots. [LPS.com note: this is for publicly available reports involving civilian pilots.] The experts concluded the case is suspect for a number of reasons; they do not believe laser targeting caused the alleged injury.

Marshall, O’Hagan and Tyrer turned from injuries to the hazards of distracting pilots with bright laser lights: “Obviously, if such a distraction occurs at a critical time such as during landing then the result could be devastating.”

For ophthalmologists examining pilots, if there are no permanent abnormalities on an Amsler grid test, the physician should not do any detailed eye exam, as this “would only serve to compromise the pilot's vision for a longer period.” The authors noted that pilots may delay seeing an expert for “many hours or a day or so during which there may be a growing psychological element.”

In an interview with CNN, Marshall said the findings on pilot hazards are based on previous laser safety research as well as a new study done with field experiments at a military base over about three years.

In the BJO editorial, the three experts agreed that current laser safety standards and guidelines are based on valid experiments and science. The standards do not need to be revised, “…but clearly further attempts must be made to educate the public.”

The editorial concluded “The European Commission has mandated the European Standardisation bodies to produce a standard specifically for consumer laser products. This should allow enforcing authorities to remove unsafe products from the market. However, compliance by manufacturers will remain an issue, as will direct imports by the public purchasing unsafe laser products over the internet.”

From the British Journal of Ophthalmology editorial “Eye hazards of laser ‘pointers’ in perspective” by John Marshall, John O’Hagan, and John Tyrer, available in HTML text and as a PDF document. Click on the blue “Read More…” link below for an April 19 2016 press release from the BJO summarizing the paper’s findings relative to pilot hazards.
  Click to read more...

Australia: Laser incidents rose 2007-2012; fell from 2013-2015

Data from Airservices Australia shows that pilots’ reports of laser illuminations increased in the four years after a ban on sales and possession of laser pointers, but then dropped somewhat in the subsequent three years.

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.58.31 AM


Compare this with the number of illuminations in the United States over the same period:

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.59.12 AM


Australia’s data roughly tracks the U.S. data during the period 2007-2012. Here are the two charts above, superimposed, with the Australia numbers multiplied six times. The slope of the lines are similar for the first six years.

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.59.47 AM


Data from Airservices Australia, a corporation owned by the Australian Government whose services include air traffic control and aeronautical data. The information was provided in response to a LaserPointerSafety.com media inquiry. Thanks to Amanda Palmer for her assistance with the request.

Canada: 663 laser/aircraft incidents in 2015 based on newspaper analysis of CADORS data

A report published February 19 2016 in the Ottawa Citizen states that there were 663 laser incidents in Canada. This was based on the newspaper’s analysis of Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS). The paper noted that Transport Canada considers the reports preliminary and “subject to change.”

Here is the CADORS data:

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.49.29 AM


Compare this with the number of illuminations in the United States over the same period:


Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.48.58 AM


Canada’s data roughly tracks the U.S. data. Here are the two charts above, superimposed, with the CADORS numbers multiplied 11.7 times. The slope of the lines are similar for all but 2013/2014, and the endpoints are remarkably close.

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.48.11 AM


From an analysis by Andrew Duffy in the Ottawa Citizen. Note that a few days earlier, CBC News stated that there were 590 laser/aircraft incidents in 2015. There is no indication as to reasons for the discrepancy.

UK: Government safety expert says eBay needs to crack down on sale of lasers

A laser safety expert at Public Health England told the Sun that “eBay needs to crack down on the sale of [laser pens] to keep the British public safe — and prevent a major incident.”

Dr. John O’Hagan said that many of the handheld laser pens and pointers being sold on eBay “are very clearly not one milliwatt.” According to eBay guidelines, such lasers above 1 mW are not supposed to be listed. O’Hagan noted that the pens may be “misleadingly …. designed to look like less powerful lasers, and are priced at only around £5 [USD $7], so people may not even be aware of what they are buying.”

From the
Sun; scroll down to the “Lasers” section. See also a similar warning from a UK laser pointer seller.

UK: Laser pointer seller says eBay is the main source of UK illegal high-powered lasers

The managing director of two UK websites that sell laser pens issued a statement saying that eBay is the primary source of illegal, high-powered lasers in the United Kingdom. The February 17 2016 statement from Paul Loudon also notes that lasers above 1 mW are not freely available, and that existing laws already make it illegal to point a laser at an aircraft or vehicle.

Loudon estimates that eBay sales “are in the thousands” each day. According to the statement, “Currently there are over 2000 laser pens for sale on eBay UK. It appears 90% of the listings are for products that are clearly over 1mW and often with sales histories of thousands in a single listing. Multiply that and it becomes really obvious where all these overpowered lasers are coming from that idiots are abusing.”

He calls for eBay to begin “monitoring and delisting all these crazy hyped up laser listings”.

From a statement emailed to LaserPointerSafety.com on February 17 2016. The complete statement is reprinted below; click the “Read More…” link. And click here for other eBay-related stories, including one a day later where a UK public safety official called on eBay to “crack down” on laser sales.
Click to read more...

UK: Government department in talks to possibly withdraw high-powered lasers

On February 16 2016, the U.K. Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said it will meet with “stakeholders, including the Civil Aviation Authority, to determine what more can be done to protect the public from the potential dangers of certain laser products.” This comes on the heels of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) asking for lasers to be treated as “offensive weapons” after a Virgin Atlantic flight turned back due to a laser illumination.

The meeting is scheduled to occur during the week of February 22-26. A department spokesperson said on February 16 that it was too early to discuss any potential changes to laws.

From the Telegraph

South Africa: One incident roughly every two days in early 2016

According to the South African Civil Aviation Authority, there were 20 reports of laser illuminations of aircraft in the 47 days between January 1 and February 16 2016.

From htxt.africa

Canada: 590 laser/aircraft incidents in 2015; pilot group wants handheld lasers classed as weapons

Transport Canada received 590 reports of laser illuminations of aircraft in 2015, according to a February 16 2016 news story by CBC News. They reported that this is up 17% from 2014, and is three times the 2009 figure of around 120 reports.

The head of the Air Canada Pilots Association said that the figures show that education is not working, and handheld lasers should be designated as prohibited weapons.

From CBC News. Note that a few days later, the Ottawa Citizen did an analysis of Transport Canada’s database which shows different figures: 663 laser incidents in 2015, which is up 32% from the 2014 total of 502.

UK: BALPA calls for "more action" after Virgin Atlantic flight diverts back to takeoff airport

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), a professional association and registered trade union, issued a statement about the Virgin Atlantic flight that diverted back to Heathrow due to a laser illumination causing a pilot to have medical concerns.

The following is from the BALPA website, Feb. 15 2016. More news items referencing BALPA are here.



LASER INCIDENT SHOWS MORE ACTION IS NEEDED
15/02/2016

Last night’s laser attack incident clearly shows why more needs to be done to tackle the growing use of lasers against aircraft.

The crew of Virgin Atlantic flight VS25 bound for New York took the decision to return to Heathrow after reportedly being attacked with a laser shortly after take off.

Jim McAuslan, General Secretary of BALPA, said,

“This is not an isolated incident. Aircraft are attacked with lasers at an alarming rate and with lasers with ever-increasing strength.

“It is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Shining a laser at an aircraft puts that aircraft, its crew and all the passengers on board at completely unnecessary risk.

“Modern lasers have the power to blind, and certainly to act as a huge distraction and to dazzle the pilots during critical phases of flight.

“We are sure the police will do everything in their power to find the culprits of this attack and prosecute them.

“We repeat our call to the Government to classify lasers as offensive weapons which would give the police more power to arrest people for possessing them if they had no good reason to have them. This incident shows why this is becoming more-and-more urgent.

“Pilots across the world know how dangerous laser attacks are and therefore will join with me in commending the actions of the crew of VS25 who put their passengers’ safety first and took the decision to return to Heathrow.”


UK: Around 9,000 laser incidents, Jan 2009 - June 2015, according to CAA

According to the Daily Mail, “Between 2009 and June 2015 more than 8,998 laser incidents across the country were reported to the UK Civil Aviation Authority.”

For comparison, in the United States from January 1 2009 through May 31 2015, there were 21,414 laser incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration. (An additional 457 incidents were reported during June 2015.) From January 1 2004 through December 31 2015 there were 29,097 laser incidents reported to FAA.

U.K. information from the Daily Mail. U.S. information from FAA data.

US: Sen. Schumer gets new FDA leader to consider banning high-power green laser pointers

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer met on February 3 2016 with Dr. Robert Califf, nominated to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to discuss the threat of high-powered green laser pointers. At Sen. Schumer’s request, Dr. Califf agreed to consider having the FDA ban the sale of such pointers.

As of February 4, Califf’s nomination still awaited Senate approval.

Sen. Schumer, a Democrat from New York State, issued a statement saying “We’re only one month into 2016 and already there has been a green laser strike targeting aircrafts in the New York metropolitan area. We need to do something, and that is why I am pushing the FDA Commissioner nominee to act ahead of his confirmation. Green laser pointers have been a repeated danger to pilots across the country and I will continue to urge the FDA to use its authority and finally ban green, long-range, high-powered laser pointers once and for all.”

According to Newsday, there would be an exemption for professional uses. No additional details on the exemption criteria were available.

From Newsday (Note: accessing the article may require payment or answering survey questions)

Canada: 61 pilots studied after laser exposure; no problems found

A paper in the Canadian Journal of Opthalmology reported on 61 commercial airline pilots who had laser exposure during flight and who were examined by an ophthalmologist retinal specialist. Although “[a]ll pilots in the study experienced some degree of immediate ocular irritation or light sensitivity,” the specialist concluded that “No definite cases of ocular damage were attributed to laser strikes. No pilot had any functional ocular deficits.”

Examinations were done within three days of the strikes: “Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study visual acuity, colour vision, visual fields, intraocular pressure, slit-lamp examination, dilated fundus examination, colour fundus photographs, and ocular coherence tomography.”

The paper concluded, “Our study revealed that laser strikes on aircraft did not result in permanent visual functional or structural deficits. However, laser strikes cause immediate visual effects, including glare, flash blindness, and ocular irritation that can interfere with a pilot’s visual function.”

From the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology, December 2015, Volume 50, Issue 6, pages 429-432. For the full abstract of the study, click the “Read More…” link.
Click to read more...

US: Laser incidents nearly double in 2015 to 7,703

The number of FAA-reported laser incidents nearly doubled in 2015, to 7,703. This is a significant increase over the 2010-2014 period, which had hovered around 3,500-4,000 incidents per year.

2004-2015 incidents annually 450w


Here is the same data, presented to show the number of incidents per day:

2004-2015 incidents per day 450w


Below is a closeup of the 2014-2015 data. The thin light blue line represents the number of incidents on each day. Note the wide variability, from as few as no reports in a day (May 27 2014) to as many as 65 on December 11 2015.The thick blue line is a 30-day moving average, to smooth out the data.

2014-2015 FAA reported laser incidents 400w


2014-2015 incidents 450w

Both charts show identical data. On the second chart, two dates have been highlighted. Around July 1 2015, the number of incidents per day (light blue line) starts to increase. The only significant change that LaserPointerSafety.com can find around that time, is that on July 16 (purple line) there was widespread nationwide publicity about 11 flights that were illuminated on July 15 in and around New Jersey.

However, this event is not a full explanation. While the publicity may have triggered a “copycat” effect, it is apparent from both the thin and thick lines that incidents had been increasing at least two weeks prior to July 16.

Another date with widespread nationwide publicity is marked, November 12 2015 (red line). Three news helicopters and a police helicopter were illuminated in New York City the night before. Again, while there is some increase in incidents after that date, there also was a consistent increase from July through November.

Based on this analysis, “Copycat” laser use does not seem to be a significant factor in the near-doubling of 2015 laser incidents.

UK: UPDATED - Medical report on commercial pilot injured by blue laser at 1300 feet

The journal Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance in January 2016 published a paper entitled “Blue Laser Induced Retinal Injury in a Commercial Pilot at 1300 ft”. The case report is as follows:

“An airline pilot presented to our department complaining of a blind spot in the upper left area of his visual field in the right eye (right supero-nasal scotoma) following exposure to a laser beam while performing a landing maneuver of a commercial aircraft. At around 1300 ft (396 m), a blue laser beam from the ground directly entered his right eye, with immediate flash blindness and pain. Spectral domain ocular coherence tomography highlighted a localized area of photoreceptor disruption corresponding to a well demarcated area of hypofluorescence on fundus autofluorescence, representing a focal outer retinal laser injury. Fundus examination a fortnight later revealed a clinically identifiable lesion in the pilot’s right eye commensurate with a retinal-laser burn.”

The paper said the pilot’s symptoms “fully resolved 2 wk later” and that there was no “deficit in visual function.”
Click to read more...

US: Prosecutor says laser sentences are "getting lighter" since Gardenhire appeal

California federal prosecutor Karen Escobar said in January 2016 that sentences for aiming lasers at aircraft have been “getting lighter” since an April 2015 federal appeals court decision that struck down a 30-month sentence given to Adam Gardenhire.

The April 30 2015 decision by three judges of the Ninth Circuit found that prosecutors had not presented evidence of “reckless endangerment” of aircraft. The judges sent the case back to the U.S. district court in Los Angeles for a new sentencing hearing under a new judge. Under the original sentencing guidelines, Gardenhire had been recommended for 27 to 33 months in prison taking into account the reckless endangerment charge, or 4 to 10 months in prison without the charge.

From Ars Technica

Sweden: Study of 47 laser eye injury cases from 2013 to 2015

In 2013 the The Strål Säkerhets Myndigheten (Swedish Radiation Safety Authority) released a study investigating eye injuries from laser pointers. In December 2015, SSM updated that study with an additional 47 cases that had occurred worldwide in the 2013-2015 time frame.

The main body of the 2015 study includes an analysis of the laser power versus the observed injuries.

The authors note “If the availability of the handheld lasers continues to increase, along with higher optical power and lower cost, we expect that the number of severe eye injuries will continue to grow. Also, the distance from which the lasers can be used to disrupt various societal functions, such as air traffic (pilots) and policing will also increase. Almost all the reported cases involve young children and teenagers. There is also a huge overrepresentation by males. Often the lasers are sold as toys and purchased by a relative as a gift to a child. Earlier reports originated almost exclusively from developed countries. This situation has now changed and more and more reports originate from developing countries. The problem is worldwide and hence there is a need to educate and inform the societies of this danger.”

The 47 new cases are listed in an appendix. Here is a random sample listing two of the cases:

Pic 2017-01-05 at 6.22.11 PM

Author: Jörgen Thaung, Cesar Lopes and Stefan Löfgren
Publisher: Strål Säkerhets Myndigheten (SSM - Swedish Radiation Safety Authority)
Language: English
Publication date: December 2015
No of pages: 45
Price per publication: 100 SEK (incl. VAT)
Download: 2015:54 Retinal injuries from handheld lasers: An updated report [2200 kb]

A summary by LaserPointerSafety.com of the study’s objectives, major findings, and conclusion is here. The earlier 2013 study is summarized here and the full SSM document is available here.

US: UPDATED - FDA reminds consumers of laser pointer hazards

On December 22 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a “Safety Communication” press release warning parents, consumers and health care workers about the risks of handheld laser pointers.

This is an update to a similar warning issued December 16 2010. It contains more specific guidance about how to tell whether a handheld pointer may be over the U.S. limit of 5 mW for a laser sold as a “pointer” or for pointing purposes.

Also, the 2015 version includes details about how to report potential laser injuries to FDA’s MedWatch medical device reporting system, and what information to include in the MedWatch report.

The full text of the FDA Safety Communication is below; click the “Read More…” link.

From U.S. FDA: December 22 2015 safety communication, and December 16 2010 safety notification

UPDATED February 19 2015 — The FDA also produced a video, entitled “Laser Pointer Safety”. The 3 1/2 minute presentation shows some of the hazards of laser pointers. It also gives recommendations on how to select and safely use laser pointers. From the FDA’s YouTube channel.Click to read more...

China: Military is equipped with blinding laser weapons

China’s military newspaper PLA Daily said the country was updating a number of “home-made blinding laser weapons” that are “primarily used to blind its targets with laser in short distance, or interfere and damage the laser and night vision equipment, etc.”. The December 9 2015 report included photos of a number of Chinese weapons, including these two:

China laser weapon BBQ-905 400w
BBQ-905 Laser Dazzler Weapon

China laser weapon PY132A
PY132A Blinding Laser Weapon


China’s use of the weapons appears to violate the 1998 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, which China has agreed to follow. A Washington Free Beacon article quoted an expert on Chinese weapons as saying “There is a strong possibility these new dazzlers are being marketed for foreign sale.”

From China Military Online via the Washington Free Beacon. Additional photos showing the weapons and how they would be used are at Huanqui.com.

US: Study of U.S. incidents, 2010-2014 gives insights into laser-aircraft safety

A study by aviation website AirSafe.com analyzed 17,663 laser/aircraft incidents reported to the FAA from 2010 through 2014. The study is noteworthy for “cleaning up” the FAA statistics to fix data entry errors, in order to get a more accurate picture of the problem. The cleaned-up data is available for further analysis by other researchers (see links below).

An AirSafe summary noted that from 2010 through 2014, there were only eight days with no laser encounters reported in the U.S. The graph below shows the distribution of incidents, with most days having between 7-12 laser strikes:

AirSafe distribution of laser incidents

Analysis by day of the week, and by month of the year, showed Friday and Saturday evenings as having a greater likelihood of illuminations. July through November saw higher-than-normal numbers of incidents.

The AirSafe study also looked at six selected metropolitan areas. It compared the number of flights to the number of incidents. Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Francisco had higher-than-normal numbers of incidents; Chicago and New York were about average, and Atlanta was below average.

From AirSafe.com: summary page, and detailed analysis as a webpage, PDF and RPubs versions. Links are given to the raw FAA data, the processed version used by AirSafe, and statistical R code. Thanks to Dr. Todd Curtis who did the study and brought this to our attention.

US: UPDATED - "Star Shower" home laser projector raises aviation concerns

A low-cost home laser projector, heavily advertised and widely available in stores, is raising concerns about pilot safety — especially because many have been purchased for outdoor Christmas decorating.

Between November 18 and December 6 2015, there have been at least three incidents, involving six aircraft, where pilots were illuminated with light from “Star Shower” laser projectors. In all cases, the illumination appeared to be inadvertent. The devices were being used for holiday decorating, and stray beams went into airspace. (E.g., a person was not knowingly aiming the Star Shower at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft.)

The Star Shower emits “thousands” of laser beams from two sources, one green and one red. A homeowner can simply aim the Star Shower at her house or foliage, and instantly cover it with green, or green plus red, laser dots.

Star Shower laser projector head
The projector head. It screws into a stake that is placed in the ground for outdoor use.

Star Shower laser projector on a home
A home densely covered with laser “stars” from multiple Star Shower projectors. Both photos from the
Star Shower website.


According to a comprehensive story in Inquisitr, Star Shower is so popular that it is sold out in many locations. TravelPulse calls it a “laser cannon.”

The Federal Aviation Administration on December 8 2015 tweeted “Decorating for the holidays? A stray laser could blind a pilot.” They then provided a link to general information about laser/aviation safety. An FAA spokesperson told CBS Philly, ““I don’t think anybody who buys these devices even think they have enough power to hit an aircraft in the sky…. If the box is aimed a little high, some of the lasers will not hit the roof of the house, they’ll keep going into space.”

While there is no warning on the outer packaging, the Star Shower instruction sheet says: “NOTICE: Lasers should not be projected at or within the flight path of an aircraft within 10 nautical miles [11.5 miles] of an airport. If your intended surface is within 10 nautical miles of an airport, lower the angle of the Star Shower so that no lasers point into the sky.”

In a December 9 2015 statement to NBC Los Angeles, the manufacturer added: “Star Shower Laser Lights operate by taking a single laser beam and diffracting it into thousands of individual laser beams. Each beam emitted by Star Shower is much lower in power than a typical laser pointer. Each individual laser beam is 10 times less than the maximum permissible exposure (MPE) allowed by the FAA normal flight zone (NFZ) criteria.”

In an urban or suburban environment, it is likely that most homes are within 10 NM of some type of airport. It may not be a major metropolitan airport; it could be a small general aviation facility. In a December 3 2015 incident, a Boeing 737 at 13,000 feet and 22 miles east of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, reported seeing lights from what was believed to be a “laser holiday light display.”

From the FAA, Inquisitr, NBC Los Angeles

Analysis and commentary by LaserPointerSafety.com


ADVICE FOR OUTDOOR USE

After purchasing and testing a Star Shower, here is our summary advice for consumers. Details then follow.


The Star Shower is essentially eye-safe, and does not cause direct interference (glare) with pilots’ vision after about 411 feet. However, a single beamlet can be a distraction to pilots at least 3/4 of a mile away, and possibly further away due to the large number of laser dots aimed into the sky causing a flashing effect.

For this reason, a Star Shower needs to be aimed so that beams don’t go into airspace. You do not want an officer knocking on your door because a pilot saw and reported your home laser projector. While it is unlikely you would be arrested for an unknowing aircraft illumination, federal penalties for laser pointer misuse range up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

Putting the projector closer to a house will keep more of the beams on the structure. Similarly, don’t aim it up into a tree unless the tree is very dense, such as an evergreen.

It should also be noted that there are reports such as this and this of Star Showers being stolen from yards. If you put your projector on a roof or up in a tree, aiming downwards, this both helps aviation (no beams going up into the air) and makes it harder to steal the projector. Finally, if you are in a heavy air traffic area, you might want to consider restricting it to indoor use only.

IS A STAR SHOWER LEGAL?

Under U.S. federal law, the Star Shower is legal to own and operate. As a Class IIIa (3R) laser, there are no federal restrictions on its use. The federal law prohibiting laser pointer misuse may not apply, for two reasons. 1) It prohibits knowingly aiming at an aircraft or its flight path, and 2) the law applies to “laser pointers…designed to be used by the operator as a pointer or highlighter….” This definition would not seem to apply to a device that is not a pointer, and is not used “…to indicate, mark, or identify a specific position, place, item, or object.”

A few states or localities may have restrictions on lasers that would affect Star Shower. Since it is not a laser pointer, and is not used for pointing, restrictions that cover laser pointers may not apply (depending on the exact definition). Some selected state and local laws are here.

Common sense says that a person should not stare into the beams, and that they should not be aimed to harass others. Similarly, the beams should not be aimed down a road or up into the sky, where they could interfere with drivers or pilots.

PURCHASING AND PACKAGING

In early December 2015, we purchased a Star Shower for $40 from a CVS drugstore. The box lists a sales website at BulbHead.com, and the distributor as Telebrands. It also says “Made in China.”

Both the box and the device have the proper FDA-mandated laser safety labeling. The device is FDA Class IIIa, meaning less than 5 milliwatts output. There are two apertures, one for 532 nm green laser beams and one for 650 nm red beams. A diffraction grating in front of each laser breaks the single beam into dozens or “thousands” of less-powerful beamlets. In a foggy or smoky environment, it is possible to see the beamlets in the air, but they are too weak to be seen in clear air.

Although the Star Shower has been popular for the Christmas 2015 season, the packaging does not emphasize this. Instead it says the Star Shower is “great for” indoor, landscaping, holiday, winter and summer uses. The advantages are: “No ladders, no hanging, no dead bulbs, no mess — just plug it in.”

TESTING

We took it to laser expert Greg Makhov of Lighting Systems Design Inc. for testing. Keep in mind that he tested just this one sample unit; we assume it is representative of the other Star Showers that have been sold.

Makhov used two different types of power meters, both which could measure in the microwatt and milliwatt region. He found that the maximum power of a single beam was 0.4 milliwatts. The chart below shows details.

Star Shower laser test results 450w


ESSENTIALLY NO EYE INJURY HAZARD

The brightest single beam, at 0.4 mW, is below the 1.0 mW Class II limit. Class II laser pointers are generally considered to be safe for accidental exposure. Eye injury from a Star Shower would be almost impossible unless a person at close range deliberately overcame his aversion to bright light and stared for many seconds into one of the beamlets, keeping it at the same spot in his visual field.

While the chart shows the Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance to be as far as 19 feet, keep in mind this is a “nominal” hazard. This does NOT mean that beams will cause injury at this distance. There is a kind of safety factor built in to the NOHD. A quick approximation is that at about 1/3 the NOHD (about 6 feet in this case), there is a 50-50 chance of a laser kept steady on the eye causing the smallest medically detectable lesion on the retina, under laboratory conditions.

GLARE UP TO 411 FEET, DISTRACTION TO 3/4 MILE

The chart also shows the visual interference hazard distances. For example, a pilot could experience veiling glare (she can’t see past the light) up to 411 feet away from the Star Shower projector. The light does not interfere with vision, but is a mental distraction, up to 4,105 feet away — a little over three quarters of a mile.

The above eye and visual interference calculations are for a single beamlet, for two reasons. First, at aviation distances, only one beamlet would enter the eye at a time. They are not so close together that two separate beamlets of the same color would be within one pupil diameter. The second reason is that even a person is so close to the Star Shower that two separate beamlets enter his pupil, each one will be focused onto a different area of the retina. This means that the beams don’t overlap — they are heating different areas. This is why we are primarily concerned — both for eye safety and for aviation interference — with the hazard of a single beamlet.

Now, when a helicopter flies through the dozens or “thousands” of laser beams, this can be more distracting than a single beam. It is no wonder that a pilot might report the laser display, and have it re-aimed or shut down.

Although an FAA spokesperson said a Star Shower was reported by a pilot who was at 15,000 feet, at this distance any single beamlet would be far below the FAA’s distraction limit. This means any beamlet would be no brighter than surrounding city or airport lights. It could be that the large number of beamlets caused flashes as the aircraft flew through them, and that this flashing was itself a distraction. Either way, no competent pilot at 15,000 feet should have any visual interference from a Star Shower. The only problem could be mental distraction, if the pilot paid more attention to the light than to flying the aircraft.

DISASSEMBLY AND HACKING (UPDATED DECEMBER 2016)

In early December 2016, Julius R. wrote to us wondering about the safety implications of opening the Star Shower and removing the star-creating holographic diffraction grating.

Our Star Shower, purchased in December 2015, has four security screws hidden behind rubber caps. The screws are at the bottom of a 2-1/4” deep shaft that is 5/16” in diameter. The screw head shape is a triangle with a raised dot in the center:

StarShower screw head copy

It would require a long screwdriver with a matching tip to reach and undo the screw. A brief search of Google Images to try to find such a screwdriver did not turn up any instances.

Certainly someone might be able to find such a tip, or to grind a shaft to fit. And breaking the Star Shower’s plastic housing could also give access to the inside. So if someone really wanted to get at the interior lasers, it would be possible.

We estimate that each of the lasers on the inside would be in the 10 to 50 milliwatt range. This power can cause an eye injury, although the injury would be relatively minor (assuming an unintentional exposure; deliberate staring into any laser beam should never be done). It is at the low end of Class 3B lasers.

There are similar lasers, and much more powerful ones, readily available online. They would be cost the same or even less, and would be much easier to use. So a laser hobbyist or hacker is unlikely to use a Star Shower as a source for red and green single-beam lasers.

In short, disassembly and misuse of the interior lasers is not a significant safety concern.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Anyone with further questions can contact us; click the link below in the footer at the bottom of the page.

UK: Professor develops laser-absorbing strip for police face shields; "several thousand" used in Northern Ireland

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has acquired “several thousand” tinted strips for use on riot control helmet face shields, according to a November 25 2015 article in Police Oracle. If an officer is faced with a protester equipped with a laser pen, the officer can lower his or her head so they are looking through the “absorbing filter strip”, to reduce the glare and potential eye damage from the laser light.

The strip was developed by John Tyrer of Loughborough University, professor of optical instrumentation. He was commissioned by the Home Office and the PSNI who were concerned about increasing numbers of demonstrators aiming laser pens at police.

The light distracts officers and breaks their positions, according to Tyrer. The orange-tinted film is low-cost and simple to apply.

Tyrer laser absorbing filter strip - clear
Tyrer demonstrates how light from a laser pen goes through the clear part of the face visor, causing glare and potential eye injury to an officer.

Tyrer laser absorbing filter strip - absorbing
But if the officer tilts his or her head down so the laser goes through the strip, laser light is absorbed and does not present a hazard.


Testing by Public Health England, and real-life usage in Northern Ireland, showed the anti-laser strip to be “very effective”.

Tyrer has also suggested that the same film applied to glasses can protect pilots during takeoffs and landings from any laser activity that might be occurring.

From the Loughborough News Blog and Police Oracle

US: Sen. Schumer asks FDA to regulate sale of green lasers to public

On November 24 2015, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to “establish new regulations that would prevent individuals from obtaining green lasers for non-professional use.” This would include Class IIIa, IIIb and IV lasers, meaning any green laser with an output 1 milliwatt or more.

The following is a press release issued by the Senator, followed by (after the “Read More:” link) a copy of the Senator’s letter to the FDA Commissioner:

Standing in the terminal at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the sale of high-powered, long-range green laser pointers to the public. Schumer’s push comes on the heels of multiple incidents in which green lasers were pointed at aircraft and temporarily blinded and disoriented pilots mid-flight. This includes the recent incident two weeks ago when the pilot of a FedEx plane flying over Jamestown reported a green beam of light coming from a laser on the ground lighting up the aircraft. Schumer said that while it is lucky no one was harmed in the Jamestown incident or any other green laser attack, the federal government should act before a horrific event occurs, not after.

“Simply put: these green, long-range, high-powered laser pointers are a danger to our pilots and the hundreds of passengers whose lives depend on their eyesight and training. While we are very lucky the recent incident in Jamestown did not yield devastating results, we cannot sit idly by and wait for a horrific incident to occur before we act,” said Schumer. “That is why I am calling on the FDA to use its authority to regulate these dangerous devices. They're quickly becoming the weapon of choice for wrong-doers who want to harass our pilots and put passengers’ lives in jeopardy, and they should be banned before people are seriously hurt.”

Schumer said there has been a recent onslaught of green laser pointer attacks on aircraft that threaten the safety of pilots, passengers, and civilians on the ground. According to a USA Today report, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recorded more than 5,300 laser strikes from January of this year through October 16, up from the more than 2,800 laser strikes reported in 2010. Schumer said numbers like these suggest a widespread misuse of the product and mean it should only be available to qualified professionals. According to the same USA Today report, between the night of November 11 and the morning of November 12, federal authorities reported 20 laser strikes on aircraft across the country, including the case in Jamestown. Schumer said the fact that the plane was flying more than 23,000 feet in the air shows how powerful these lasers are, and how dangerous they can be when they get into the wrong hands. As a result, Schumer is urging the FDA to ban the sale of high-powered, long-range green laser pointers to the public.

Laser pointers at one time were primarily used for presentation purposes in boardrooms and classrooms, they are now wildly available at trinket shops, flea markets, retailers and on the Internet, and are much more powerful. According to the FDA, laser pointers can be momentarily hazardous when staring directly at the beam. For pilots, these green lasers can cause flash blindness, a temporary or permanent loss of vision when the light-sensitive parts of the eye are exposed to an intensity of light they are not physically meant to handle. In addition, research suggests green lasers are more dangerous to the eye than red lasers because the light spectrum is more easily absorbed by the retina and more susceptible to damage. In fact, green lasers are considered to be more than double the strength of other colored lasers and can travel for miles, according to many media reports and health and aviation experts. Schumer there are certain types of lasers for which manufacturers must obtain FDA permission before they can be sold in the U.S., and green lasers should be included in that category so they are only sold to professionals, rather than would-be pranksters.

Because the FDA has the authority to regulate these lasers and their manufacturers, Schumer is strongly urging the federal agency to make high-powered, green laser pointers unavailable for public sale; they should be restricted to those with a ‎specific professional purpose. Schumer said that while perpetrators convicted of pointing a laser at a plane can be sentenced to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, they are often hard to track down following an incident. Because the products are merely required to have a warning label, Schumer said more must be done to limit public availability in order to protect public health and safety.

Schumer was joined by Adam Perry, Aviation Committee Chairman at the NFTA, Kimberly A. Minkel, NFTA Executive Director, and George Gast, NFTA Police Chief.

“I applaud Senator Schumer for his efforts to ensure the safety of our aviation industry,” said Kimberley A. Minkel, Executive Director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. “I hope the FDA responds to the senator’s request in a manner that will make it much more difficult for laser pointers to be available. Lasing is a serious crime that poses an imminent threat to aviation safety and could result in a pilot losing control of their aircraft, thus potentially causing mass casualties.”

Previously, the FDA has noted concern about the increased availability of some laser products. According to a March 2013 study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), green lasers generate green light from infrared light, from which the eye cannot protect itself. In that NIST report, the agency noted that ideally, the device should be designed and manufactured to confine the infrared light within the laser housing. However, according to the NIST results, more than 75 percent of the devices tested emitted infrared light in excess of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) limit.

Schumer said in New York incidents of green lasers pointed at aircraft have been numerous and significant. In addition to the most recent one in Jamestown, there were 39 laser incidents between January 1, 2015 and May 15, 2015 in New York City alone. In 2014, there were 17 green laser incidents out of a total 19 laser incidents at JFK airport; 37 green laser incidents out of a total 41 laser incidents at LaGuardia Airport; 20 green laser incidents out of a total 28 at Newark.

There are four major hazard classes (I to IV) of lasers, including three subclasses (IIa, IIIa, IIIb). The higher the class, the more powerful the laser. Consumer laser products include classes I, II and IIIa and lasers for professional use may be in classes IIIb and IV. Laser pointers are included in Class IIIa. The FDA requires warning labels on most laser products, including the power output and the hazard class of the product. Some lasers are strictly for use by medical, industrial or entertainment professionals and can only be used by a person with a license and training.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the FDA appears below:
[click on the “Read More…” link]
Click to read more...

UK: 400+ laser incidents in the first half of 2015

According to U.K. Civil Aviation Authority statistics, there have been about 4-5 laser incidents reported each day on average, during the period from January 2011 to late November 2015.

From January 1 to June 30 2015, there were more than 400 laser incidents reported to CAA. Heathrow had the most incidents by count, with 48 in the first half of the year. (This is actually fewer incidents per month than last year, when there were 168 total Heathrow laser reports for all of 2014.)

By proportion of laser incidents to air traffic volume, there was a higher frequency of attacks at regional airports such as Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) on November 2015 released the results of a survey of its pilot members, showing that 50% had reported a laser/aircraft incident during the period from November 2014 to November 2015.

From the Guardian and the Express. The CAA and BALPA statistics were released along with news of a British Airways pilot who reportedly suffered severe retinal injury from a spring 2015 exposure to a “military-strength” laser.

US: Slightly more than average number of laser incidents grabs media attention

Two laser incidents involving three New York area news helicopters plus a NYPD helicopter, helped fuel publicity about 20 laser incidents reported throughout the U.S. on the evening of November 11 and early morning November 12, 2015.

Except for the involvement of multiple helicopters in New York City, the twenty November 11 overnight events were actually close to the current 2015 average of the 18.3 reported incidents per night.

It is normal for day-to-day incident numbers to fluctuate. For example, a day later on November 12, there were six incidents according to Slate.

Another example of the variability of daily incidents is shown by the day-to-day numbers for 2014. During the year there was an overall average of 10.7 incidents per day. The graph shows that daily numbers (light line) varied from 0 reported laser incidents to 24. (The dark line shows a 30-day moving average, to help smooth out the data. Day-to-day figures for 2015 are not yet available.)

Laser illuminations reported to FAA 2014 every day 450w

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration made a Facebook post describing the November 11 incidents:

More than 20 aircraft were struck by lasers from the ground last night while flying over cities across the United States. Three laser strikes were reported in the New York City/Newark, N.J early in the evening, followed by three incidents in Texas, where jets were struck while preparing to land at Dallas Love Field. By late evening, pilots reported laser incidents in:

New York/Newark; Dallas; Jamestown, NY; Oakland, CA; Covington, KY; Danville, KY; Palm Springs, CA; Salt Lake City; Los Angeles; Albuquerque; Detroit; Ontario, CA; St. Petersburg, FL; Springfield, IL; San Juan, PR; Sacramento

None of the pilots reported injuries. Nevertheless, shining a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime that the U.S. vigorously pursues. Lasers distract pilots from their safety duties and can lead to temporary blindness during critical phases of flight, such as takeoff and landing. In some cases in the past, pilots have reported eye injuries that required medical treatment.

As of Oct. 16, the total number of laser strikes around the U.S. this year was 5,352.


Media stories that referenced the incidents included the following headlines and leads:



With new flurry overnight, laser strikes on aircraft hit record pace, USA Today
“Laser strikes on planes are growing even as the federal government enacts tougher penalties for people caught shining the devices. Overnight Thursday federal authorities fielded reports of more than 20 laser strikes on aircraft, adding to an already record-breaking number of strikes this year.”


Overnight outbreak of lasers pointed at aircraft, CBS Evening News
“The FAA says 20 aircraft were targeted by people with bright laser pointers Wednesday night in cities across the nation. Kris Van Cleave reports on the surge in these types of incidents.”


FAA: Lasers beams hit more than 20 aircraft overnight, Washington Post
“Federal authorities have launched an investigation after numerous aircraft were hit by laser beams Wednesday night. More than 20 aircraft were struck while in flight over at least 16 U.S. cities, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration. Authorities said three strikes were reported to the FAA in the New York City area, followed by three in Texas that hit jets that were preparing to land.”


Lasers hit 20 aircraft flying in U.S. overnight - FAA, Reuters
“Dangerous beams from handheld lasers struck 20 aircraft flying over the United States and its territories overnight, among the nearly 5,400 laser hits in the nation so far this year, the Federal Aviation Administration said on Thursday. No injuries were reported in the incidents, which took place from New York City to Sacramento, and resulted in at least one arrest. Authorities said the incidents did not appear to be linked to each other.”


6 aircraft hit by lasers in New York, Dallas on Wednesday, Fox News
“Three news helicopters in New York and three planes near Dallas were hit by laser beams on Wednesday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Pilots for choppers flying for CBS New York, WNBC and WABC each described seeing a laser in their cockpit while flying over a scene in Park Slope, Brooklyn, CBS reported.”


High Number Of Laser Strikes In One Night Has Pilots Uneasy, CBS Sacramento
“The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into a series of laser strikes on aircraft across the country, including a possible strike at Sacramento International Airport. The exact details of that reported laser strike have not been made available yet, but for pilots these little beams of light are a huge concern. It was a busy night for law enforcement and air traffic control across the nation, with more than 20 pilots reporting laser pointers aimed at their cockpits.”

US: Doctors warn laser eye injuries may be misdiagnosed as genetic disorders

A paper to be published online in the fall 2015 issue of Ophthalmic Genetics says that laser-caused eye injuries may be misdiagnosed as genetic eye disorders, if doctors are not familiar with laser injury patterns or if the patients are not asked about possible laser usage.

Such misdiagnosis has medical and financial consequences from the additional diagnostic workups and DNA sequencing used to detect hereditary genetic disorders such as rod monochromatism, Stargardt disease and occult macular dystrophy.

In addition, the paper describes five cases of where children using laser pointers experienced blurry vision and had eye injuries. “In some cases, the vision was as poor as 20/80, which is bad enough to fail a driving test,” said researcher Dr. Stephen Tsang, who is affiliated with Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Dr. Tsang and his colleagues noted damage patterns similar to tree branches on the children’s retinas:

Laser-induced eye damage


They suggest that eye-care professionals should ask patients with such patterns if they have been using lasers. Because children may be hesitant to talk in front of their parents, the researchers also suggest talking to a child alone.

A Columbia University press release noted “Since the publication about the five patients, the researchers have seen several more children with laser-induced eye injuries, suggesting that these cases are not isolated phenomena.”

From Columbia University Medical Center Newsroom, Nov. 5 2015. The Ophthalmic Genetics article “Laser induced photic injury phenocopies macular dystrophy” is not yet online as of this date, but can be found at the journal’s website.


US: From 6,500 to 7,100 laser incidents estimated for 2015

The latest statistics (as of November 5 2015) show that there were 5,148 reports of laser illuminations of aircraft in the U.S. from January 1 through October 9 2015, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. This is a substantial increase over laser/aircraft incidents during the same time period in previous years:

2015 thru Oct 9 450w


Based on trends in the years 2010 through 2014, this means that at the end of 2015 there could be between roughly 6,500 and 7,100 reported incidents. (The range is because in some years, the yearly total was between 1.28 and 1.37 times the Jan. 1 - Oct. 9 total.) We estimate that 2015 is likely to have roughly 6,850 incidents. This would be 176% of the 2014 total of 3,894 incidents.

2015 estimated total 450w


Stated on a daily basis, the number of reported incidents is expected to rise from 10.7 per day in 2014 to between 18.0 and 19.3 per day in 2015.

2015 est incidents per day


2015 information provided by FAA on November 5 2015. Statistical analysis done by LaserPointerSafety.com based on prior year FAA records.

US: College football team given 120 lasers to "make a point"

In a motivational tactic, 120 University of Houston football players were each given a laser pointer during a team meeting during the last week of October 2015. The lights went out, and Carl Lewis Auditorium was filled with 120 red lights, each pointed in a different direction. The coach, Tom Herman, then told the players to focus on a sign at the front of the room.

Herman was later quoted as saying “When you can see all these lasers everywhere, it just kind of represents everything that goes on in the lives of 18- to 22-year olds. We needed everybody to shut all that out and bring all that into one common focus.”

The tactic may have helped; the Houston Cougars went on to beat the Vanderbilt Commodores 34-0 on October 31 2015.

From the Houston Chronicle and Examiner.com

General: How many laser pointers to kill a human?

The gadget website Gizmodo on October 15 2015 ran a story entitled “How Many Laser Pointers Would It Take to Kill a Human?”

Author Adam Clark Estes begins with a primer on laser light, and determines that the beams from many lasers would have to be focused on a single spot. Estes quoted Dr. Rebecca Thompson of the American Physical Society:

“…if you wanted to create a death ray with laser pointers, you could buy 200,000 laser pointers [cat-toy type with 5 milliwatt output each], mount them on a piece of a sphere with radius 5.5’, aim them all through a lens and ask your victim to sit very, very still.”

The article concludes “Do not try this at home.”

From
Gizmodo. Thanks to Roberta McHatton for bringing this to our attention.

US: Aviation reporter says FAA anti-laser efforts aren't working; wants more social media

Aviation reporter Christine Negroni called the FAA’s effort to publicize prosecutions of laser offenders “unsuccessful.” Speaking on an August 29 2015 podcast, Negroni said “they haven’t even learned from their lack of success and it’s very, very frustrating to me.”

Negroni began the segment by noting that laser incidents are “truly a menace and it’s not to be taken lightly.” She said offenders “don’t watch the news, they don’t read the paper” and thus “they need to be reached out on their level. And that level is like a Facebook level or a Twitter level, where people are actually going to learn.”

She concluded that “it’s just time for the establishment to get on board, before something really terrible happens.”

Negroni has written aviation articles for publications such as the New York Times and Smithsonian Air & Space, is an on-air expert for ABC, CNN and NBC, and has a book on mysterious aviation accidents coming out in 2016. She previously wrote an article for RGN critical of FAA laser publicity efforts entitled “No let-up in laser attacks on airplanes” published December 13 2013, and a blogpost on the same topic on August 28 2014.

From the Runway Girl Network podcast episode 27, “Crash Investigations and Laser Incriminations”, uploaded August 29 2015. A transcript of the laser-relevant parts of the podcast is below.

Click to read more...

US: Lasers create light fence to protect birds in Hawaii

A power utility in Hawaii has finished a year-long test that used 30 lasers to help prevent birds from flying into power lines. The laser beams run parallel to the power lines and create a visible “light fence," which local birds then avoid. Initial results publicized in an August 17 2015 press release indicate the effort is successful. An expansion of the lasers and additional tests are planned.

According to the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative, “The lasers are similar to common laser pointers and use a narrowly focused green beam of light. Because the beams are parallel to the ground and because the installation is not in designated air space, the lasers do not pose a hazard to aircraft or passersby.”

Kauai laser fence bird
Lasers create a “light fence” to illuminate transmission poles and power lines in ‘Ele‘ele, Kaua‘i in August 2014. Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative is again experimenting with lasers and other devices to reduce collisions between endangered seabirds and utility equipment during the season when the seabird colonies are most active. Photo credit: Shelley Paik, Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative


From a press release by the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative (reprinted below).

Click to read more...

US: Sullenberger says drones, laser pointers are dangerous; need certain prosecution

Retired airline captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III discussed the dangers of drones and laser pointers on CBS’s program Face the Nation on August 2 2015. After first discussing missing Malaysian Air Flight 370, host John Dickerson asked Sullenberger about drones:

DICKERSON: So, the final question, Sully, I want to ask you about these reports about near misses from drones and commercial airlines. How dangerous is that?

SULLENBERGER: Well, because they are easy to get and they're relatively inexpensive, these devices are becoming ubiquitous. And that is true not just of drones, but of laser pointer attacks. And so it allows people to do stupid, reckless, dangerous things with abandon. I am heartened that the aviation and the legal authorities have raised the penalties for doing these things. Unfortunately, the essential element that is still missing is the certainty of prosecution, because it has been difficult to catch them in the act. This must stop.

DICKERSON: Very quickly, though, what could possibly happen, though, with one of these drones? I mean, how bad could it get?

SULLENBERGER: Well, we have seen what a six-pound or an eight-pound bird can do to bring down an airplane. Imagine what a device containing hard parts like batteries and motors can do that might weigh 25 or possibly up to 55 pounds to bring down an airplane -- it is not a matter of if it will happen. It is a matter of when it will happen.


Sullenberger successfully ditched U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in New York’s Hudson River in January 2009, after multiple bird strikes caused both engines to fail just after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport. Since 2011 he has been a CBS news aviation and safety expert commentator.

From the Face the Nation transcript and the Wikipedia page for Sullenberger

US: New pilot protective "anti-laser" glasses announced

A professor of medicine with 161 patents in medicine, pharmacology and aerospace is leading a team that has introduced glasses to help protect pilots from laser beams. Dr. Nicholas Perricone, author of best-sellers including The Perricone Prescription and Forever Young, and founder of PerriQuest Defense Research Enterprises, said that the laser protective eyewear has been in development for about three years.

The glasses block three laser wavelengths, in the red, green and blue regions. According to Dr. Perricone, “The real challenge was how do you block out red, blue, and green without changing the color discrimination. It’s critical a pilot sees color. He has to look at his instruments, he has to look at runway lights and a lot of other signals.”

A July 30 2015 news story said the glasses “have been manufactured and are ready for purchase, costing $400 a pair.”

Dr. Perricone was quoted as saying that if pilots are required to wear glasses like these, “then this problem will go away. No one is going to throw rocks at a window that won’t break.”

From WTNH.com

Canada: Saskatoon officials warn about laser pointer hazards

In 2014, there were 14 cases where laser pointers were aimed at aircraft flying over Saskatoon, and 3 cases in Regina. On July 30 2015, police and air ambulance officials made a plea to the press, reminding people not to aim lasers at aircraft. They recounted one incident where an air ambulance had to break off searching for a possible person in a river. They said from January 1 to May 31 2015, there were seven laser incidents in Saskatchewan.

One pilot said that lasers have been pointed at him “at least 10 times in the past 3 years.”

A CJME news story notes that “pointing a laser at planes could land those responsible in hot water under the Canadian Aviation Regulation Act. Potential penalties range from fines of $3,000 to multi-year probation sentences and incarceration. Charges could also include mischief, assault with a weapon and assault of a police officer.”

From CJME.com and 620CKRM.com

US: Coast Guard says NJ laws have not reduced laser strikes

The U.S. Coast Guard held a media event July 28 2015 at Coast Guard Station Ocean City (MD) about the dangers of aiming lasers at aircraft. For the Coast Guard, the main threat is that exposure to laser light can cause a search-and-rescue mission to be delayed — crew must complete a checklist of items if exposed — or even aborted.

Delaware Online reported from the event that “[l]asers have been a point of contention in Ocean City [MD] for years, with the council deciding to ban the sale of them last summer, and make it illegal to possess a laser pointer in public. Similar laws have gone into effect in New Jersey, but the Coast Guard hasn’t seen a decrease in laser strikes, [Lt. Shawn] Glavan said.”

According to The Dispatch, “Coast Guard Station Atlantic City, where [Glavan’s] MH-65 Dolphin [helicopter] is based, handles around two or three incidents a week involving individuals shining lasers on the aircraft. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City’s response area covers a large swath of the mid-Atlantic including Ocean City and as far south as Chincoteague.”

From DelawareOnline, CBS Baltimore and The Dispatch

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: FAA-reported laser incidents up significantly in 1st half of 2015

There were 2,750 reports of laser illuminations of aircraft in the U.S., from January 1 through July 3 2015, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. This is a substantial increase over laser/aircraft incidents during the same time period in previous years:

Laser incidents Jan 1 - July 3 2010-2015 450w


Based on past years’ trends, this means that at the end of 2015, there could be between about 5,600 and 7,400 incidents. (The range is because in some years, the second half of the year had 2.04 to 2.71 times the number of incidents in the first half.) We estimate 2015 is most likely to have about 6,300 incidents. This would be a 62% increase over the 2014 total of 3,894 incidents.

Laser incidents 2010-estimated 2015 450w


Stated on a daily basis, the number of incidents is expected to rise from 10.7 per day in 2014 to somewhere between about 15 and 20 incidents per day in 2015:

Laser incidents per day 2010-est2015 450w


2015 information provided by FAA on July 10 2015. Statistical analysis done by LaserPointerSafety.com based on prior year FAA records.

Canada: Government launches safety campaign to warn against pointing lasers at aircraft

From a press release issued June 24 2015 by Transport Canada, in Vancouver:

Helping Canadians better understand the dangers lasers pose to aircraft


The Honourable Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors), on behalf of the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, today launched the Government of Canada’s safety awareness campaign for lasers. The national campaign will help Canadians better understand why pointing a laser at aircraft is not a bright idea.

The first phase of the campaign, unveiled today in collaboration with the Vancouver International Airport, the RCMP, and NAV CANADA, provides the public with an easy to follow infographic, which clarifies the dangers and consequences of pointing lasers into airspace and how incidents can be reported. This summer, the second phase of the campaign will include digital advertising, awareness videos and a direct mail campaign near three major airports.

Transport Canada has also launched tc.gc.ca/NotABrightIdea, which provides Canadians with the information they need to better understand the dangers of pointing a laser at an aircraft.

Transport Canada is working closely with police, other government departments, and the aviation industry to protect pilots, passengers, and people on the ground. If you see a laser pointed at an aircraft, report it to your local police.

Quick Facts

  • The number of lasers pointed at aircraft is rising in Canada. In 2014, there were 502 reported incidents – a 43% increase since 2012.
  • Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a federal offence. If convicted under the Aeronautics Act, an offender could face up to $100,000 in fines, 5 years in prison, or both.
  • Canadians can join the conversation and learn more by using the #NotABrightIdea hashtag on Twitter.

US: Hobbyist builds 40 watt laser "shotgun"

A hobbyist posted a YouTube video on June 7 2015, showing a homemade laser “shotgun” that emits a 40 watt visible light beam capable of burning materials almost instantly.

styropyro 40 watt 40W laser shotgun

The hobbyist, with the username “styropyro,” wrote on YouTube: “Just finished building my 40W(!!!) laser shotgun!!! The output of this laser is complete insanity, and is made up of 8 parallel 5W laser beams totaling to 40W. The parallel beams are manipulated with lenses, sort of like how a choke modifies the spread of a shotgun blast. The massive diode array is powered by a huge lithium polymer battery pack (capable up dumping 250A) and the laser array is regulated by a whopping 24 LM317 drivers. This is definitely the craziest thing I have ever built, but I hope to beat this invention with something even crazier before too long.”

In the video narration, he said “I just built something so crazy that I’m almost afraid to use it” and “There is no, no good reason for anybody to own something this powerful. But because it wasn’t illegal for me to build, I decided to build it anyway.” The video then goes on to show the beam popping balloons, and burning paper, a ping-pong ball, and other materials.



Styropyro had previously posted other videos with titles such as “Homemade Lightsaber!?! MASSIVE 3W Handheld Laser Torching Stuff!!”, “My Homemade 6W Laser Sword!!!” and “Homemade Death Ray Laser DRONE BOT!!! Remote Controlled!!!”

From Gizmodo. Thanks to Patrick Daniel Murphy for bringing this to our attention via Reddit.

Japan: "Smartglasses" aim laser light directly into eyes

At a May 2015 technology expo in Tokyo, Fujitsu demonstrated “smartglasses” that shine laser light into a viewer’s eye, to display images from computers or cameras. It is said to be a bit like Google Glass, with a rectangle of projected images appearing in the left eye.

The laser is full color (red, green and blue combined) and is said to be harmless. The system was developed primarily as a vision aid for persons with visual defects. According to the news story, the image does not require focusing and is projected through the eye’s lens directly onto the retina.

The story notes that “the basic idea of projecting imagery onto a retina via laser has been around for decades, but miniaturizing the optics to realize a wearable form factor had been difficult until recently.”

A Fujitsu spinoff called QD Laser helped develop the glasses. They expect to begin selling them in March 2016 in Japan, Europe and the U.S. for about USD $2,000.

From PC World

US: Study shows windscreen coatings can reduce laser intensity

A study published online May 12 2015 indicates that nanocomposite films on aircraft windscreens can reduce laser intensity by 36% to 88%. The findings, published by the Journal of Aviation Technology and Engineering, tested three densities of nanoparticle coatings. The abstract concludes “Results lend support of the view that the addition of transparent laser attenuating films applied to aircraft windscreens may improve flight safety, and reduce the risk from distraction or disruption of flight crewmembers’ vision.”

More information at the LaserPointerSafety.com page on the 2015 Nanocomposite coating study

Italy: Sharp rise in laser incidents to 1,189 in 2014

According to the Agenzia Nazionale per la Sicurezza del Volo, there were 1,189 reported laser-aircraft incidents in 2014, occurring at 35 Italian airports. This is up 34% from the 2013 figure of 885 incidents.

2010-2014 Italy laser incidents chart

80% of the cases involved aircraft on approach, 15% involved aircraft taking off, and 5% happened during cruise.

The commander of the border police said he has never been able to identify the laser perpetrators. The fact that incidents occur in the dark, “coupled with the fact that a laser pointer can be easily hidden, makes it impossible to identify those responsible, unlike those who throw stones from the flyover. We think they are guys who do not realize the severity of what they do."

From Corriere Della Sera. Thanks to Alberto Kellner Ongaro for bringing this to our attention.

South Africa: Students warned not to bring lasers to school

A South African province has warned students that laser lights “can be considered a harmful weapon that can cause a serious eyesight injury.” Bringing a laser on school premises would be “serious misconduct, which may lead to expulsion,” said a spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Education.

It was unclear from news reports whether the warning was sent directly to students at school, or if the warning came only as part of a May 4 2015 news story on the website Health24.com. A May 11 search of the Gauteng Department of Education website did not show any announcements, notices, documents, or other information warning about laser pointer hazards.

The spokesperson said that at least two children had permanent eye damage from lasers. One case cited was a South African 11-year-old boy who looked into the laser light after one of his classmates was playing with it. His mother said “He now has a blind spot right in front of him, but still see the sides of the eye [sic].” This case was reported in April 2015. The other South African case involved a child who aimed a laser’s light into his eye and had permanent damage.

Gautang is the most populous province in South Africa. It contains the cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Midrand and Vanderbijlpark.

From Health24.com: Story about the warning to learners, and story about the 11-year-old boy being injured.

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: Wall Street Journal examines link between males, laser offenders

An April 21 2015 article in the Wall Street Journal examined the link between laser pointer misuse and males.

It began by noting that in 89 of the 93 reported arrests last year for laser strikes against aircraft, the offender was male. The article quoted a New York laser safety officer, John Zelenka, as saying he has never seen a female playing with lasers.

A developmental psychologist was quoted as saying that lasers appeal to a masculine perspective. Patrick Murphy (editor of LaserPointerSafety.com) told the Journal “For a lot of guys it’s like, ‘The bigger the laser, the more visible, the more of a man I am.’”

Author Sophia Hollander then noted that the prices of a 20 mW laser dropped from $239 in 2004 to $8 in 2015.

She examined the similarity of “Star Wars” lightsabers and lasers, quoting experts on the appeal to males of a weapon that can “throw your influence.”

The online article was illustrated with photos from a lightsaber combat class held by the group New York Jedi. Actual lasers were not used in the class due to the potential hazards.

From the Wall Street Journal (article is behind a paywall)

US: Burning Man desert event bans handheld lasers after 2014 accident

Organizers of the Burning Man event, held each year in the Nevada desert, have banned handheld lasers. The April 15 2015 announcement by Black Rock City, LLC comes after paid and volunteer staff “reported feeling unsafe because they were repeatedly flashed by handheld lasers” at the August 2014 event.

In addition, volunteer Kelli Halston Hoversten suffered two permanent eye injuries during the climactic “Man Burn” in 2014. Her left eye was permanently blinded by a handheld laser, and her right eye was partially blinded by a vehicle-mounted laser. (The injuries significantly affected her. Hoversten “lost her job as an arborist because they can’t insure her now” and she no longer rock climbs or ice climbs recreationally due to the loss of depth perception. She is allowed to drive but “just barely” since her central vision is blocked.)

According to an article about the policy change in the Reno Gazette-Journal, Hoversten will attend the 2015 Burning Man event, in part because of the new laser policy.

The Burning Man ban on handheld lasers applies even to low-powered laser pointers less than 5 mW in power. In a separate blog post comment, Burning Man press official Will Chase wrote: “Because of the difficulty in discerning the difference between dangerous and non-dangerous handheld lasers — and because you don’t want to be wrong — it’s been decided to prohibit all handheld lasers.”

The new webpage with the laser policy also noted that the restriction on handheld lasers “is in line with nearly all major festivals and events in the United States and Europe.”

Non-handheld lasers are still allowed at Burning Man if they are on art installations, “DMV Mutant Vehicles,” or are in theme camps. Such lasers must be disclosed on the art, vehicle or camp application. An Event Safety Officer will review the applications; only safe uses will be allowed.
Click to read more...

US: "SteadyLaser" pointer said to reduce hand motion

Two inventors are seeking Kickstarter funding for the “SteadyLaser”, which uses a two-axis inertial stabilization mechanism to smooth out hand tremors. This allows the laser “dot” to remain steady on a target.

SteadyLaser PR picture
The SteadyLaser


The first version being sold on Kickstarter contains two Class 2 (<1 milliwatt) 635 nanometer red laser modules. The module on the left (in the photo above) is suspended inside the TV-remote sized SteadyLaser. It provides the stabilized beam. The other laser is non-stabilized, like a standard laser pointer. In the final Kickstarter version, the user can choose either either the stabilized beam or the normal beam, but — for safety reasons — not both at once.

SteadyLaser 2 second exposure
This is a 2-second exposure, from a Kickstarter video, showing both beams being emitted simultaneously in order to demonstrate the stabilization’s effect. The line traced by the stabilized laser is up and to the right of the non-stabilized laser’s line.


Pricing for the initial run of 1000 SteadyLasers is approximately $150 each. It is promoted on Kickstarter solely for presentations in professional locations such as businesses, schools and courts. The primary benefits are claimed to be minimizing distraction, and reducing the appearance of nervousness when using a laser pointer in presentations.

The Kickstarter page first went up approximately April 10 2015. As of April 13 there were 6 backers pledging $960. The goal is to get $150,000 in backing by June 9 2015; otherwise the laser will not become a product — or at least, not through Kickstarter.

Regardless of the Kickstarter outcome, the inventors want to license their patents to current laser pointer manufacturersd.

From SteadyLaser.com, the SteadyLaser Kickstarter page, and Sys-Con Media via PRNewswire

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com

There could be concern over a handheld laser that can remain steady on a target. If aimed at an aircraft’s cockpit, the beam would be able to stay in a pilot’s vision longer than a standard, non-stabilized laser pointer.

Because of this potential hazard, LaserPointerSafety.com contacted co-inventor Jeff Wilson, who kindly agreed to add an aviation safety warning to the SteadyLaser’s labeling, with text such as “Do not aim at vehicles or aircraft. This is hazardous and illegal.”

The first-generation SteadyLaser has low power (1 mW) and low apparent brightness (635 nm red, which appears only 25% as bright to the human eye as the common 532 nm green laser). Assuming a 1 milliradian divergence, the SteadyLaser is an eye hazard to 23 feet, can cause flashblindness up to 55 feet from the laser, can cause glare up to 245 feet, and would be a distraction to pilots (brighter than other city and airport lights) up to a half mile from the laser.

However, if future versions had more power — up to the U.S. FDA’s limit of 5 mW for laser pointers — and used a 532 nm green laser, then the hazard distances would increase as follows: eye hazard to 52 feet, flashblindness to 245 feet, glare hazard to 1,097 feet, and distraction hazard to 2.2 miles.

US: FAA says no known permanent eye injuries from laser pointers as of March 2015

FAA spokesperson Alison Duquette said “The FAA is unaware of any U.S. commercial pilot who has suffered permanent eye damage as a result of exposure to laser light in the cockpit.” The March 19 2015 statement was made in response to an inquiry by LaserPointerSafety.com.

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: There have been many pilot claims of eye injuries caused by laser pointers aimed at their aircraft. FAA has investigated some of the most serious claims. In 2011, a person knowledgeable about these studies told LaserPointerSafety (on background): “I haven't seen anything that convinces me that any of the FAA incidents are true injury. I haven't seen any convincing evidence of delayed laser lesion effects. I do know that headaches and eye pain and photophobia and light sensitivity have been reported and associated with laser illumination. I have seen nothing convincing me that there is real cellular, tissue injury.”

There have been a few cases (<10?) of temporary eye injury, where the eye healed. This is similar to how skin can heal after a sunburn. In all of these cases, the pilots returned to flying.

There have also been cases of
reported laser injury to the cornea. This is the transparent surface of the eye. Visible laser light passes right through and is not absorbed. The cause of these reported “laser” injuries is the pilot rubbing his or her eyes too vigorously, causing painful scratches in the sensitive cornea. Any damage from a visible laser beam would be on the light-absorbing retina.

Note that FAA limited its statement to commercial pilots. There may be military pilots in conflict zones who have been injured by laser weapons. If so, this information would be classified. Due to the seeming lack of urgency with FAA and U.S. military, any such injuries would not seem to be a threat to commercial pilots in the U.S.

Here are lists of all LaserPointerSafety.com news items tagged with the keyword “eye effect or injury”:
aviation injury incidents, non-aviation injury incidents, other eye injury stories.

LaserPointerSafety welcomes any documented cases of pilot eye injuries. Contact us with the links etc., and also contact FAA so they can be aware of the cases.


US: NY senator wants FDA to ban green laser pointers

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) on March 15 2015 called for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop the sale of “high-powered” green laser pointers. He cited the danger to aircraft pilots. The step appears to have been triggered by the report of three pilots going to hospitals for eye injuries on March 9 2015 in the New York area.

Schumer made the announcement at a Sunday press conference in his Manhattan office, along with four commercial airline pilots who had been illuminated by laser light. One pilot, Gabe Rubin, said he knew of a pilot who “suffered severe eye damage from a green laser pointer [and] will never fly again.”

Schumer said “Green lasers are the weapons of choice being used for evil purposes. We know terrorists are always looking for areas of weak points.”

He is focused on green pointers because they are apparently preferred by pranksters because the green light travels farther, and “because the light spectrum of green is more easily absorbed by the retina and then causes more damage”, according to the senator.

In 2012, Schumer wrote a letter to the U.S. FDA saying that laser pointers’ power should be less than the current 5 mW limit, that FDA should restrict more powerful Class 3B (5-500 mW) and Class 4 (500+ mW) lasers, and that FDA should require warning labels about aiming at aircraft.

From Newsday and CBS New York. The text of Sen. Schumer’s press release is below (click the “Read more…” link).
Click to read more...

US: Football coach, kicker propose laser goalposts for improved officiating

The idea of augmenting goal post uprights with laser beams has been suggested by a winning college football coach, as well as two kickers.

football goal posts
Goal post at Georgia Tech stadium. Photo by Hector Alejandro from Flickr
CC by 2.0. Background darkened to emphasize the subject.


In a February 2015 interview with Sports Illustrated, Florida State University kicker Roberto Aguayo discussed the idea, first brought up by FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher (70 wins, 14 losses, 6 bowl appearances).

SI interviewer Martin Rickman asked “Jimbo mentioned his ideas about putting laser beams on top of field goal posts a while ago, and Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan brought up the notion again last season. Do you feel like electronic accuracy monitoring is something that should be implemented in kicking?”

Aguayo replied:

“Personally, I think the laser idea is a good idea. I’m still behind Jimbo. I’ll back him up on that. Games can be won or lost on a kick. I’ve seen it, a kick has gone close and one ref looks at the other. Not a lot of people know this, but my redshirt year, Dustin [Hopkins] was still kicking, and he hit a 27-yarder. He comes off the field and says, ‘Guys, I missed that.’ But the refs counted it in. They said it was good. It went right over the upright.”

“One of the kicks I missed this year went over the uprights, too. It looked like I missed it, but when they showed it on the JumboTron [TV scoreboard] the whole stadium booed. It looked good on the JumboTron. Depending on what angle you’re looking at, it’s hard. Lasers I feel like would be a good idea. It’s just about figuring out whether if it goes inside the laser it’s good, or if it touches the laser it’s no good. That would have to be discussed. Either get lasers or make the uprights a little bit longer. Kickers are getting much better and they’re hitting it a lot higher.”

From Sports Illustrated

UK: 1,442 laser incidents in 2014; up 3.4% over 2013

There were 1,442 laser-aircraft incidents reported to the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority in 2014. This is a 3.4% increase over the 2013 figure of 1,394 reported laser incidents.

2009-2014 UK CAA laser incidents chart

Additionally, there were 312 laser incidents that occurred outside the U.K. to U.K. operators.

In 2014, the top four most frequent incident locations were London/Heathrow (168), Manchester International (107), Birmingham (92), and Leeds Bradford (81). London/Gatwick and Glasgow were tied for fifth place, each with 64 reported incidents.

CAA published a PDF report with more detailed figures, including a monthly breakdown of the most frequent laser incident locations in 2014, and monthly & yearly totals for 2009 through 2014, and overseas (non-U.K.) incidents occurring to U.K. operators.

From the CAA PDF report dated February 2 2015. Note: There is a discrepancy where one table lists a total of 1,440 incidents in 2014 while another lists a total of 1,442. We have used the larger figure in this story.

Additional charts are on the page listing 2014 incident statistics, and the page with 2004-2014 historical data.

Canada: 502 laser/aircraft incidents in 2014

According to Transport Canada, there were 502 reported incidents where lasers were pointed at aircraft. The agency says this is a 43% increase since 2012.

From the Transport Canada webpage
Aiming a laser at an aircraft? Not a Bright Idea.


US: FAA releases spreadsheet with details of laser incidents, 2010-2014

On January 13 2015, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration released online a list of all laser incidents reported to the agency from 2010 to 2014.

This information was previously restricted and hard-to-obtain by the general public. The 3.6 MB Excel-format spreadsheet lists the date, time, aircraft ID, aircraft type, altitude, nearest major city, beam color, and whether an injury was reported.

The image below shows four days worth of data, January 1 through 4, 2014. Each row is one laser/aircraft incident.

Pic 2015-01-24 at 11.09.55 AM

The spreadsheet, “Reported Laser Incidents for 2010-2014”, can be downloaded from FAA’s webpage Laser News, Laws, & Civil Penalties.

US: 3,894 FAA-reported laser incidents in 2014; only 2.4% decline from 2013

According to FAA statistics, there were 3,894 laser incidents reported in 2014, an average of 10.7 incidents per day. This is a 2.4% decrease from the 3,960 incidents reported in 2013.

2014 laser aircraft totals FAA

The chart below shows the number of incidents each day (light blue line) and a 30-day moving average (dark blue) to smooth out the data. In the first half of the year (Jan 1 - Jun 30) there were 9.4 incidents per day, but these rose in the second half to 11.9 incidents per day, making the 2014 final average of 10.7 incidents per day.

2014 laser aircraft incidents chart

It is unclear why 2014 saw roughly level incident rates up to about June but then a steady increase over the next 5 months. One significant 2014 event was the February push by the FBI to publicize and prosecute laser pointer incidents, including offering a $10,000 reward. This was followed by another FBI push in June — after which rates started to rise.

The chart below shows 2014 in context with the past seven years. While the incident rates have leveled off to about 10-11 per day since 2011, all the publicity and prosecutions over the past few years have not brought the rate downward.

FAA incidents daily 2007-2014 copy

Finally, this chart superimposes each year’s laser illumination incidents, from 2009 through 2014. This gives an idea of the “shape” of each year. The heavy black line is 2014 data.

FAA incidents daily superimposed 2009-2014 copy

From public FAA Excel spreadsheet “Reported Laser Incidents for 2010-2014” at this page. For 2013 and previous years’ data, see the page FAA laser/aircraft incidents: 2004-2013 historical data.

Finland: 60+ laser-aviation incidents in 2014; safety campaign launched

According to the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi), there were 60 cases of laser interference with aircraft in 2013, and 58 cases Jan.-Nov. 2014. This came in a December 19 2014 joint press announcement from Trafi, the Finnish Pilots’ Association, and Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority.

The three groups are launching a campaign to inform the public of the dangers of aiming lasers at aircraft. A Trafi spokesperson says one person was caught misusing a laser against an aircraft, but was not convicted since the court could not establish intent.

From
Yle

US: FDA issues guidance on lasers in toys; wants Class 1 only

On December 19 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a non-binding, not-legally-enforceable guidance document, recommending that toys which contain lasers should be limited to Class 1 output. For visible lasers, this is 0.39 milliwatts, roughly 1/3 times less bright than the Class 2 limit of 1 mW. (Many countries limit laser pointers to Class 2 or no more than 1 mW; the U.S. allows pointers up to 5 mW, or Class 3R.)

In addition to toys with visible beams that are dimmer than laser pointers, the other type of children’s Class 1 laser products are those that have internal, inaccessible lasers. For example, the laser inside a CD or DVD player device is often Class 3B — well above 5 mW. But because the beam cannot be accessed under normal conditions, the entire device is Class 1.

What laser toy products are included


FDA’s guidance is for “children’s toy laser products”, defined by the agency as “a product primarily used as a toy that is manufactured, designed, intended or promoted for novelty or visual entertainment use by children under 14 years of age.” It does not include “laser products that are used in professional or academic settings that may be used by children (for example, laser printers, CD players, educational and science kits).”

To determine if a laser product is a toy, FDA takes into account factors such as the promotion and product graphics (for example, if children are shown playing with the product), the location of sales such as toy stores or websites, and whether features or the nature of the product may indicate it is intended for children.

The agency gives examples of children’s toy laser products:

  • Lasers mounted on toy guns that can be used for “aiming”
  • Spinning tops that project laser beams while they spin
  • Hand-held lasers used during play as “light sabers”
  • Dancing laser beams projected from a stationary column with bright colors or pictures on the box that might appeal to children
  • Lasers intended for entertainment that create optical effects in an open room with bright colors or pictures on the box that might appeal to children.
Click to read more...

Northern Ireland: PHA warns against buying laser pointers as children's Christmas presents

The Northern Ireland Public Health Agency issued a warning to parents about the dangers of laser pointers to children’s eyes. According to the Belfast Telegraph, PHA spoke out after the devices left a number of children with eye damage over recent months.

Eibhlin McLoone, a consultant ophthalmologist with the Belfast HSC Trust, has treated several of the children and said the devices "are not toys".

"Sadly, I have seen children who have eye damage because they have played with a laser pointer and unfortunately once the eye has been damaged by a laser pen the damage is irreversible," she said.

"Due to the risk of permanent visual impairment, it is vital that the public is aware of the risks associated with laser pointers and that these devices are never viewed as toys."

Ms McLoone added: "Unfortunately, once the laser burn has happened there is no treatment available to reverse it."

From the Belfast Telegraph

Worldwide: Wicked Lasers to stop shipping high-powered lasers to U.S. on Jan. 1 2015

Wicked Lasers, one of the best known Internet sellers of high-powered lasers, announced November 19 2014 that it will no longer ship lasers above 5 milliwatts to U.S. customers, beginning in 2015. They said other countries would follow “shortly thereafter.”

The sales restriction does not seem to be the result of any particular regulatory actions or other outside forces; instead it appears to be a decision by the “new ownership and management” that was also announced at the same time.

Wicked currently sells handheld lasers up to 2000 milliwatts (2 watts). In the U.S., lasers sold as “pointers” or for pointing purposes must be below 5 milliwatts output power; handheld battery-powered lasers over that power may still be sold legally if they are not “pointers” and if they meet FDA safety requirements for their laser class. All Wicked Lasers sold in 2015 will thus be within the U.S. “pointer” range of power.

The announcement came with a 40% off sale, so the company will still be shipping high-powered lasers through December 31 2014.

Pic 2014-11-22 at 9.25.46 PM

From the email announcement Wicked Lasers sent to customers on Nov. 19 2014 (shown above).

US: Aiming lasers at aircraft now a felony in New York State

A new law, taking effect in New York State on November 1 2014, makes it a crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft. It creates the offense of “directing a laser at an aircraft in the second degree,” creating misdemeanor and felony charges for the act.

From WIVB and the Democrat and Chronicle

US: Ophthalmalogist calls consumer lasers "weapons", asks Congress for law

USA Today reports that “a leading ophthalmologist and retinal specialist” called high-powered consumer lasers “weapons; powerful weapons that can cause very severe damage and blindness. They are much more powerful than anyone appreciates.”

The October 7 2014 story was a follow-up to an incident at an NFL football game on October 5, when Buffalo Bills players complained of lasers being aimed at them during a game with the Detroit Lions. The NFL and police were said to be investigating.

USA Today’s Martin Rogers wrote that Dr. Robert Josephberg “has lobbied members of Congress for more than a year to discuss criminalizing intentionally dangerous use of laser pointers, to no avail. Josephberg told the newspaper that intentional shining of a laser at someone should be a felony: “There has been a significant increase in medical journals of reports of blindness caused by the lasers. The use seems to be increasing – and so does the power and availability of the pointers. Congress needs to take note.”

In a February 28 2011 story in the New York Times, Josephberg recounted how he saw a high-school student who had a blind spot from a 50 milliwatt green laser pointer. At first he did not believe that lasers were available that could cause such an injury. But he bought a 100 milliwatt laser for $28 online; Times writer Christine Negroni said “he could hardly believe how easy it was.”

A June 2011 article in the magazine of Westchester (NY) Medical Center, where Josephberg works, quoted the doctor as saying “I contacted new Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth of the 19th Congressional District, who is an ophthalmologist herself. We are working with her, trying to write a bill that addresses this problem.”

From USA Today, the New York Times and ”Health & Life” magazine from Westchester Medical Center

US: Apple repair guide lists laser damage to camera as a service item

Laser damage to the iPhone camera is listed as one of Apple’s “Out-of-Warranty Service” items, along with liquid damage, cracks and fractures, and bent phones.

This information comes from a 2014 “Visual/Mechanical Inspection” guide provided by Apple to authorized repair centers. An image from the document was provided by a worker to Consumer Reports’ Consumerist blog. In the upper right is the laser damage information:

Apple iPhone laser damage

This item is relatively new. Laser damage is not mentioned in the 2012 version of the iPhone Visual/Mechanical Inspection Guide.

From the Consumerist. For more on laser damage to consumer cameras and camcorders, see our Lasers and camera damage page.

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...

UK: 107 laser pens seized from house near Southampton Airport

British police in late September 2014 seized 107 laser pens from a house in Eastleigh, Hampshire, near the flight path of Southampton Airport.

In the ten weeks prior to September 26 2014, there were seven incidents of lasers being pointed at aircraft; five of these led to arrests.

News reports did not directly link the misuse to the man arrested with the 107 laser pens. It also is not known if the investigation that led to the seizure was started in response to the aircraft incidents, or was separately initiated. All flights landed safely.

One of the seized pens was said to be 650 times more powerful than normal. Given that U.K. regulations prohibit laser pointers above 1 mW, the pen was likely 650 milliwatts. This is Class 4, the most hazardous laser classification, as the beam can cause eye and even skin burns.

From the Daily Echo

Worldwide: Google AdWords ads to include warning not to aim at planes

Wicked Lasers has begun including the phrase “Don’t Aim Lasers @ Planes” in their two-line Google AdWords advertisements, starting in September 2014.

Wicked is a major internet advertiser and a heavy user of AdWords. By doing this, the company puts the information in front of a large audience of persons whose browsing history indicates they are interested in lasers.

Wicked Lasers Google AdWords ad - highlighted
The Wicked Lasers AdWords ad, with the safety phrase highlighted to show its location. (The highlighting does not appear in the actual ad.)


The company’s intent is to help reduce the number of incidents of persons aiming lasers at aircraft. They are also one of the few companies to include a “don’t aim at aircraft” warning on their lasers’ labels, and in the user manual.

Brought to our attention by Steve Liu, CEO of Wicked Lasers

Arizona: Pilots will seek to upgrade laser pointing penalty to felony

In April 2014, a new law in Arizona made it a Class One misdemeanor to point a laser at an aircraft. However, the Arizona Police Association and other law enforcement groups want to increase the penalty, to make it a felony, when the legislative session starts again in January 2015.

The first draft of the April 2014 law called for a Class Five felony to “knowingly or intentionally” aim a laser towards an aircraft. But there was concern among legislators that juveniles could end up with a felony record. The bill passed once the penalty was reduced to a Class One misdemeanor.

In a September 22 2014 story, reporter Emilie Eaton recounted Arizona’s experience. FAA-reported incidents in the state rose from 138 in 2010, to 202 in 2013. One police pilot interviewed said that he had been hit by lasers over 100 times, during a 22 year career. The pilot, Chris Potter, said he had permanent damage from a laser strike: “It literally felt like I got punched in my eye and there was a piece of debris, like a piece of glass in my eye.”

Another pilot quoted, Pima County Sheriff’s Department deputy Chris Janes, said he has has between 12 and 24 laser strikes from 2007 to 2014: “I have not received any eye damage. But I’ve had headaches afterward. I’ve had eye discomfort for several days afterward.”

From Cronkite News, via the Tucson Sentinel

Worldwide: Handheld laser being used by airports to disrupt birds

A handheld laser is being used by airports in Amsterdam, Oslo, Southhampton and about 15 other locations to distract and disrupt birds, in an attempt to prevent bird strikes on aircraft.

The Aerolaser is made by the Delft, Netherlands company “Bird Control Group”. The handheld device uses a green laser with a range over 2500 meters (1.6 miles). The company claims that birds do not grow used to the laser, and it is safe for the animals. According to an article at the website IHS Airport360, “As a safety feature, the laser is disabled above a certain height - this prevents the beam from being shone directly at aircraft or controllers in the tower.” In addition, the operator can look through a scope so he or she knows where the beam will be directed.

Aerolaser diagram
Conceptual diagram of using a handheld laser around airports, from
Aerolaser.com

Aerolaser video Southampton airport 02
A frame from an
Aerolaser video describing use at the Southampton airport.

Aerolaser video frame
A frame from
another Aerolaser video showing laser light scattering birds.

The company also makes an automatic, autonomous system called Aerolaser Groundflex, pictured below from the company’s website:

Aerolaser Groundflex diagram


According to Wikipedia, “bird strikes are a significant threat to flight safety” since 35% of strikes result in damage to the aircraft, costing $400 million per year in the U.S. and up to $1.2 billion per year worldwide.

Bird Control Group also makes the Agrilaser Lite (range of 1000 meters) and the Agrilaser Handheld (range over 2000 meters), intended to keep birds away from fields and crops.

Agrilaser Lite Agrilaser Handheld


From Aerolaser.com, Agrilaser.com, IHS Airport360, and Wikipedia’s “Bird strike” article

Worldwide: Wicked Lasers begins using independent Laser Safety Facts website

The well-known Internet seller Wicked Lasers has added detailed safety information on its website about the hazards of its products. As of September 4 2014, a new “Laser Safety Facts” link on Wicked’s webpages goes to an independent website that lists hazards and safe use guidance.

This is the first time that Wicked, or any consumer laser manufacturer, has used the proposed “Laser Safety Facts” labeling system which aims to give the general public detailed and easily accessible safety data. A key part of this proposal is that the information is not controlled by Wicked or any laser manufacturer; instead it comes from an independent source.
Click to read more...

Cambodia: Artist, inspired by Picasso, uses laser pointers to paint with light

An August 30 2014 article in the Phnom Penh Post profiles an artist who uses laser pointers to draw onto nude models while an open camera shutter captures the exposure. Gian Claudio di Cecco, 47, calls the results a “live painting with a picture.”

Gian Claudio di Cecco laser pointer art
From an exhibition of laser pointer-created light paintings by Gian Claudio di Cecco.


He pointed to Pablo Picasso, who in 1949 collaborated with Life Magazine photographer Cjon Mili to create light drawings:

Pic 2014-09-06 at 3.06.55 PM
From a series of photos created by Picasso for
Life Magazine in 1949


Di Cecco said that using laser pointers was a challenge: “When you open the shutter for 20 seconds, you have to go really fast with the light – it’s like dancing. And sometimes the model moves, and you have to try and try with the same model for the perfect picture.”

From the Phnom Penh Post. Additional photos of Di Cecco’s work can be seen at the link.

US: UPDATED - Reporter questions effect of FAA/FBI "blame and shame" campaign

A well-known aviation reporter has taken issue with how the FAA and FBI are trying to reduce the number of laser illuminations on aircraft. On August 28 2014, Christine Negroni published a post on her blog Flying Lessons entitled “Aviation’s Effort Combating Laser Attacks Hashtag #Ineffective #Insane”.

She disagrees with the U.S. government’s primary focus being a “blame and shame” campaign that tries to capture laser perpetrators using helicopters, then prosecutes them and publicizes the resulting multi-year sentences. Negroni calls this a “high-tech, heavy-metal, dollar-intensive approach to the problem … [that] has gone terribly wrong…”

Her contention is that persons who aim at aircraft “don’t watch television news, read the daily newspaper or log on to the FAA laser education website before heading out into the night with their nifty green or blue laser pointers.”

She ends her blog post by calling for creativity to try to market this message to its target audience of teens and young men, using a more sophisticated publicity or social media effort.

In the past few years Negroni has written about what she calls “this disaster in the making” for the New York Times, MSNBC, and the Smithsonian’s Air & Space magazine. Late in 2013, she wrote a more detailed article for the blog Runway Girl Network, exploring the problem — and suggested solutions — in more depth.

From Flying Lessons. Background information disclosure: LaserPointerSafety.com provided some information to Negroni which was used in her articles.

UPDATED September 8 2014 - Negroni’s blog post was reprinted by the Huffington Post.

US: Video PSA uses Internet meme to teach laser safety

A public service announcement (PSA) video, added to YouTube in August 2014, uses cute graphics and a catchy song to show viewers what not to do with lasers.

Pic 2014-08-28 at 7.48.56 PM
In the video, various animated characters are shown lasing planes and going to jail, hurting themselves by misusing powerful lasers, aiming at police and getting shot, and otherwise having an ironic, unfortunate outcome.


”Dumb Ways to Blind” is modeled after “Dumb Ways to Die”, a November 2012 YouTube hit originally done for Metro Trains in Melbourne, Victoria. The Australian campaign “generated at least $50 million worth of global media value in addition to more than 700 media stories,” according to ad industry magazine The Age. It was viewed on YouTube over 84 million times as of July 2014.

The laser version is one of dozens of parodies and spin-offs. Unlike many of these which are done only for humor, “Dumb Ways to Blind” appears to have an educational goal similar to the original “Dumb Ways to Die”.

Click to read more...

US: Wall Street Journal article describes laser pointer hazards to aircraft

The Wall Street Journal published a story August 27 2014, by legal reporter Ashby Jones, entitled “Laser-Pointer Strikes Menace Pilots: Jail Sentences, Rewards Haven’t Stopped the Practice.”

The article begins by saying that “People keep aiming powerful laser pointers at aircraft ... despite jail sentences for offenders and rewards for people who turn them in.”

It quotes unnamed law enforcement experts and prosecutors as saying that most strikes are “not done out of maliciousness, but irresponsibility.” The FAA told the WSJ author that no accidents or aborted takeoffs or landings have been attributed to laser incidents.

Jones notes that the FBI’s recent publicity and prosecution campaign “appear[s] to have led to some success, with the number of laser strikes in recent months dropping to about nine a day from about 11 in 2013, according to an FBI spokeswoman. She said this crime was the first for which the FBI has offered a reward that didn’t involve a fugitive or missing person.”

The article describes a few cases, then in the penultimate paragraph, states “Still, thousands of laser strikes, particularly involving commercial planes, go unpunished. Since 2005, only 162 people have been arrested for strikes, and 86 convicted, according to the FBI.”

From the Wall Street Journal. The article may be behind a paywall, requiring a subscription to access the full text. Aviation reporter Christine Negroni was moved by the WSJ article to respond a day later with a blog post entitled “Aviation’s Effort Combating Laser Attacks Hashtag #Ineffective #Insane”.”

Worldwide: Review of laser "stars" projector; question about aircraft interference

An August 22 2014 review on “the Gadgeteer” website describes a holographic laser “star” projector. This projects colored dots in an area roughly 25’ x 25’, to give the illusion of stars indoors on a wall, or of lights in trees and bushes outdoors. The cost is between $80 and $130 depending on the seller.

The reviewer, Bill Kuch, says the green-only version contains a Class IIIa laser that uses diffractive holographic optics to create the beams. According to the instruction pamphlet, “Each individual laser beam is less than 5 mW, which is about the same as an average laser pointer.”

He then talks about testing the unit indoors and outdoors. Kuch said that after aiming at the tree canopy around his cabin in the woods, his neighbors came out, commented positively, and asked where they could purchase one.

In the final paragraph, he says when he pointed the projector up into the trees, “that begs the question: could it interfere with aircraft flying overhead?”

Review of the Viatek Night Stars Landscape Lighting from the Gadgeteer.
Click to read more...

UK: 1300+ laser incidents in 2013

The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority reported “more than 1,300 reports” of laser illuminations of aircraft “across the UK” in 2013, according to an August 18 2014 story in the Surrey Mirror.

The newspaper also reported that in the 12 months between October 2012 and September 2013, there were 31 reports of aircraft being illuminated as they approached Gatwick Airport, 30 miles south of London.

Laser strikes have also increased on rescue helicopters flying out of Redhill Aerodrome, Surrey, a few miles north of Gatwick. A tactical flight officer was quoted as saying “I've had to break away from a task because of being lasered and it's not because we're trying to catch a bad guy, it's because we're trying to find people potentially in danger.... There are certain elements of society that might be trying to harm us or put us off being in a certain location.”

Police inspector Mark Callaghan told the Mirror that there have been a number of jail terms for perpetrators, but that "Hand-held lasers are easily obtained over the internet or from market stalls and street vendors abroad. The warning labels on these are misleading and they are more powerful than advertised."

From the Surrey Mirror

US: Puerto Rico law makes pointing lasers at aircraft or law enforcement illegal

The Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly on July 30 2014 approved an “Act to Prohibit the Unlawful Use of Laser Devices,” S.B. 799. It makes it illegal under Commonwealth law to intentionally or knowingly point a laser pointer at an aircraft or at a law enforcement officer. Violation is a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to six months in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.

In addition, if the laser pointing results in serious bodily harm to a human being (defined as “an injury that requires hospitalization, long-term treatment, or causes permanent or mutilating injuries”), the violation becomes a felony.

As of August 14 2014, it is not known if the act has been signed by the Governor, and thus whether it has become an official law. [Usually, such laws are signed by the executive. However, in October 2013, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a law, passed by the legislature, that would have banned the sale of laser pointers over 1 milliwatt.]

From a PDF of S.B. 799. The text of the law is here. Thanks to George Johnson for bringing this to our attention.

US: FAA-reported laser incidents decline 12.8% compared to 2013

According to statistics furnished by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, laser incidents in the U.S. average 9.5 per night for the period January 1 to August 7, 2014. This compares with 10.8 incidents per night in all of 2013, and is equal to 2012’s year-long average of 9.5 per night.

During the 219 days from January 1 to August 7, 2014, there were 2,085 laser incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the FBI data. This is a 12.8% reduction compared with 2,390 incidents during the same 219-day period in 2013, and is an 8% increase compared with 1,925 incidents Jan. 1- Aug. 7, 2012.

One reason for the decline may be the FBI’s campaign to prosecute offenders, and to inform the public via press releases and public service announcements that it is illegal to aim a laser at aircraft.

Based on the Jan-Aug 2014 data, the number of illuminations in 2014 is expected to fall below 3,500.

FAA incidents 2004-current total only


From information provided to LaserPointerSafety.com, and analysis of FAA data for previous years. For 2013 and past years’ data, see the page FAA laser/aircraft incidents: 2004-2013 historical data

Norway: 100 aircraft incidents one reason for proposal to limit pointers to 1 mW

On May 16 2014, the Norwegian Ministry of Health proposed to ban the sale and use of laser pointers over 1 milliwatt without approval from the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority. The reason given was that “the current approval system, where it is permitted to use and possession of laser pointers in private rooms without approval, has not proved sufficient to prevent potentially dangerous use of laser pointers.”

The ministry received 18 official comments by the August 8 submission deadline. According to Dagens Medisin, “none of the answers are critical [of] mitigation in the use of laser pointers.”

The ban was supported by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA), the Police Directorate and the Customs and Excise department.

The CAA said that there were around 100 incidents each year where lasers were pointed at aircraft in Norway.

If the measure is enacted, it will take effect beginning in 2015.

From Dagens Medisin, in the original Norwegian and in English (Google machine translation). The proposal and links to comments, can be found here in Norwegian, and here in English.

US: Paper's editorial on Ocean City ban concludes it is a "a reasonable approach"

An editorial in the Delmarva Times considers at the pros and cons of curtailing laser pointer sales and possession in Ocean City, Maryland.

The July 27 2014 opinion piece, titled “Public safety versus profit?”, begins with the May 19 2014 emergency legislation passed by Ocean City.

The article notes that the May ban was resisted by merchants who would lose revenue, and by those “unhappy because of the perceived curtailment of personal freedom.” But this is outweighed, in the paper’s opinion, by the risk to eyes: “There are recorded instances of police, random passers-by and municipal employees in Ocean City suffering injury as a result of someone pointing a laser at them.” In addition, the story says, pilots are at risk from the bright light.

The opinion piece then notes that in the two months since the ban, “resort police went from taking 1,000 calls in a three-year period complaining about laser pointer abuse to no incidents this year. This is despite the fact that laser pointers are easily obtained elsewhere, suggesting that without the temptation to make an impulse purchase on the Boardwalk, people will find other ways to amuse themselves.”

The editorial suggests that merchants may be “legally or ethically culpable” for injuries or aircraft crashes caused by lasers that they sold: “Is our economy so focused on profits, we’ve lost track of taking the common welfare into consideration when conducting business?”

The paper’s conclusion is that “ given the persistent and long-term problems caused by laser pointers in Ocean City and elsewhere, particularly other beach resort areas, banning the sale of the devices on the Boardwalk and regulating how they are used — for the purpose of curtailing abuse — seems a reasonable approach.”

From an editorial available online at DelmarvaNow.com

US: New York State law criminalizes aiming lasers at aircraft or flight path

New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo on July 24 2014, signed into law a bill making it a crime to aim a laser at an aircraft or the flight path of an aircraft. The bill takes effect on November 1 2014.

The New York state bill seems to be more restrictive than U.S. federal law, which simply prohibits aiming a laser at an aircraft or its flight path. The New York law appears to require both intent to disrupt or interfere with the aircraft, and the laser’s power to be above a certain level. (Specifically, it is only a violation if “the calculated or measured beam irradiance on the aircraft, or in the immediate vicinity of the aircraft, exceeds limits set by the FAA for the FAA-specified laser flight zone [Normal, Sensitive, Critical or Laser-Free] where the aircraft was located.”)

In addition, if a pilot in the illuminated aircraft does not file a laser incident report with the FAA, there is no New York state violation.
Click to read more...

Ireland: Aiming at aircraft to be illegal, after 158 Irish incidents in 2013

A bill making it illegal to deliberately aim lasers into pilots’ eyes was expected to pass the Seanad, Ireland’s senate chamber, in mid-July 2014.

The State Airports (Shannon Group) Bill includes the aiming prohibition; violation can lead to jail time or a fine of up to €50,000 (USD $66,800).

The action comes after 158 laser illuminations of aircraft in 2013, according to the Irish Aviation Authority. Forty-nine of the 2013 incidents involved Air Corps aircraft. From January to mid-July 2014, there were 11 Air Corps-related incidents.

A Fianna Fáil transport spokesperson said the legislation was helpful, but more should be done. He advocated targeting the sale and supply of lasers.

From the Irish Times and RTÉ News

US: Ocean City MD incidents decline after ban on sale, possession

The May 19 2014 ban on laser pointer sale and possession in Ocean City, Maryland, seemed to stop laser pointer misuse, according to a July 14 2014 news report by Brian Shane of Delmarva Now.

After 975 incidents of misuse reported to police over three years, there were no incidents or arrests during the May 19 to July 13 period. The ban was put into effect both because of increasing harassment of persons in the beach town, and because of concerns over pilot safety when the bright beam was directed towards aircraft. Harassment incidents noted in the article included times when tram operators and city bus drivers were targeted.

Ocean City’s attorney noted that “We didn’t want to ban their legitimate use,” saying that laser pointers used in presentation are legal.

In 2010, Ocean City police estimated that 23 retailers had sold more than 30,000 laser pointers at $30-$50. A laser pointer wholesaler said in May that the ban “would hurt the merchants... Say a merchant sells 1,500 in a season, that’s $30,000. That’s a lot of cash to them.”

The news story discussed an injury to 33-year-old Rich Drake in the summer of 2009, who supported the ban. A red beam went into his eye. “Afterward, he noticed his vision took on a pinkish tone, and altered the colors he was seeing. The effects lasted more than a year. Drake already wears glasses and has a condition that makes his eyes extra-sensitive to light. The experience left him shaken.”

From DelmarvaNow.com. The story includes quotes from LaserPointerSafety.com editor Patrick Murphy.

Note that other U.S. beach towns have enacted bans or restrictions on laser pointers, including Ocean City NJ in 2011, Virginia Beach and towns in the Myrtle Beach, SC area. Past LaserPointerSafety.com news stories can be found with the tags Ocean City, Virginia Beach and Myrtle Beach. Text of the 2014 Ocean City MD ordinance is here.

UK: Police get advice from U.S. FBI on stopping U.K. laser incidents

In May 2014, U.K. police officials met with U.S. FBI agents in Washington DC, to gain insights into how to reduce the almost 2,000 laser/aircraft incidents reported in 2013. According to a report in the Express, British police said they do not have sufficient investigatory powers, that it is hard to get convictions, and that the only punishment is minor fines.

While both the U.S. and the U.K. have laws with penalties up to five years in jail, in the States jail sentences have been imposed while fines are the norm in Britain. The U.S. also has a centralized national reporting system, which the British officials seek to emulate.

Mark Callaghan, an NPT inspector for Sussex Police, told the Express about a case in April 2014 where a laser beam was aimed at an Airbus A319 from a Travelodge near Gatwick Airport. The pilots reported that “The green laser was extremely aggressive and we suffered three or four two-second attacks directly into the cockpit causing blotchy vision, squinting, ­broken concentration, sore eyes.” The perpetrators were not caught.

Callaghan noted “We can find out who was in the rooms but we have no power to conduct any searches and even if there were lasers there what evidence is there to say they did it? We would like some preventative legislation. The US have got it nailed on how they deal with this.”

From the Express

US: FDA issues guidance to public on high-powered laser "pointers"

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a webpage for the general public that has guidance for safe use of “new powerful laser ‘pointers’.”

According to the agency’s information, published July 5 2014, FDA requires that manufacturers of handheld, battery-powered lasers limit the power of the laser light to five milliwatts or less. The label must state the power and the hazard class.

The guidance tells the reader not to purchase handheld, battery-powered lasers above 5 milliwatts “unless the manufacturer has an approval from FDA (called a ‘variance’) to allow the purchase.” Otherwise, the sale is illegal, according to the agency.

They also warn against aiming lasers at eyes, at reflective surfaces into eyes, or at the operator of aircraft, watercraft, or vehicles.

From the FAA Basics webpage entitled “Does FDA regulate these new powerful laser ‘pointers’ and are they hazardous?”

US: Appeals court says federal prosecutors do not need to show intent in laser cases

A federal appeals court has upheld the two-year prison sentence for a 31-year-old Omaha, Nebraska man convicted of aiming a laser pointer at a jetliner.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday rejected Michael Smith's defense that he didn't believe the laser would reach the airliner, saying federal law doesn't require prosecutors to show he intended to hit the aircraft.

Below is more information, including a summary of the court’s decision and a link to the full decision.Click to read more...

New Zealand: UPDATED - Laser strikes leveling off, 3 months after nationwide laser restrictions

Three months after New Zealand restricted sales of laser pointers over 1 milliwatts, the controls have stopped the rise of laser/aircraft incidents, and have also resulted in limiting consumer access to over-powered lasers.

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said “Early data seems to show that the number of laser strikes on aircraft have plateaued at the same level as last year.” From Jan. 1 to mid-May 2014, there have been 37 laser incidents. This compares with 116 recorded incidents in all of 2013.

The legislation, which took effect March 1 2014, did not make possession of lasers over 1 milliwatt illegal, but it did restrict importation and sales.

Goodhew said over 80 retailers had been visited to remove any over-powered lasers from shelves and to remind sellers of the new restrictions. Tests showed that of 22 lasers suspected of being over 1 milliwatt, 17 were in fact over the limit. Online auction sites have been monitored. Import officials seized 10 lasers as well.

Nine applications have been submitted seeking government approval to import, supply or acquire a laser pointer over 1 mW. Five have been approved and one is being considered. (Presumably the other three were rejected.)

From Voxy.co.nz. Other LaserPointerSafety.com coverage of New Zealand statistics and laws is here.

UPDATED June 26 2014: LaserPointerSafety has received some clarifications from Jo Goodhew’s office:
1) The 37 laser strikes were from January 1 2014 to mid-May 2014.
2) A March 5 2014 article in the New Zealand Herald, which stated there were 119 recorded incidents in all of 2013, is incorrect. The correct number is 116 as stated in the main article above.
3) The statistical analysis of the “plateauing” laser incidents in 2014 was done as follows: The 37 strikes from Jan to mid-May 2014 were extrapolated to give an estimated 104 strikes for 2014. This was then compared with the 116 incidents in 2013. Although this indicates that 2014 might be a decrease compared to 2013, “at this stage we are being cautious and describing it as a ‘plateauing’.” [Note: This statistical analysis would be correct if the rate of lasing is approximately equal throughout all months of the year. However, LaserPointerSafety.com has found that the rate varies with seasons; in the U.S. incidents tend to go up during the Northern Hemisphere summer. If New Zealand’s rate also varies significantly with seasons, then the statistical analysis is flawed. It would be better to compare Jan to mid-May 2013 directly with Jan to mid-May 2014.]

US: No laser beam headlights for U.S. cars -- not without rule changes

U.S. automobile regulations prohibit the use of advanced laser headlights currently being used or tested by Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Volvo and Toyota. Only high and low beams are allowed, unlike new adaptive laser headlights which detect oncoming cars and dim part of the light output to avoid dazzling drivers.

Toyota has filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seeking to allow the advanced headlights.

A story in Ars Technica goes into more detail about how the laser headlights work, and how companies are advocating for “sensible policy solutions where the tech and car worlds intersect.”

From a June 5 2014 Ars Technica article by Jonathan M. Gitlin

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: Although automobile headlights are not laser pointers, they do use diodes similar or identical to those in high-powered blue lasers such as the multi-watt Wicked Lasers S3 Arctic handheld. In headlights, laser diodes are used to energize a phosphor coating so that incoherent bright white light is emitted. The small diodes allow the headlight assembly to be lower-profile, giving more flexibility in body design and aerodynamics. They also allow beam shaping to avoiding dazzling other drivers, and aiming the beam in the direction of travel while turning. Our coverage of laser headlights (other stories) can be found here.

Canada: UPDATED - Airbus to test windscreen anti-laser film

Airbus will be testing a film said to reflect laser light, from Halifax-area manufacturer Lamda Guard. The announcement came at a June 4 2014 press conference jointly held by the two companies.

Lamda Guard’s “metaAir” film uses metamaterials, also called nano-composites, to reflect one or more laser colors without interfering with normal visibility. According to the company, the film can protect from beam angles up to +/- 50 degrees away from head-on. This has benefits when protecting cockpits against laser strikes, which can come from any angle.

It can be adhesively applied to glass or clear plastic; applications include eyewear, protective goggles and windscreens. Lamda Guard says that the Airbus tests on windscreens will mark the first time an optical metamaterial nano-composite has been applied on a large-scale surface.

metaAir small
General schematic of metaAir film. Click for larger image.



The metaAir film can be engineered either to absorb or reflect the desired wavelength(s). For aircraft application, the reflection approach is being used in order to block undesired light wavelengths from entering the cockpit. The reflection bandwidth is currently in the 15-20 nanometer range.

For the most common type of green laser pointer -- responsible for 93% of FAA reported incidents in 2013 -- with a wavelength of 532 nm, the film would block light from about 522 to 542 nm. Additional wavelength blocking can be added as well, such as the 445 nm blue used in powerful handheld lasers such as the Wicked Lasers S3 Arctic that has up to 2 watts (2000 milliwatts) output.

Two key advantages of blocking laser light at the windscreen are that pilots do not have to carry or use laser protective eyewear, and there is absolutely no interference with the visibility of aircraft instruments. In preliminary tests, the anti-laser film had a narrow enough bandwidth that it did not interfere with airport lights seen outside a cockpit.

Because of ultraviolet degradation to the adhesive layer that adheres the optical metamaterial to the windscreen, the film would need to be replaced after about 5,000 flight hours. This translates into overnight replacement roughly once every three years. The optical metamaterial itself would not have a flight hour restriction.

In addition to piloted commercial aircraft windscreens, Airbus will also be investigating related applications such as piloted military windscreens, UAV camera protection, and sensor protection for satellites and airborne platforms.

Click to read more...

US: FBI expands laser education & reward campaign nationwide for 3 months

The FBI is expanding nationwide its program to publicize the hazards of aiming laser pointers at aircraft, and to offer up to $10,000 as a reward for information leading to the arrest of laser perpetrators.

The original FBI education and reward program ran from February 11 to April 11 2014 in 12 U.S. cities that had high rates of laser/aircraft incidents. The FBI said the program led to a 19 percent decrease in lasing reports.

The new, nationwide program was announced June 3 2014. The $10,000 reward offer is scheduled to last for 90 days; until September 1.

The FBI said they are working on the educational campaign with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Air Line Pilots Association, International, and state, local and international law enforcement. They are outreaching to schools, teaching teens to not aim at aircraft.
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US: 134 laser arrests, 80 convictions, out of 17,725 incidents, 2005-2013

According to Ars Technica writer Cyrus Farivar, in the U.S. from 2005 to 2013 there were 134 arrests for aiming lasers at aircraft, out of 17,725 FAA-reported lasing incidents. He wrote “That means that even amongst reported incidents, there’s only a 0.75 percent chance of getting caught. Adding countless unreported incidents would only make that minuscule percentage go down further.”

Farivar noted that there were 80 convictions among the 134 arrests. One reason for the conviction rate of 60%: some who were arrested were minors who were never formally charged.

The extensively researched 4,200-word article, dated May 21 2014, was based around the 14-year sentence handed down in March 2014 to Sergio Rodriguez, for his August 2012 aiming of a laser at two helicopters, one medical and one police. Farivar used the case to illustrate many laser/aviation issues, especially about how prosecution is being used to try to educate and deter future incidents.

Farivar interviewed Karen Escobar, who has brought more cases against laser perpetrators than any other federal prosecutor. Her territory includes Sacramento, Fresno, and Bakersfield.

In the article, Escobar was quoted as saying “At sentencing, [Rodriguez] did not accept responsibility for his actions; he blamed his 2- and 3- year-old children. I believe the evidence showed the laser was a dangerous weapon, and there was intention, supporting a guideline sentence of 168 months. I would not call it harsh. I would say it is a penalty that fits the crime, but I believe that it will have a deterrent effect, and I hope it will.”

Farivar noted that, “While 14 years might sound incredibly excessive for an incident that caused no serious or lasting physical injury, much less death, this is the emerging reality for attorneys prosecuting laser strikes. The Rodriguez sentence now serves as an example of what can happen to defendants who don't take plea deals. (The plea deals typically end up being around two years.)”

From Ars Technica

US: UPDATED - Ocean City MD passes emergency ordinance banning sales, possession of laser pointers

The town of Ocean City, Maryland on May 19 2014 passed emergency legislation banning laser pointers. The action was taken on the Monday just before the upcoming Memorial Day weekend holiday.

The action comes after a number of previous measures had failed to stop misuse of lasers.
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US: 129 laser/aircraft incidents in Florida thus far in 2014

Between January and mid-May 2014, there were 63 lasings of aircraft in the South Florida area, and 129 incidents in all of Florida.

The NBC Miami “Team 6 Investigators” did a report on laser incidents, how pilots are endangered, and the enforcement effort to find perpetrators. The report aired May 16 2014.

From NBCMiami.com

US: Louisiana bill makes pointing lasers at aircraft a crime

A bill was introduced in the Louisiana State Legislature, making it a crime to intentionally point a laser at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft, in the aircraft jurisdiction of Louisiana.

HB1029 was introduced March 12 2014 by Representative Terry Landry, a Democrat from New Iberia. The House passed it by a vote of 97-0 on April 14, and it was sent to the Senate. As of May 13 2014, it had passed the Committee on Judiciary C and was being sent to the Senate floor for a vote. If it passes, as expected, it will be sent to Gov. Bobby Jindal for his signature.

The bill “provides penalties of imprisonment with or without hard labor for not less than one nor more than five years, and a fine of $2,000. For second or subsequent offenses, the offender shall be imprisoned with or without hard labor for not less than two years nor more than ten years and shall be fined $4,000.”

A police officer who testified before the Judiciary C Committee told of an incident where a suspect was tracked down but officers “couldn’t charge him with anything.” The FBI -- who could bring charges -- was given the information but after two months, nothing was done.

A police helicopter pilot was asked why people aim lasers at aircraft. He said “We don’t know their intentions,” and speculated that they could be “just fooling around” or trying to interfere with police work.


From the Times-Picayune and the Louisiana State Legislature website

US: Lockheed Martin demos laser that can burn holes in rubber boats from a mile away

Lockheed Martin’s Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) laser burned through the hull of two “military-grade” rubber boats, at a distance of one mile, in a May 2014 test in the Pacific Ocean. The laser locked onto and tracked the bobbing target, taking 30 seconds to deliver enough energy to burn through the multiple-layer rubber hull.

Lockheed Martin ADAM laser boat


A YouTube video shows infrared and visible footage of the test.



The 10-kilowatt High Energy Laser (HEL) system previously demonstrated an ability to track, target and destroy rockets traveling at high speed.

From Gizmag and Engadget

US: Air Force study to help protect pilots from laser injuries

TASC Inc., an engineering service company that does contract work for the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, is conducting research on laser and broadband hazards that are expected to be a part of future combat scenarios.

TASC is working on countermeasures such as laser eye protection and the development of procedures for injury assessment. The work is being performed under the Optical Radiation Bioeffects and Safety contract with the Air Force’s 711th Human Performance Wing’s Optical Radiation Bioeffects Branch at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.

From the San Antonio Business Journal

US: Review of 1-watt blue laser with US-required safety features

A USD $159 1-watt blue laser, apparently having all required FDA safety features, was reviewed by a gadget blog on May 4 2014.

The SKY Technologies Blue Handheld includes a keyswitch, 3-5 second emission delay, remote interlock, and a shutter to cut off the beam, as required by FDA regulations enforced by the agency’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). Under current (May 2014) law, the laser appears to be legal for sale and use in the U.S., assuming the manufacturer also submitted a proper Laser Product Report and has filled all other FDA/CDRH import and paperwork obligations.*

skytech_bluelaser-diagram-400w


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US: FDA proposes defacto ban on selling pointers, handhelds above 5 milliwatts

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 5 2014 will announce its intent to limit laser pointers and handheld lasers to be below 5 milliwatts. If adopted, this action would impose a defacto ban in the U.S. on the sale to consumers of portable, battery powered lasers of 5 mW or more. Currently, such lasers are available for sale in the U.S. at powers of up to 3 watts (3000 milliwatts) which is 600 times the proposed FDA limit.

Although the agency did not give a reason, such bans have been imposed in other countries in response to climbing numbers of laser illuminations of aircraft as well as reports of eye injuries caused by higher-powered consumer lasers.

The proposal would not make it illegal to own or responsibly use portable, battery-powered lasers of 5 mW or more. However, manufacturers could not make or sell these into general commerce in the U.S.

The agency will accept comments for 90 days (until August 2 2014) on the new proposal. FDA will then review the comments. Based on whether it believes any objections or suggestions are valid, the agency could put the guidance into effect (thus imposing their new interpretation), could submit a revised proposal, or could withdraw its proposal.

What lasers are covered by the proposed 5 mW limit?


FDA does not have direct authority over battery powered portable lasers. For example, the words “pointer” and “handheld” laser do not appear in U.S. laser regulations 21 CFR 1040.10 and 1040.11.

Therefore, to regulate these lasers, the May 5 draft proposes an extension of the FDA’s existing authority to regulate surveying, leveling and alignment (“SLA”) lasers. In the May 5 proposal, FDA asserts that the existing definition of SLA lasers also can applied to lasers with the following design characteristics:

  • Compact size (i.e. small, lightweight)
  • Battery power
  • Ergonomic design to permit hand-held use
  • An aperture in the laser product's protective housing to transmit laser emission into open space
  • Portability to permit use in open spaces or in unrestricted environments
  • Features that utilize the laser’s straight line emission for surveying, leveling, or alignment

According to the FDA, these types of lasers would be affected by the new 5 mW limit:

  • Laser pointers
  • Levels
  • Tools incorporating laser guides
  • Gun sights
  • Target designators
  • Night vision illuminators
  • Visual disruptors

What lasers are NOT covered by the proposed 5 mW limit?


The FDA's proposed 5 mW limit would NOT apply to lasers with the following design characteristics:

  • Predictable, stable power input and output
  • High quality power supply and/or power conditioning components
  • Adjustability of power and wavelength
  • Design that facilitates remote actuation
  • Non-portability
  • Hard wire connection to power mains

From the FDA’s Surveying, Leveling, or Alignment Laser Products - Draft Guidance for Industry and Food and Drug Administration Staff webpage, published online May 2 2014. This webpage includes the procedure for submitting comments to FDA.The FDA’s PDF version of the draft guidance document is here.


Editorial comment from LaserPointerSafety.com: We have previously published our opinion disagreeing with the FDA’s interpretation of “SLA” lasers. The existing regulations are clear on what constitutes “surveying, leveling or alignment” (SLA) lasers. While we understand the FDA’s intent, in our view, they are going about it the wrong way. They are essentially “making it up” by adding characteristics (size, battery power) which are in no way derived from the clear, existing definition of SLA lasers. As support of this position, we have not found any surveying, leveling or alignment lasers which look the same as the majority of laser pointers and handhelds. This topic is discussed in much greater detail on our page describing FDA authority over laser pointers and handheld lasers.

US: UPDATED - Arizona law adds penalties for aiming at aircraft

A law signed April 30 2014 by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer makes it illegal to aim a laser pointer at an occupied aircraft. A violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

In addition, if the pilot is unable to safely operate the aircraft, or if anyone onboard has a serious physical injury, the act becomes an assault. Apparently, under Arizona law, an “assault” would add to the seriousness of a Class 1 misdemeanor (possibly increasing the jail term and/or fine), but would not put it into another category such as a felony. (For more details, see this discussion and this page.)

House Bill 2164 was introduced January 13 2014. It amended existing Arizona statute Section 12-1213, which prohibited aiming a laser pointer at a peace officer. HB 2164 added a prohibition on aiming at an occupied aircraft.
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Germany: Latest film-inspired laser shoots beams out of glasses

Laser hobbyist Patrick Priebe has fabricated a unique pair of glasses that emulates the X-Men comic book hero “Cyclops”. It emits two powerful Class 4 blue laser beams, as if they are coming from a person’s eyes. In addition, there are two low-powered red aiming beams.

The technique is to look in the desired direction with the red aiming beams on, then to switch on the blue beams while looking at the desired target. The glasses have a lens that attenuates blue laser light, so that the user is protected in case of any reflected blue beams.

Patrick Priebe X-Men Cyclops laser glasses
The two blue beams emitted from Priebe’s glasses, each roughly 1 watt, can burn cloth and pop balloons.

X-Men Cyclops

His inspiration: Cyclops’s 2-gigawatt “optic blast,” which is red in the Marvel comic books.


An online YouTube video shows Priebe’s laser glasses in action:



Due to the inherent danger of head-worn lasers, Priebe is not making additional glasses and he is not offering plans for others to build their own.

Priebe has previously built custom laser gadgets such as a replica of Iron Man’s palm-mounted repulsor ray projector, a laser “Gatling gun” with six rotating 1.4 watt blue beams, and a laser gun that emits a non-visible 1 megawatt pulse.

From Gizmodo. Original video posted by AnselmoFanZero.

EU: Consumer lasers to be restricted to Class 2 (1 mW) maximum within 24 months

On February 5 2014, the European Union issued a “decision ... on the safety requirements to be met by European standards for consumer laser products." The decision will severely restrict or ban European consumer access to Class 3R, 3B and 4 lasers. For lasers emitting visible beams, this would restrict or ban consumer laser products with an output 1 milliwatt or greater.

(For reference, the full title of the 5 Feb 2014 document is 2014/59/EU: Commission Decision of 5 February 2014 on the safety requirements to be met by European standards for consumer laser products pursuant to Directive 2001/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on general product safety Text with EEA relevance. The document is online here.)

Timeframe and who is affected

The EU decision does not appear to directly affect laser product sales or access at this time (early 2014). Instead, it applies to European safety standards "pursuant to Directive 2001/95/EC”, the General Product Safety Directive. These standards would need to be updated to conform with the 5 Feb 2014 EC decision. The expected time is about 24 months.

A member of the IEC Technical Committee 76, the group which sets laser equipment safety standards, told LaserPointerSafety.com that "the standardization organizations are about to be requested to produce a new standard or amend an existing one, implementing/specifying such new requirements. The deadline for an amended or new standard seems to be within 24 months…. For now, it seems that the General Product Safety Directive, the Low Voltage Directive, and the Radio & Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Directive are the targeted ones.”

Once one or more standards are updated to meet the requirements of the 5 Feb 2014 EU decision, the new requirements would then be legally enforceable in the European Union.
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New Zealand: 119 laser/aircraft incidents in 2013 help lead to 2014 restrictions

During 2013, 119 aircraft were illuminated by lasers in New Zealand, according to Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew. In addition, 17 aircraft were illuminated during the first five weeks of 2014; most were large commercial airplanes. From 2006 to early 2014, there were a total of 391 laser/aircraft incidents in New Zealand.

On March 1 2014, new legislation took effect which severely restricts access to lasers over 1 milliwatts only to those with a legitimate use, such as astronomers.

A Jetstar spokesman said they regarded the pointing of lasers at aircraft as highly irresponsible and welcomed the new legislation.

Air New Zealand spokeswoman Brigitte Ransom said the new regulations were a positive step in mitigating the risks.

From the New Zealand Herald and the Manawatu Standard

Israel: Lasers on airplanes used to deflect missiles

Israel will begin equipping commercial aircraft with lasers to deflect incoming missiles. The C-MUSIC (Commercial MUlti-Spectral Infrared Countermeasure) system uses infrared sensors to automatically detect missiles fired towards the plane. A laser is then aimed at the missile’s navigation system to deflect it off course where it will explode and not harm the aircraft.

Elbit Systems C-Music SkyShield laser
The C-MUSIC system mounted on a Boeing 737-800


The system was developed after a 2002 incident in Kenya where terrorists fired two surface-to-air missiles at an Israeli charter plane carrying more than 250 passengers; the missiles missed their target. C-MUSIC will be added to all El Al aircraft. In addition, the developer Elbit Systems has contracts with other countries besides Israel.

From Wired via Ubergizmo

Canada: After 461 lasings in 2013, pilots want stricter penalties plus government controls on lasers

The president of Canada’s largest pilots’ group, the Air Canada Pilots’ Association, wants to make aiming a laser at an aircraft a Criminal Code offense. The Aeronautics Act already makes this illegal, with up to five years in prison and a maximum $100,000 fine, but it is not a criminal offense. The group feels their proposal would be a significant deterrence.

In addition, Capt. Craig Blandford said “We’d (also) like to see a control put on them, some kinds of permits or access to these things that’s somehow controlled. I’m not sure to go so far as to say we want them on a prohibited weapons list, but that’s one of the things that we’re pursuing in order to get stricter on control.”

In 2013, there were 461 laser/aircraft incidents reported to Transport Canada, as compared with 357 in 2012. As of February 12, there have been 44 incidents in Canada during 2014.

From the Ottawa Citizen. The story includes additional details on Canada statistics and the pilots’ proposals.

US: 96 FAA enforcement actions in two years

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued a February 11 2014 press release stating that from February 2012 through December 2013, the agency investigated 152 incidents of lasers aimed at aircraft, resulting in 96 enforcement actions.

During this timespan according to agency records, there were 7,149 reported incidents. This means that the FAA investigated 2.1% of the incidents, and took enforcement action in 1.3% of the incidents.

There were no specific details about how many enforcement actions resulted in a conviction and/or penalty such as a fine or jail time. The agency did say in general that “Federal, state and local prosecutors have sentenced laser violators to jail time, community service, probation and additional financial penalties for court costs and restitution.”

The press release distinguished between accidental and deliberate use of lasers: “The FAA’s guidance for agency investigators and attorneys stresses that laser violations should not be addressed through warning notices or counseling. The agency seeks moderately high civil penalties for inadvertent violations, but maximum penalties for deliberate violations.

From the FAA’s Fact Sheet - Laser Strikes

US: 3,960 laser incidents reported to FAA in 2013

Pilots reported seeing lasers 3,960 times in the U.S., according to Federal Aviation Administration statistics for the calendar year 2013, released on February 11 2014. The 2013 numbers reflect a rate of 10.8 incidents each night.

Other news based on the statistics:

  • In 2013, there were no incidents documented by FAA as causing eye injuries. Although there were incidents with eye effects such as temporary flashblindness, afterimage, blurry vision, eye irritation and/or headache, no incidents were serious enough to be tabulated as “eye injuries” by the agency. The FAA did say that in 2013, there were 35 incidents where pilots who were lased sought medical attention.

  • The closer an aircraft is to the ground, the greater the likelihood of reporting a laser incident. There is a strong peak in the number of incidents at 1000-3000 feet above ground level.

  • The color green was reportedly seen in the vast majority (92.8%) of incidents. Blue was a distant second with 2.4% of incidents.

  • For states, California had the most incidents (734), followed by Texas (416) and Florida (326).

  • For cities and regions, LaserPointerSafety has determined the Los Angeles area, including Van Nuys and Burbank, leads the nation with 147 incidents. Portland Oregon is second with 137 and Houston is third with 124. (Note that LaserPointerSafety.com tabulates regions slightly differently than the FAA or FBI, so these federal agencies may have slightly different numbers or rankings.)

  • FAA tabulates each incident according to the closest airport. For 2013, Portland (Oregon) International led this category with 133 incidents. Phoenix Sky Harbor International was second with 111, and Marin International in San Juan, Puerto Rico was third with 107. This does not necessarily mean that incidents occurred at or near these airports -- just that these were the closest airports to the reported incident.

Full details are on the 2013 laser/aircraft incidents page.

US: FBI offers $10,000 reward; warns public about laser pointer misuse

For 60 days, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is offering a reward of $10,000 for information about anyone pointing a laser at an aircraft. Between February 11 and April 11 2014, persons reporting lasers being pointed at aircraft should call their local FBI field office or the 911 emergency number.

This comes as part of a publicity campaign by the FBI to inform the public and especially teenagers about the dangers of lasing aircraft. The agency said teens are the primary age group responsible for laser/aircraft illuminations.

[Note: There appear to be no official records of perpetrators’ ages. However, here are lists of incidents recorded in LaserPointerSafety.com news items, based on the age of the perpetrator: 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69. Counting the stories in each group may give a rough indication of the age distribution of laser perpetrators.]

The two-month campaign will focus on 12 cities with large number of incidents. FBI field offices participating in the regional reward program are Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Juan, and the Washington Field Office.

During the campaign, the FBI and the Air Line Pilots Association International will work with Clear Channel Outdoor to hang billboards and issue public service announcements in these cities, warning people that a laser prank can lead to prison.
Click to read more...

US: Famous DJ explains why he had to have a 2 watt laser pointer

Avicii, a 24-year-old Swedish DJ and record producer, who was ranked #3 in the 2012 and 2013 “Top 100 DJ’s” poll of DJ magazine, purchased a 2 watt, $1,500 laser for recreational use. He discussed this in a February 1 2014 Rolling Stone profile where the interviewer asked “What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever spent money on?”

Avicii answered “I just bought a really awesome laser pointer. It's two watts, so it's five hundred times stronger than those regular green laser pointers. If you were standing on top of the Empire State Building with it, you could see all the way to Philadelphia. It's dangerous. You can't really play with it. You need to use goggles or you could go blind. But I saw some YouTube videos where it set stuff on fire, and I was like yes. It cost $1,500. That's not too bad for such an amazing invention.”

From Rolling Stone

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.

UK: Toy helicopters use real lasers in a dog fight

A small U.K. company, Terox Toys, has introduced toy helicopters equipped with laser pointers. The pointers appear to be on continuously as the helicopters fly. The goal is for one player’s laser to hit the other player’s helicopter, causing “damage” when the laser is detected. The first two hits cause parts to fall off; a third hit will cause the helicopter’s engines to stop.

A video showing the “AirTerminators Super Combat Helicopters” in January 2014 at the London Toy Fair shows an operator getting a brief laser hit just below his eye. The laser is said to be Class 1; if so, such a brief exposure would not be considered harmful according to safety guidelines.

However, it is not recommended for children to play with lasers. Further, it is unknown if the laser remains operational even if the helicopter is stationary or is handheld instead of free flying.

toy laser helicopter near eye
The helicopter is in the middle top of the photo. A red line can be seen just under the operator’s eye. This is the path of the laser from an opposing helicopter as it went across his face during the video frame. This can be seen at 34 seconds into a YouTube video of the demonstration.


From Pocket-Lint. The video is on YouTube.

Scotland: Concern over using laser pens to banish pigeons from Parliament building

The use of laser pens to scare pigeons away from the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh has been criticized by animal welfare activists.

Hawks were originally used to scare pigeons away from the modern building, opened in 2004. When these proved unsuccessful, contractors turned to the laser pens. They are primarily used at dawn and dusk to disturb and disperse roosting pigeons.

A spokesperson for the Pigeon Control Advisory Service said “Laser pens can be lethal and blind animals and birds. They are definitely not something we would ever recommend.” PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also said the animals eyes could be damaged and that other humane, non-harmful methods should be used.

From the Edinburgh News, Jan. 23 2014. Thanks to Paul Bluesky for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATED Jan. 27 2014: The contractors said they must abandon the “no kill” policy in order to further reduce the pigeon population on the Scottish Parliament building. A Parliament spokesperson said there had been no change of policy. From the Edinburgh News

US: Professor emails all students at university to remind them of laser safety

A physics professor at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston sent an email January 13 2014 to all students urging safe laser pointer use.

Douglas Brandt said that pointers should be labeled as Class 2 [less than 1 milliwatt] or Class 3R [less than 5 mW]. He stated that Class 3B and 4 lasers had the potential to damage the eye and were required to be registered with the State of Illinois.

He urged students to not direct a laser pointer at a person’s eye, and not to use Class 3B or 4 lasers, or unlabeled lasers.

Brandt is the laser safety officer at the university, which has about 11,600 students.

From the Daily Eastern News

US: NIST working to get forensics labs to measure laser pointers for court cases

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is working with law enforcement to measure the actual power and divergence of laser pointers used against aircraft. NIST hopes to develop a Hand-Held Laser Characterization System for about $10,000 to $30,000 which can be used in FBI or police forensics labs. This will help in prosecution of cases of lasers illegally aimed at aircraft.

The effort began when NIST physicist and laser safety officer Joshua Hadler worked with the U.S. Attorney’s office on a 2013 case in Fresno, California. Hadler already had devised a relatively simple and inexpensive way to accurately measure laser pointer powers. (His widely-reported study showed that a majority of pointers exceeded the U.S. limit of 5 milliwatts.)

But power is only one factor of the potential laser hazard. The beam spread, or divergence is another key factor. This is because a wide, high-divergence beam will have its energy spread out more, making it dimmer and less hazardous at a distance than an otherwise equivalent-power laser with a narrower, low-divergence beam.

To tackle this, Hadler used a pyroelectric laser camera to measure the laser’s divergence. From the power and divergence, and knowing the approximate distance to the aircraft from the Federal Aviation Administration incident reports, Hadler was able to calculate the irradiance, or laser power over a given area.

The information helped to get a conviction in the Fresno case. Hadler noted that in the past, “...the vast majority of prosecutions were failing, due in no small part to a basic lack of knowledge about the laser devices on the part of nearly everyone in the trial process, including lawyers, judges, and jury members. What they needed was to be able to acquire and present quantitative data about a device's power and its effects at a specified range that could be used in the judicial process."

Hadler will present a paper on February 21 2014 at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences meeting in Seattle, Washington. The paper, “Output Characterization of Handheld Lasers Used in Criminal Aircraft Illumination,” will discuss the needed measurements and will present ideas for having these measurements be done outside of NIST, in law enforcement forensic labs.

From PhysOrg

Australia: UFO hunters warned to avoid aircraft

UFO hunters in Australia are aiming laser pointers at the sky to cause them to “power up” and contact humans. A pilot responded by warning of the dangers of aiming lasers at lights in the sky.

Barry Jackson, an A380 pilot and former president of a pilot’s association, cautioned in early January 2014 that this can be “extremely dangerous” for aircraft that are landing.

UFO hunter Alan Ferguson agreed with Jackson’s characterization of the danger. Ferguson lives in Acacia Hills, about 35 miles from Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory. His website, UFOterritory.com.au, contains videos and descriptions of sightings, including some videos of lasers being used to contact or power up UFOs.

Ferguson noted that he and his UFO-hunting associates are “very professional ... and can see the difference between a UFO and a plane ... Especially when they just appear and then move off then stop again, no planes do that.” He said persons who do aim at aircraft are “idiots” and should be prosecuted.

On January 4 2014, laser pointers were aimed at aircraft landing at Darwin International Airport. Ferguson said neither he nor visiting associates used lasers during that time.

Persons who shine a laser pointer at aircraft in the Northern Territory can be jailed for up to four years.

laser aimed at UFO

UFO powering up due to laser

Two frames from a
YouTube video shot January 4 2014 by Peter Maxwell Slattery, using a night vision monocular. The first frame shows Slattery aiming a laser at a dot moving steadily across the sky from right to left. The next frame is from a few seconds later and shows the “power up” effect. A YouTube search for “UFO laser pointer” brings up numerous videos with titles such as “UFO’s respond to laser pointers” and “UFO inspects my laser pointer”.


From NT News and the Herald Sun, via Open Minds. See also these other UFO-related laser pointer stories at LaserPointerSafety.com.

Spain: 10,000 pointers seized during 2013 in Balearic Islands

During 2013, approximately 10,000 laser pointers were seized in the Balearic Islands. Of these, 1,613 were said to be “high-powered” lasers.

The four Mediterranean islands of Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentara are popular tourist destinations and are the largest of the group. They are administered as a province of Spain.

The seizures began after authorities discovered laser pointers being sold that were unsafe and/or not labeled according to regulations. Also, pilots were reporting that lasers were being aimed to try to blind the aviators.

Officers from the Directorate General of Public Health and Consumption, the Customs and Border Patrol from the Guardia Civil, and La Palma Local Police inspected the origin and labeling of laser pointers being sold in stores.

Laser pointers are only allowed in toys if they are Class 1 (less than 1 milliwatt) and there is a sign warning parents.

Class 2 laser pointers, between 1 and 5 milliwatts, are for professional use only. Lasers above 5 mW are not allowed to be sold and their use is limited.

From the EuroWeeklyNews

Worldwide: Audi introduces laser headlights; follows BMW's lead

German automaker Audi has introduced laser headlights on a Sport Quattro concept first shown publicly at the January 2014 CES show in Las Vegas. The laser headlights will also be used on Audi’s LeMans race car later in 2014.

Pic 2014-01-08 at 10.51.52 AM
Audi Sport Quattro concept car


BMW also has introduced laser headlights, on its electric supercar i8.

The headlights use laser diodes to energize a phosphor that creates white light. According to Audi, the beams have a range of 1640 feet, twice the distance of LED high beams.

Technically, the white-light beam would not have the same coherence as a laser, making it safer for human vision (at least, at normal driving distances -- any very bright light viewed up close could be an eye hazard). An Audi spokesperson said “Our main aim was to not dazzle any drivers, laser technology is much more accurate.”

Because the laser diodes are so tiny -- only a few micrometers in diameter -- the headlight assembly itself can be made smaller as well.

Pic 2014-01-08 at 10.58.16 AM
Closeup of the Audi laser headlights


The laser power appears to be about 10 watts, based on an Australian report that “the system is 10,000 times more powerful than a laser pointer”. Such pointers in Australia are limited to 1 milliwatt or 1/1000 watt. It is unclear if this refers to the total power of both headlights, or of a single headlight.

From Car and Driver, and News.com.au. MotorTrend has an excellent article from 2011 describing in detail how the BMW laser headlights work. It contains an account where journalists looked directly into the light without adverse effect.

US: UPDATED - Arizona bill to make aiming a laser at aircraft a felony

A bill will be introduced January 13 2014 by Arizona Representative Ethan Orr, making it a felony to point a laser at an aircraft. It would apply to all aircraft, including passenger planes and helicopters.

The Tucson Police Department had about 50 lasing incidents in 2013; the perpetrator was caught in most of the cases. But there was little prosecution.

Orr says the bill is needed because “there’s really no punishment. The county prosecutor, because it's not at a felony status, doesn't go after them. And so literally, you get a ticket and nothing happens. But you're endangering lives."

Orr is working with Tucson police pilot Chris Potter, who says he has been hit by a laser pointer about 100 times in his career. Potter says a laser pointer permanently damaged his right eye around 2011.

According to News 4 Tucson, “the FBI will launch a public awareness campaign about the issue next month.” It was not clear if this was an Arizona-area initiative or nationwide.

From News 4 Tucson

UPDATED - February 4 2014: The Arizona House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of increasing the penalty for persons who point lasers at aircraft. HB 2164 would make it a Class 5 felony, with a presumptive sentence of 18 months in prison, to knowingly or intentionally point a laser at an occupied aircraft. And the penalty would go to 30 months if the act disables the pilot or causes serious physical injury to anyone on board. The legislator who introduced the bill, Ethan Orr, is considering reducing the penalty slightly, to a Class 6 felony, when it goes to the full House. Prosecutors could reduce the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor when appropriate. Orr said this might be the case for youths so that a single mistake would not result in a felony record. From KWST.com. A related article at AZCentral.com includes comments from LaserPointerSafety.com’s Patrick Murphy on the issue.

UPDATE 2 - May 1 2014: The bill was eventually amended to make the act of aiming at an aircraft a Class 1 misdemeanor. The act became an assault if the pilot was unable to safely operate the aircraft or if anyone onboard suffered a serious physical injury. The amended version passed both legislative bodies and was sent to Governor Jan Brewer, who signed it on April 30 2014. From the Arizona State Legislature legislative history of HB2164.

UPDATE 3 - September 23 2014: The Arizona Police Association and other law enforcement groups want to increase the penalty to a felony. They hope to introduce a measure when the legislature re-convenes in January 2015.

New Zealand: NZ restricts handheld lasers over 1 milliwatt

Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew announced on December 18 2013 that New Zealand’s government has passed new regulations on hand-held high-power laser pointers.

The regulations were based in part on public submissions made in response to a November 2012 Ministry of Health proposal. Submissions were received from organisations including retailers, government agencies, non-government organisations, professional associations, importers, the aviation industry, members of the public and other organisations with an interest in high-power laser pointers. Their suggestions were compiled in a 20-page document which helped guide the new regulations.

"High-power laser pointers can cause eye injuries, even blindness, and skin burns. ACC accepts around 10 claims a year for these injuries," says Mrs Goodhew.

"They can also cause temporary flash blindness, which poses a serious risk if the person affected is a pilot or in charge of a vehicle or equipment. The Civil Aviation Authority reports around 100 laser strike incidents on planes each year.”

The new controls, under Health and Customs legislation, cover the import, supply and acquisition of high-power laser pointers. They do not currently restrict the possession of high-power laser pointers. A bill is before Parliament which, if passed, would make it illegal to be in a public place with a laser pointer without a reasonable excuse.”

"The new controls have been crafted to only target the high risk hand-held laser pointers with a power output of greater than 1 milliwatt,” Goodhew said. “The regulations are in line with Australia’s restrictions and recommendations by the World Health Organization.”
Click to read more...

Canada: Regina has 12 laser pointer incidents thus far in 2013

The Regina (Saskatchewan) Airport Authority and the Regina Police Department said that from January 1 to December 11, 2013, there have been 12 incidents where a laser beam has been aimed into the cockpit of an airplane.

This compares with five laser incidents during 2012, and one during 2011.

The officials reminded the public that lasing an aircraft is illegal.

From CTV News and OHS Canada

Sweden: Detailed study released of worldwide laser pointer eye injuries

The Strål Säkerhets Myndigheten (Swedish Radiation Safety Authority) has released a study investigating eye injuries from laser pointers. The following is from the abstract:

“The purpose of this study was to investigate what dose of laser radiation, in terms of intensity and exposure time, may be associated with eye damages. The study has been limited to unwanted exposures of laser radiation from commercially available laser pointers. Of particular interest has been to search for data that clarify the dose-response relationships for functional disabilities that persist more than 6 months.”

“The study shows that long-term vision loss can occur as a result of involuntary exposure from commercially available (strong) laser pointers at close range. The injury may occur before a normal person is able to respond by closing the eyelid, although there are only a few cases reported. A minor such damage is transient within a few days. It is also likely that such a visible injury to the retina becomes functional, i.e. prevents reading skills. What dosage is required for the disability to become permanent is not clear in the literature. Also, the dynamics of evolvement and repair of tissue damages and disabilities are hardly described at all.”

Author: Stefan Löfgren, Jörgen Thaung and Cesar Lopes
Publisher: Strål Säkerhets Myndigheten (SSM - Swedish Radiation Safety Authority)
Language: English
Publication date: 19 November 2013
No of pages: 50
Price per publication: 100 SEK (incl. VAT)
Download: 2013:30 Laser pointers and Eye injuries - An analysis of reported cases [1385 kb]

A summary by LaserPointerSafety.com of the study’s objectives, major findings, and conclusion is here.

UPDATED January 2016: The SSM released an update, with 47 additional cases worldwide of eye injuries from consumer lasers. A summary by LaserPointerSafety.com is here; the full SSM document is here.

US: Tucson police pilot says he has permanent retinal damage from laser exposure

A pilot for the Tucson Police Department, Chris Potter, told KVOA News on November 21 2013 that he has permanent retinal damage from an incident that occurred “a couple of years ago”. He said ‘The laser beam came through the window on my right side, penetrated my right eye ... damaged my retina.”

The statement came as hundreds of Arizona law enforcement pilots attended a safety seminar in Tucson focusing on laser beam incidents. In 2012 in Tucson alone, the police department’s air unit had “close to 50 incidents”, according to Potter. As of November 2013, Phoenix was the top U.S. city for laser incidents.

From KVOA News

US: FBI uses sophisticated surveillance to catch Portland man who lased ~25 aircraft

Multiple police and government agencies, led by the FBI, flew airplanes and installed surveillance cameras, in a sophisticated attempt to find the person who had aimed a laser pointer at aircraft over 25 times. The story, which reads like a spy novel, is laid out in an application for a search warrant that was filed by the FBI October 17 2013 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.

The operation was initiated in August 2013, after multiple incidents of lasers being aimed at aircraft around Portland International Airport. Four law enforcement aircraft were equipped with video surveillance cameras.

On August 10, five aircraft were targeted by a ground-based green laser. One was an Alaska Airlines flight; two were from the FBI and two were from the Portland Police Bureau. At the same time, a surveillance team was on the ground. Using information from the FBI/PBB aircraft sightings, the ground officers observed suspicious behavior from a male in the back yard of a duplex apartment. He was looking up at the sky. He removed something mounted from a stand or pole, and went inside. The laser strikes ceased afterwards.

Six days later, after reviewing the video, consulting Google Earth and Google Maps, and visiting the apartment complex, an FBI Special Agent determined that Apartment 35 -- the one previously surveilled -- was the most likely source of the laser. The apartment was occupied by 39-year-old Stephen Francis Bukucs.

Surveillance cameras were then secretly installed, watching Apartment 35. They could see in daylight, low light and nighttime (using infrared).
Click to read more...

US: Latest FAA statistics show 3,188 incidents, Jan 1 to Oct 17 2013

The Federal Aviation Administration has received 3,188 reports of laser/aircraft incidents in the U.S. from January 1 through October 17 2013. This compares to 2,732 reports over the same time period in 2012.

The 2013 figure of 3,188 laser/aircraft incidents is 16.7% higher than the same period in 2012. If incidents continue at the same pace, there will be 4,063 incidents in calendar year 2013.

Pic 2013-10-22 at 12.46.26 PM

Total Incidents, 2004 to Date
There have been approximately 16,936 laser/aircraft incidents reported to FAA, from January 1 2004 through October 17 2013.

For additional details on previous years, see the year-end statistics for 2012, 2011 and 2010.


Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com


This 16.7% increase represents a setback from the 2012 totals, which were 3% lower than in 2011. Having a rise in 2013 incidents seems to indicate that the publicity and prosecutions which form the majority of current U.S. anti-laser efforts are not having the desired effect.

There has been some speculation that the 2013 figures differ from 2012 in part because FAA may have updated its incident reporting procedures. While FAA is working to include military and overseas incidents, this has not yet been done. In this respect the 2013 figures are directly comparable to earlier years.

Another possible explanation is that pilots have become more aware of the issue and are thus more likely to report a laser sighting. However, pilot information has been widely available since 2008 and has increased as this became of more concern. By now, most pilots should be alerted to the issue and FAA’s reporting requirements. There has not been a major push during 2013 in this area, so increased pilot reporting is probably not a major factor in causing 2013 reports to increase over 2012.

US: New Jersey governor vetos bill to ban laser pointer sales

A bill to ban the sale of laser pointers over 1 milliwatt, passed by the New Jersey legislature in August 2013, was vetoed on October 17 2013 by Governor Chris Christie.

In his veto message, Christie noted that the New Jersey bill would have gone “well beyond” the federal government’s 5 milliwatt limit for laser pointers. He said there was no criminal use of lasers between 1 and 5 mW in New Jersey. Christie indicated the bill was “arbitrary” and interfered with lawful commerce of pointers typically used in business presentations. (See full text below, after the “Read More…” link.)

The bill was first submitted in November 2010, in response to ongoing problems in Ocean City, N.J. and other beach resort towns where widespread laser pointer sales in boardwalk shops were leading to harassment incidents and aircraft illuminations. The bill, A3169/S418, passed the state Senate on August 19 2013 by a vote of 36-1. It had previously passed the General Assembly on June 24 2013 by a vote of 70-7, with one abstention.
Click to read more...

US: Underwriters Labs offers third-party testing for laser pointer sellers

Underwriters Laboratories announced on October 17 2013 that it will offer third-party testing of laser pointers for manufacturers and retailers. UL said this came in response to increasing laser pointer incidents and mislabeling. In February 2013, the National Institute of Standards and Technology reported that most laser pointers they tested were not in compliance with U.S. laser regulations.

These regulations, 21 CFR 1040.10 and 1040.11, require laser product manufacturers only to self-certify to the Food and Drug Administration that their products meet safety standards. Once the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health reviews and acknowledges the certification, the laser product can be marketed in the United States.

UL is providing a third-party, independent check on the manufacturer’s claims. This can be provided to retailers such as Amazon.com which in August 2013 began requiring third-party verification of lasers sold on its website. UL can also assist with preparation of a manufacturer’s FDA report.
Click to read more...

World: Smartphone app can remotely control handheld laser

Internet seller Wicked Lasers has introduced a $200 handheld laser whose beam power and on/off patterns can be remotely controlled by a smartphone app. The Evo is a green (532 nm) laser with a minimum of 100 milliwatts of output power (safety Class 3B) and a beam divergence of 1.5 milliradians. The stated Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance is 154 feet or 47 meters.

The company’s free “Evo” app is available on Apple iOS and Android app stores. A smartphone connects to the Evo laser either using a cable from the audio output jack, or wirelessly using an optional $40 Bluetooth module that attaches to the laser. Once connected, the app allows remote control of the laser’s output power, and of its flashing frequency. (Although anyone can download the app, the software does not appear to run unless connected to a Wicked E4 series laser such as the Evo.)

The software code is available as open source, so that hobbyists can create their own software to custom-control the Evo.

Wicked Evo smartphone anim
Operating modes include Continuous, Momentary, Strobe, Fade, Morse Code and Ambient (microphone audio level). Click for a YouTube video showing these modes in action.

Click to read more...

US: Time-lapse video shows astronomy lasers being used at Mauna Kea

[Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: The following video is discussed because of its inherent beauty, as well as a reminder that it is possible to safely and legally aim high-powered lasers outdoors.]

Sean Goebel, a graduate student in astrophysics, has produced a 3-minute time-lapse video showing observatories at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, shooting lasers into the night sky. By analyzing how the beam is distorted by the atmosphere, a telescope’s mirror can be counter-distorted in order to obtain sharper images for astronomers.

2 lasers at Mauna Kea
A still frame from the video. Two telescopes are simultaneously observing the same spot in the Milky Way, using lasers to help give a sharper image.


Goebel writes about the lasers:

“A typical laser pointer that you might use to point at stuff/exercise your cat is about 5 mW. That's five one-thousandths of a watt. Not a whole lot of power. And yet it's enough to blind airplane pilots. The lasers on the telescopes are in the range of 15-40 watts. The FAA calls a no-fly zone over the area when a laser is in use, and two people have to stand around outside in the freezing temperatures and watch for airplanes. Each of them has a kill switch to turn off the laser in case an airplane comes near.”

“Additionally, the telescope has to send its target list to Space Command ahead of time. Space Command then tells them not to use the laser at specific times, ostensibly to avoid blinding spy satellites. However, you could calculate the spy satellite orbits if you knew where they were at specific times, so Space Command also tells the telescope to not use the laser at random times when no satellites are overhead.”


To clarify, the FAA does not have a no-fly zone, but instead issues a “Notice to Airmen” or NOTAM about the laser operations. It is not illegal to fly over the area. Fortunately, at Mauna Kea’s location and altitude only a couple of flights per month fly at night within the laser-affected airspace over the mountain. At one telescope, planes get close enough to the beam to cause a shutoff once every year or twin.

Automated aircraft-detection systems are slowly being tested and phased in, since the cost of having humans watch the skies all night at Mauna Kea’s altitude (13,700 feet) is about $600,000 per year.

The video, “Mauna Kea Heavens”, can be seen at Sean Goebel’s website, which also has more information about adaptive optics lasers and how the video was made. Additional information on aircraft frequency and spotting techniques is courtesy Paul Stomski of the Keck Observatory. A story about Keck’s aircraft protection system appears online in Ascend magazine.

UK: Pilots want stronger laws, jail, for laser attacks

The British Airline Pilots’ Association has issued an emergency bulletin to BALPA members, on how to avoid adverse consequences of being illuminated by laser pens. In addition, BALPA wants changes in British law so anyone possessing higher-powered lasers without a legitimate reason would be jailed.

The Association says the lasers are too easily available, and that although it is illegal to aim a laser at an aircraft, the punishments have been too lenient: “Slaps on wrists and £150 fines are not enough.”

According to a September 29 2013 article in the Sunday Express, there were 1,570 laser incidents reported to the Civil Aviation Authority in 2012, and 1,911 in 2011. The most prominent airports cited were Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, the East Midlands, Bristol, Heathrow and Gatwick.

From the Sunday Express

US: Toy helicopter powered by 500-watt laser beam; kept aloft for more than a day

A $300 AR Drone toy helicopter was kept aloft for over a day by a 500-watt invisible laser beam aimed at solar panels that hung underneath. The successful laser-powered flight endurance record was set by the Kansas City Space Pirates robotics team.

They noted that the technique could be scaled up to create laser-powered drones that could do useful work: “commercial laser-powered flight applications are only a few years away.”
Click to read more...

UK: Handheld (industrial) laser easily cuts through metal

A UK firm, TWI Ltd., has made a handheld laser that can easily cut through plate metal up to 10 mm thick. In 2010, the Cambridge company developed an industrial robot with a laser cutter head, used to decommission nuclear reactors. To create the handheld version, they removed the head from the robot, and added a pistol stock with trigger to turn the beam on and off.

Pic 2013-09-30 at 5.51.25 PM


The device came to public attention September 28 2013 when gadget blog Gizmodo published an article entitled Holy Crap, This Real-Life Laser Rifle Cuts Through Metal Like Nothing. The article links to TWI’s YouTube video of the laser in action.

Click to read more...

New Zealand: Bill to make handheld laser possession in public illegal, passes first reading

A bill making it illegal to possess a handheld laser in a public place without reasonable excuse, unanimously passed its first reading on September 25 2013. Member’s Bill 88-1 would cover all handheld lasers and laser pointers, regardless of power. The full text is here.

The bill was originally introduced November 15 2012. The sponsor, National MP Dr Cam Calder, said the handheld laser pointers “have the potential to cause considerable harm, and put lives at risk when improperly used.” In addition to a penalty of up to three months in prison and up to a NZD $2000 fine (USD $1650), police also would be able to confiscate lasers.

Dr Calder told Parliament that the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association was “very much” in favor of the bill. In 2012, there were over 100 incidents where lasers were aimed at aircraft and moving vehicles.

According to NZ News, “Labor and the Greens supported the bill, although they had concerns the definitions in the bill might be too broad.” Below is the debate on the bill (after the “Read More…” link.) The bill was referred to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee; their report is due on or before March 25 2014.

In addition, the Ministry of Health is developing regulations addressing the importation and sale of handheld lasers. They are expected to be announced by the end of 2013.
Click to read more...

US: FAA prosecutes 1.5% of all laser/aircraft incidents

The FAA has opened 129 enforcement cases against persons who aimed laser devices at aircraft. The figure comes from an FBI press release issued September 17 2013.

This appears to describe civil cases brought by FAA based on violations of 14 CFR 91.11, which states “No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember's duties aboard an aircraft being operated.” The maximum penalty is an $11,000 fine. FAA announced on June 1 2011 its intent to charge laser perpetrators under this law, so the 129 cases referenced above would be since that time.

During the same time period, from June 2011 to September 2013, there were 8,507 reported laser/aircraft incidents in the U.S. This means that 1 out of every 70 reported incidents results in a civil prosecution. Stated another way, 1.5% of all laser/aircraft incidents result in a civil prosecution.
Click to read more...

Germany: 261 laser/aircraft incidents in 2012

In Germany during 2012, there were 261 incidents reported of lasers being aimed at aircraft. Twenty-seven of these were in the Berlin area.

This information was given by a spokesperson for Berlin Tegel airport, speaking after a September 8 2013 incident where a 14-year-old boy aimed a laser at three airplanes landing at the airport.

From BZ-Berlin (original German text and Google-translated English text)

US: Laser aimed from aircraft to ground results in dozens of calls

An airplane flying around Honolulu and other parts of Oahu, shining a green laser onto residents, is actually mapping Hawaii using LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging). The mapping normally is done during daylight hours but was moved to nighttime due to FAA flight restrictions.

In a September 16 2013 article, HawaiiNewsNow said there were “dozens” of inquiries about the nighttime green light. One person emailed that the aircraft circled his area about six times at 1:00 am, with a wide green laser that appeared to be scanning downward. Another email confirmed the multiple passes with a V-shaped green laser.

The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting the work. They stated that the laser is not harmful to the eyes. The Oahu work should take about a week, and mapping the entire state should conclude in November.

From HawaiiNewsNow. Similar flyovers using visible green lasers have occurred in other U.S. cities, such as New York City in 2010 and 2012, according to a a brief Google search of such reports, for example here and the comments here.

UK: "Blaze" bike light uses laser to caution motorists during night rides

A design student in the U.K. has developed an LED bicycle light that also includes a laser. It projects a green graphic of a bicycle in front of the bicycle, to help warn motorists and pedestrians during low light and night riding.

bicycle laser light


The laser-projected image appears to be formed by a holographic diffraction grating, similar to those used in “caps” on laser pointers to make simple logos such as faces, dollar signs and other graphics:

Pic 2013-09-16 at 3.32.45 PM


Blaze’s inventor, Emily Brooke, put the product on Kickstarter in November 2013 and reached its funding goal within 27 days. The initial cost of a Blaze is £60 (USD $96).

A description at Kickstarter states that when Blaze is off of its bracket on the bicycle, the laser cannot be turned on, as a safety measure. The internal laser will be a “more powerful module than you’d typically find in a laser pointer”. However, because the beam is spread out by the optical element, it will be a Class 2 laser product with human access safety equivalent to a laser pointer that is less than 1 milliwatt.

She also notes that the laser is aimed down onto the road so it will not dazzle drivers.

From CNN

UPDATED -- October 27 2014: Blaze is out of Kickstarter and is a product. The new website is at Blaze.cc. According to the website, as of October 2014 the company has sold 3,000 Blaze laser bike lights. The final cost is $200, shipped anywhere worldwide. The laser is a direct-diode green laser, not a DPSS. It is said to be “retina safe.”

Canada: Laser strikes up significantly in Edmonton

Incidents of persons aiming lasers at Edmonton police aircraft have risen significantly. As of September 9 2013, there have been 10 such incidents. This compares with 9 incidents in all of 2012, and 4 incidents in 2011.

A police pilot spokesperson said laser users are not reading the packaging which clearly states not to aim at aircraft. After being caught, "There's been a lot of apologies, a lot of regret, some people not realizing the consequences of what they were doing, and then there's been the far opposite -- I can't believe this is happening, this is ludicrous, this isn't serious, it's just a laser pointer."

The pilot also said that a ban is not the answer: "If it's used properly, it's harmless. It's hard to ban something like that, the sale of it completely if 95% of the general public are using it properly."

He noted that not just police aircraft are being lased. Commercial and private aircraft also are at risk.

Edmonton police helicopter pilots are equipped with safety glasses for use during laser illuminations. They have two pair, one to attenuate red laser light and one to attenuate green laser light.

For details on the two most recent Edmonton incidents, on September 6 and 7 2012, see this LaserPointerSafety.com story.

From the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun. Thanks to Keith Murland for bringing this to our attention.

US: $208 million contract to protect Army helicopters from laser threats

The U.S. Army on August 26 2013 awarded a $208.5 million multi-year contract to UT Aerospace Systems ISR in Danbury, Conn. for a passive laser warning system to detect analyze and display threat information when a helicopter is illuminated by lasers. The flight crew is directed on how to take evasive action. The laser threats can be from weapons that use lasers for designation and range finding, and from blinding lasers.

The Army/Navy Piloted Aircraft/Visual and Visible Light/Receiving, Passive Detecting (AN/AVR-2B) Laser Detecting Sets (LDS) uses four sensor units placed on the aircraft. It is smaller, lighter and uses less power than a previous generation developed for the cancelled Comanche helicopter program.

News reports did not state how much it costs to equip each helicopter with an AN/AVR-2B system.

Army laser detection sensors
One of the four sensor packages to detect laser threats on U.S. military helicopters


From Avionics Intelligence August 31 2013 and September 3 2013

Saudi Arabia: UPDATED - 14 young patients injured by high-powered handheld lasers

Over about two years, fourteen patients were seen at the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with eye injuries due to handheld blue (450 nm) blue lasers with powers of up to 1200 milliwatts (1.2 watts). Ten of the patients required surgery to improve their eyesight, while the other four improved with observation alone.

According to HealthNewsDigest.com, “All injuries occurred during play and involved teenage boys and young males, between the ages of 11 and 30. Some injuries were accidental, but others involved a playmate intentionally pointing the laser beam at the victim's eye. The distance between the victim's eye and the laser beam ranged from 1.7 feet to 20 feet (a half-meter to 6 meters). Those who suffered retinal holes were injured at the closest distance, around half meter, or 1.7 feet. Generally, injury from greater distance resulted in less serious damage, the authors of the report say.”

The report was presented August 24 2013 during a Toronto meeting of the American Society of Retina Specialists by Fernando Arevalo, M.D. He is professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in Baltimore Maryland and is also affiliated with the Saudi hospital. Dr. Arevalo hopes that his findings, which were provided to the Minister of Health, will result in changes to how Saudi Arabia regulates handheld lasers.
Click to read more...

US: FDA asks Customs' help on illegal imports of laser pointers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking U.S. Customs and Border Protection to notify it of all importations of laser products, including small, personal packages sent by postal mail and courier services. FDA suspects that lasers over 5 mW are being illegally sent in packages with labels such as “flashlight” and “toy”. This evades the FDA’s import declaration Form 2877 as well as Customs’ Section 321 allowing duty-free entry of shipments for one person on one day, valued at less than $200.

Using Form 2877, the importer must submit information on each shipment and must affirm that the products comply (or do not comply) with FDA laser regulatory standards. But if a small package omits Form 2877 and is mislabeled (not using the word “laser”), this is an attempt to evade FDA and Customs. FDA specifically notes that such single-package Section 321-type imports do not meet the FDA’s criteria for enforcement discretion for personal importation.

Lasers that FDA is interested in include laser pointers, laser gun sights, laser levels, laser light shows, laser pointer key chains, veterinary laser products, laser illuminators and similar products. If a shipment does not meet FDA requirements, it can then be detained by the FDA and would not be allowed into the country.

From STR Trade Report. Thanks to New Aje Lasers for bringing this to our attention.

Belgium: Art installation uses laser pointers to trigger visuals, play music in a church

Hand-held laser pointers are used to control music and trigger projected visuals, in a 2013 art installation in the Royal Chapel of Protestante Church in Brussels. The church’s architectural elements were specially projection-mapped. Detectors see the laser “dot” and use this as input to an “interactive virtual musical instrument,” where different locations map to different instruments and melodies. In addition, video projectors are triggered to illuminate areas near the laser dot.

Archifon II laser church art installation Brussels
The laser pointer coming from lower left leaves a trail of falling “stars,” while the laser coming from the right triggers a glow on a ceiling beam plus a video to play on the ceiling.


The installation, Archifon II, was created by artists Tomáš Dvorák and Dan Gregor.

From Archifon, which has an embedded video of the installation shown above, Archifon II, as well as the first Archifon.

US: UPDATED - New Jersey to ban laser pointer sales above 1 mW

A bill to ban the sale of laser pointers over 1 mW has passed the New Jersey General Assembly and Senate, and is awaiting Governor Chris Christie’s signature. The bill, A3169/S418, passed the state Senate on August 19 2013 by a vote of 36-1. It had previously passed the General Assembly on June 24 2013 by a vote of 70-7, with one abstention.

The bill was first submitted in November 2010, in response to ongoing problems in Ocean City, N.J. and other beach resort towns where widespread laser pointer sales in boardwalk shops were leading to harassment incidents and aircraft illuminations.

As passed, the bill states that “No person shall sell or offer to sell a laser pointer that exceeds one milliwatt in output power.” A pointer is further defined as “any device that emits laser light to project a beam that may be used for aiming, targeting or pointing out features.”

The penalty is a civil fine of up to $500 for the first offense, and up to $1000 for each subsequent offense. There are two exemptions: for laser pointers intended to be affixed to a firearm, and for a laser pointer used by or under the supervision of a N.J. licensed healthcare practitioner.

If signed in August 2013 by Gov. Christie, it would take effect December 1 2013.

From CBS New York and New Jersey 101.5. The bill’s legislative history and text is available on the New Jersey Legislature website; use the “Bill Search” feature to search the 2012-2013 legislative session for the keyword “laser”.

UPDATED - October 17 2013: The bill was vetoed on October 17 by Governor Christie. In a statement, he noted that the bill would have gone “well beyond” the federal government’s 5 milliwatt limit for laser pointers. He said there was no criminal use of lasers between 1 and 5 mW in New Jersey. Christie indicated the bill was “arbitrary” and interfered with lawful commerce of pointers typically used in business presentations. The full text of Christie’s veto message is here.

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

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: Army Research Laboratory works on laser protection for eyes, sensors, etc.

An article on Military.com discusses the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, and its work to protect people, sensors and equipment from laser damage. ARL has done this type of work for almost 20 years.

Laser protection team leader Andy Mott was quoted as saying “Lasers of varying pulse width and wavelength are being developed every day. We protect against the known threats, and unknown ones. We develop protection for electronic sensors of the future, as well as the sighting systems of today.”

More details are at the Military.com story

US: Amazon.com tightens rules for laser pointer sales

Amazon.com has recently tightened its rules for selling laser pointers and related products. This comes after studies showing Amazon and other online retailers were selling lasers which were often far above the claimed power. For example, a December 2012 study tested 24 laser pointers purchased on Amazon. Although they were advertised as being 5 mW or less, the average power was 41 mW.

The new Amazon.com policy requires pre-approval of laser pointers and related products. The products are limited to Class 3R (5 mW) or less and must be branded; examples include Kensington, Quartet, 3M and Logitech. Products must have a testing report from Intertek, UL or SGS.

It is not known if this is a U.S.-only policy or if it extends to other non-U.S. Amazon sites.
Click to read more...

US: Think Geek introduces toy shark with frickin' laser on its head

A toy shark with a Class 1 (less than 1 milliwatt) laser pointer attached to its head has been developed and marketed by Think Geek. The $15 novelty item was introduced around August 8 2013 by the Internet retailer of gadgets, toys, t-shirts and other items for “geeks”. Because the laser is Class 1, it appears to comply with the FDA’s proposed new guidelines for children’s toy laser products.

Think Geek shark with laser pointer


The gadget references the Austin Powers spy spoof movies. In 1997’s International Man of Mystery, the character Dr. Evil asks for “frickin’ sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads.” In 2002’s Goldmember, his son Scott actually develops the sharks:

Pic 2013-08-08 at 5.59.41 PM

From Think Geek by way of Gizmodo. See also our May 2012 story about a laser pointer attached to a (real) shark’s fin, done for publicity purposes.

US: FDA warns parents of dangers of laser toys; issues draft guidance

The Food and Drug Administration issued draft guidance for industry, and a press release for the public about the hazards of lasers in toys and used by children.

In an August 6 2013 press release and Consumer Health Information article, FDA warned parents that lasers operated unsafely can cause serious eye injuries and even blindness. FDA said injuries from lasers can go unnoticed for days or weeks since there is no pain. But vision can slowly deteriorate over time, eventually causing permanent eye damage.

FDA gave the following as examples of children’s toy laser products:

  • Lasers mounted on toy guns that can be used for “aiming”;
    • Spinning tops that project laser beams while they spin;
    • Hand held lasers used during play as “light sabers”;
    • Dancing laser beams projected from a stationary column; and
    • Lasers intended for entertainment that create optical effects in an open room.

Interestingly, the FDA’s press release and article gave tips on safe usage, including not aiming at car drivers or sports players -- but did not say that it is unsafe and illegal to aim at aircraft.

On August 7 2013, FDA issued draft guidance for industry on minimizing the risk of lasers in children’s toys. Comments are invited within 90 days of the Federal Register publication of the guidance, or by November 4 2013. The draft guidance is reprinted below.
Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Laser pointer restrictions have made a "huge" positive difference in Myrtle Beach

The first summer after Myrtle Beach, SC, passed an ordinance restricting the sale of laser pointers to minors, and restricting the strength to less than 1 milliwatt, there have been “remarkably fewer complaints than we did last year,” according to a spokesperson for the city. “The ordinance seems to have made a huge difference.”

He said that lasers last year, in 2012, were a “fad”. Visitors to the city purchased them from vendors as an impulse purchase

Horry County, which also passed a similar law, has seen similar results. “So far this year, there has been a large decrease in calls concerning the usage of green lasers and zero citations have been issued,” said Lt. Robert Kegler of the Horry County Police.

In the summer of 2012, there were 70 reports of lasers being aimed at aircraft near Myrtle Beach International Airport. The equivalent number for 2013 is not known.

Both ordinances state that adults improperly using lasers will be charged with assault and battery; the penalty is a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail. They will also be held liable for any damage or personal injury. Minors improperly using lasers will be prosecuted in Family Court, and their parents can be held responsible with a fine of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail.

From Myrtle Beach Online and CarolinaLive.com

UPDATED September 3 2013: A letter from Coast Guard officials had some additional information: “Notable progress has been made, evident through a recent spring break sting operation that found no businesses selling lasers along the beachfront. There were a of [sic] total 68 laser incidents reported to the FAA in 2012 in the greater Myrtle Beach area. So far in 2013, the Coast Guard has not had any of its aircraft illuminated by lasers in the area. We applaud the efforts made by local leaders and sincerely appreciate the community’s support of the initiative.” The August 30 2013 letter was signed by Capt. Ric Rodriguez, Commander, Coast Guard Sector Charleston and by Commander Gregory Fuller, Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Air Station Savannah. From Myrtle Beach Online

US: FDA proposes amending Federal laser manufacturer regulations

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to amend the Federal Performance Standard for Laser Products (21 CFR 1040.10 and 1040.11). FDA says the changes are intended to 1) put U.S. standards closer to international IEC 60825 standards, 2) to help manufacturers lower costs, 3) to improve FDA’s effectiveness in regulating laser products and 4) to better protect and promote the public health.

The proposal was issued in the Federal Register on June 24 2013. The public may send comments to FDA until September 23 2013. FDA will then evaluate the comments, make any changes as a result, and at a future date will put the amendments into effect.

For consumer lasers, the most significant proposal is to create a new category of specific purpose lasers, “children’s toy laser products.” FDA says these could include lasers intended for creating entertaining optical effects, dancing laser beams projected from a stationary column, spinning tops which project laser beams, or lasers mounted on toy guns for “aiming.” FDA defines such toys as “a product that is manufactured, designed, intended or promoted for use by children under 14 years of age.”

The laser inside such a toy would be restricted to Class I (less than 1 mW for visible light). This is because FDA is concerned that if the toy were broken or disassembled, a higher power laser could harm a child.
Click to read more...

Sweden: Ban/restrictions proposed on laser pointers 1 mW or more

Sweden’s national government has proposed banning “powerful laser pointers,” defined as handheld Class 3R, 3B and 4 lasers. This would make it illegal from November 1 2013 to import, produce, acquire, possess, use, transfer or lease any handheld laser 1 mW and above, without a permit. Swedes who currently own laser pointers 1 mW and above could not possess them after December 31 2013.

Some countries such as Australia and the U.K. have restrictions on lasers starting at 1 mW (3R, 3B and 4), while others such as the U.S. have restrictions starting at 5 mW (3B and 4 only).

The Swedish government invites comments on the proposal, EU notification text, number 2013/0365/S-X00M. This can be done up until October 4 2013 by anyone, whether a national of Sweden or not. At the EU notification link, there are additional links to obtain language-specific versions of the proposal; for example, the English draft text of the proposed laser pointer ban.

Comments can be sent to the EU Contact point Directive 98/34 at:
Pic 2013-07-23 at 6.11.42 PM
or send a fax to +32 229 98043. Also, Martin Lindgren of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority has requested a copy so he is aware of the comments as well:
Pic 2013-07-23 at 6.07.08 PM

Additional details are below.
Click to read more...

Egypt: First-person account detailing laser use during Cairo protests

There has been widespread news coverage about the use of laser pointers and laser displays before and during the demonstrations in Cairo against President Mohamed Morsi, in late June/early July 2013.

A new, first-person account from Egypt states that laser pointers were originally used to harass snipers and lookouts using binoculars, and to irritate political enemies. However, the dramatic use of dozens of lasers aimed at Egyptian army helicopters was intended as friendly, being used to “greet” the military who by this time was on the side of the protesters.

(It needs to be noted that, regardless of intent, laser light can flashblind and disrupt pilots. Due to the potential flight and crash hazards, it is illegal in the U.S. and many countries to even aim a laser towards an aircraft.)
Click to read more...

Germany: Hobbyist creates laser "Gatling gun" with six rotating 1.4 W blue beams

Well-known master builder Patrick Priebe has created a laser with six 1.4 watt blue lasers that rotate, similar to a Gatling gun. In addition, there is a 100 milliwatt green laser used for aiming:

Patrick Priebe laser Gatling gun

Click to read more...

UK: More than 220 laser attacks in two years in West Midlands, says CAA

From mid-2011 to mid-2013, there were more than 220 pilot reports of laser beams in the West Midlands area, according to a Freedom of Information Act request reported by the Birmingham Mail on July 3 2013.

This is roughly one-third of the 700 incidents over the same time frame that involved aircraft in or above the West Midlands. (The 480 non-laser incidents included bird strikes, emergency landings, a bomb threat, a dog on the runways and closure of an airfield because of a flying kite.)

On one occasion in July 2011, four different lasers were aimed at a police helicopter in a single incident.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association asked for prison sentences for persons caught aiming at aircraft, as well as regulations over the sale of high-powered lasers.”

According to West Midlands police, laser attacks on their helicopter have fallen in months prior to July 2013.

From the Birmingham Mail. See also a related LaserPointerSafety.com article on BALPA’s laser pointer suggestions.

Egypt: Dramatic photo of lasers on helicopter was Photoshopped

This photo showing a bright laser “hit” on a helicopter during July 1 2013 demonstrations in Egypt has been doctored, according to an analysis by LaserPointerSafety.com.

egypt-laser-copter-analysis_150


The bright rays and the lens flare effects were not captured by the camera but were added later. This may have been done for artistic effect, or to make the lasers look more dangerous. However, this incident does serve as a reminder that “you can’t always believe what you see”.

Click to read more...

Egypt: UPDATED - Dozens of laser pointers used in protests to simultaneously paint helicopters

Laser pointers have been used in Egypt by protesters demanding that President Mohamed Morsi step down from office. In the most visually striking instance, on June 30 2013 dozens of laser pointers were simultaneously aimed at one or more helicopters flying above the crowd. Many of the pointers terminated on the underside of the helicopter(s), as pictured here:

Pic 2013-07-01 at 5.45.54 PM

An aerial view, as seen on Egyptian network Capital Broadcasting Center, gives an idea of what the lasers looked like approaching Tahrir Square. In this scene, there is one blue beam and roughly 30 green beams.


laser pointers from air in Egypt demonstrations 6-30-13
Animated GIF via
“Cyparagon”. The original video can be viewed here (the aerial laser segment starts about halfway into this video).


There have been no reports of injuries to the air crews, or of the laser light causing the pilots to lose control. [UPDATE, July 8 2013: A first-person account states that the pointers were friendly, intended to “greet” the army pilots who at this point were on the side of the protesters.]

Click to read more...

New Zealand: Average of 8.9 laser injury claims per year, costing NZD $93.63 each

Over the 13 years from 1 July 2000 through 15 June 2013, there have been an average of 8.9 insurance claims per year relating to laser eye and skin injuries in New Zealand, according to the country’s Accident Compensation Corporation. This covers all types of lasers, including those used in industrial, commercial, home, school and other locations.

The laser injury claim rate has increased from about 5 per year to about 13 per year, over the 2000-to-2013 period. The increase works out to 0.73 additional claim per year. This increase is one reason that New Zealand is taking action in 2013 to restrict higher-power handheld lasers.

NZ average number of claims per year


Click to read more...

UK: Pilots want jail for persons aiming laser pens at aircraft

The British Airline Pilots’ Association warned about the hazards of laser pens directed at aircraft, and called for prison sentences for the perpetrators. They noted that there were more than 1,500 incidents in 2012, with “only a handful of those responsible” being prosecuted.

BALPA general secretary Jim McAuslan asked for a government cross-agency summit to address the problem. BALPA requested stronger regulations restricting the sale of high-powered lasers, more prosecutions, and action taken through trading standards.

He said that hotspots include airports at Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool and Heathrow.

From ITV London and ITV Granada

Canada: Iridian announces new anti-laser protection glasses

A supplier of laser protective eyewear announced June 21 2013 a new line of glasses designed specifically for pilots.

The LaseReflect Aviator LRG10 glasses are said to mitigate the effects of laser illumination incidents. They reflect more than 99% of 532 nanometer green laser light, the most common color in laser attacks. (According to FAA statistics, about 95% of reported incidents in recent years have involved green light.) They also reflect near-infrared light at 1064 nm, which often is a byproduct of green lasers that are not manufactured with adequate IR-blocking filters. The cost is USD $299.

Custom LaseReflect Aviator glasses are available for specific colors and powers, including multiple wavelengths in a single pair of glasses. For example, blue (405 nm and 445 nm) and red (650 nm) light can also be reflected by the glasses.
Click to read more...

World: Discussion of how lasers damage imaging sensors

A June 2013 discussion on the Image Sensors World blog is about how “concert lasers” can damage image sensors. The discussion begins with a few videos showing damage to high-end cameras such as the RED Epic and a Canon 5D Mark II. Then participants give their ideas for how this damage occurs.

This is being posted because some persons may find the ideas presented to be useful. An additional resource is a page at the International Laser Display Association, about
damage to cameras at laser light shows.

From Image Sensors World

US: Laser/aircraft incidents have increased compared to 2012

There have been about 1,500 laser/aircraft incidents reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration between January 1 and June 12 2013. This compares with about 1,384 incidents during the same time span in 2012, 1,326 in 2011, 908 in 2010, and 546 in 2009.

In 2012 and previous years, FAA was able to release detailed weekly reports tracking the number, type, and other data about laser incidents. But due to budget considerations in 2013, FAA has not yet been able to disseminate any reports. Thus, there is some uncertainty in the 1,500 approximation.

Based on this uncertainty, LaserPointerSafety.com has calculated that there could be between 1% and 16% more laser incidents in 2013 than in 2012. If accurate, any increase would represent a setback from the 2012 totals, which were 3% lower than in 2011. Having a rise in incidents would indicate that the publicity and prosecutions which form the majority of current U.S. anti-laser efforts are not having the desired effect.


The 2013 estimate of 3,774 incidents is based on comparing FAA reports from Jan. 1 to June 12 2013 to the same time period in 2012, and then extrapolating the 8.4% increase over the entire year. However, FAA changed their reporting procedures in 2013 so it is unclear how much of the estimated increase, if any, is an actual increase and how much is due to the new reporting procedures.


For the last comprehensive FAA figures, see our page Latest 2012 laser/aircraft incident statistics.

UPDATE, August 16 2013: New information shows 2,200 incidents from January 1 through August 2 2013. This is an 18% increase over the same period in 2012. Also, it does appear that FAA’s 2013 incident reports are comparable to 2012’s -- they have not yet significantly changed their reporting procedures or criteria. More information is at this LaserPointerSafety.com story.

US: Researchers illuminate retinas to help stop laser damage

Laser eye safety researchers have demonstrated that retinal cells illuminated with low levels of red light are up to 40% more resistant to damaging laser pulses.

Because the laser pulse wavelength used was in the infrared, and the cells were cultured (not live retinas) there is no current practical use for pilots and others looking for glasses-free resistance to visible laser light. However, this research may open up other avenues as it does indicate that perhaps the retina can be “hardened.”
Click to read more...

US: UPDATED - Video of homemade 3 watt handheld laser gains attention

A YouTube video published May 22 2013 shows a homemade 3 watt handheld laser burning various objects. The laser uses a 9mm 450 nanometer diode, and is powered by two 18650 Li-ion batteries. Drake Anthony, known on YouTube and laser forums as “styropyro” notes “This is the most powerful handheld laser that I’ve ever used! …. To be honest, I don’t even like handheld lasers this strong, but I knew my subscribers would like this. This laser is legal to own in the US, and I wore goggles while shooting this video.”

Lasers in the 1 watt range have been widely available since the mid-2010 introduction of the Wicked Laser Spyder III Arctic blue laser. This is the first handheld 3 watt laser that LaserPointerSafety.com has been aware of.
Click to read more...

US: New Maryland law criminalizes aiming laser pointers at aircraft

Maryland’s governor signed on May 2 2013 a new state law making it a misdemeanor to knowingly and willfully shine, point, or focus the beam of a laser pointer on an individual operating an aircraft. The penalty is up to three years in prison and/or a $2,500 fine. The previous penalty was a $500 fine.
Click to read more...

New Zealand: UPDATED - Gov't to restrict handheld laser pointers

The government of New Zealand will introduce new legislation to restrict higher-power handheld lasers. The law is being drafted as of May 2013 and should take effect by the end of 2013. It will be undertaken under the authority of the Customs and Excise Act of 1996 and the Health Act of 1956.

The new law will not cover low-power lasers below 1 milliwatt which are used for presentations, surveying or gun sights. It will control importation, and will restrict use of higher-power handhelds to “authorized users who have a legitimate purpose such as astronomers, researchers and the NZ Defence Force”, according to an Associate Health Minister.
Click to read more...

US: FAA study compares fixed-wing airplane laser incidents with helicopter incidents

In April 2013, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration released a study comparing laser illuminations of fixed-wing airplanes with that of rotary-wing helicopters.

The study found that helicopters were 3.4 times as likely to be illuminated at altitudes below 2,000 feet than fixed-wing aircraft. Helicopter aircrews were twice as likely to report adverse effects such as distraction, vision interference, operational problems, and pain.

The study also broke down adverse effects by the type of flight, such as commercial, law enforcement, medical and military.

One conclusion of the study is that the “results may also justify the expense of equipping rotary-wing aircraft (particularly law enforcement aircraft) with laser detection and tracking devices to improve the possibility of apprehending perpetrators of these offenses.”

A detailed summary is at LaserPointerSafety.com’s 2013 FAA helicopter study webpage. The full 6-page report is available online from the FAA.

US: South Carolina to ban laser pointer possession by minors

Possession of lasers over 1 milliwatt by minors would be illegal, under a proposal introduced February 26 2013 in the South Carolina House of Representatives. On April 18 2013, H. 3609 passed the House by a vote of 81 to 8.

The bill was introduced by Representative Liston Barfield. He represents Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, resort towns which have been plagued with incidents of laser pointer harassment by youths and others. In 2012, there were more than 70 area incidents where laser pointers were aimed at aircraft, including Coast Guard search-and-rescue operations that were abandoned due to fear of laser exposure.
Click to read more...

US: North Wildwood NJ to ban laser pointer sales and possession

The city of North Wildwood, New Jersey, introduced an ordinance on April 16 2013 to ban the sale and possession of laser pointers above 1 milliwatt. The proposed penalty for sale or possession is a $500 fine for the first offense, rising to a fine up to $1,250 or up to 30 days in jail.

This was done after about 40 complaints to police in 2012, most of which "turned out to be kids playing with the laser pointers" according to the deputy police chief. The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority had also contacted the city regarding lasers pointed at aircraft. The ordinance language notes that "the illegal use of laser pointers creates risks and dangers for those targeted by the beam of the laser as well as for the residents of and visitors to the city of North Wildwood.”

Ordinance 1622 had its "first reading" on April 16, meaning it did not become law. The second reading, and possible adoption as a law, was set for the City Council meeting the evening of May 7 2013.
Click to read more...

US: L.A. Sheriff's Dept. puts "Laser Strike" info video on YouTube

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on April 4 2013 uploaded a 13-minute long training video to YouTube called “Laser Strike”. The video was produced in association with the LASD Aero Bureau, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI. In addition, four other “bonus content” videos were uploaded, which feature interviews.

LASD laser video still frame

To see the video, click this link to YouTube. Following this link should also lead to the bonus content videos.

To get a flavor of the training video, click the “Read More…” link below for a list of selected excerpts and interesting statements.

Click to read more...

Scotland: Pilots want stepped-up prosecution against laser attacks

“Prosecution rates for laser attacks need to improve,” according to a spokesperson for the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA). “We need the judiciary to get on top of the problem …. small fines or warnings for perpetrators of these attacks is not enough; anyone shining a laser at an aircraft recklessly should receive an automatic prison sentence.”

An April 2013 investigation by the Scottish Express found 338 incidents in Scotland from January 1 2011 through February 13 2013. Only 12, or 3.5 percent, had been solved. The paper noted that the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) suggests there are 12 incidents involving lasers each day globally. [Note: The U.S. rate is approximately 9-10 per day, indicating the rest of the world’s rate is 2-3 per day which LaserPointerSafety.com believes to be higher.] An IATA spokesperson said the organization “support[s] strong penalties for anyone caught engaging in the act.”

The U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority said there were 152 laser incidents at Heathrow Airport in 2012, compared with 136 incidents at Glascow Airport which has 1/10 the number of passengers.

The Scottish Express story contains additional statistics on Scotland airport lasing rates.

From the Scottish Express

US: TSA agent mistakes pepper spray for laser pointer

A Transportation Security Administration agent at New York’s JFK Airport found a pepper spray canister on the floor. According to Port Authority police, Chris Yves Dabel thought it was a laser pointer and pressed the button, spraying five other TSA agents. He and the five other agents were taken to Jamaica Hospital. Security checks at JFK’s Terminal 2 were stopped for about 15 minutes due to the incident.

From the New York Post

World: Summary of papers presented at International Laser Safety Conference 2013

Every two years, world experts in laser safety gather at the International Laser Safety Conference. Below is an overview of 15 laser pointer, laser show and laser/aviation safety papers presented at the 2013 ILSC meeting in Orlando. The papers are available in the 2013 ILSC Proceedings, a 390-page book available from the Laser Institute of America. All page references below are to the Proceedings book.

Laser pointer hazards for pilots


  • A study of the actual output of 40 laser pointers, with powers up to 1.5 Watts, showed significant differences between measured and calculated hazard levels. In some cases, the actual hazard measured at some spots inside the beam was three times the estimated hazard. This is due to the laser output not being smooth in all cases, but instead the beams having “hot spots”. The study also showed that windscreens reduced the beam irradiance -- which is safer for pilots -- from 5% to 60%. (Note however that the McLin study described below showed that windscreens also spread the beam and thus increase glare.)
“Laser Pointer Hazards for Pilots and Drivers of Public Transportations”, Klaus Dickmann and Nils Nitzschke, Laser Center FH Muenster, Steinfurt, Germany, pages 289-298.

  • A discussion of how being inside the Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance of a laser beam does NOT mean instant blindness for pilots and others.For example, consider a 1 Watt, 1 milliradian laser where the recommended safety distance (NOHD) is 733 feet. If possible, you should be at least 733 feet from the laser before exposing an eye to the direct beam. What is the actual hazard? At 232 feet from this laser, there is a 50/50 chance of the beam causing a barely observable retinal lesion under laboratory conditions where the laser and eye are fixed in place. Due to motion of the aircraft and hand-holding the laser, the chance of a retinal lesion is likely to be less. The distance from 232 feet (“ED50”) out to the NOHD at 733 feet is a known “safety factor” where the chance of retinal injury decreases even further. At the NOHD there is a “vanishingly small risk of hazardous exposure” (Sliney, 2013). Police and other first responder pilots can use this information to better weigh the risk of laser exposure to laser light vs. the benefits of completing a mission (rescuing a person, apprehending criminals, etc.). This presentation also discusses ways to make flight near lasers safer for pilots. A PDF file of all the slides presented is here.
“Better Informing the Public of Laser Exposure Injury Potential”, Patrick Murphy and Greg Makhov, International Laser Display Association, Florida, US, page 288 (one-paragraph abstract only, without details -- no paper available in the Proceedings).

For additional ILSC 2013 papers, click the “read more” link.
Click to read more...

UK: Seizure of 7,000+ laser pointers illustrates control problems

In 2011, the U.K. Health Protection Agency analyzed samples of laser pointers seized from one company suspected of import violations. HPA found that 96% of the working pointers were above the U.K.’s legal power limit of 1 milliwatt.

7,378 lasers were seized, along with 8,780 parts from which lasers could be assembled. It was estimated that the company sold over 35,000 laser pointers from 2009-2011, generating income of over £1,000,000 (USD $1,600,000).

Techyun Hii, 33, pleaded guilty to four charges of laser pointer violations and a fifth charge of unsafe power chargers. He was sentenced to a 180 day jail term suspended for 18 months, and to 300 hours of community service. The lasers were later incinerated in a hospital’s furnace.

Lead author John O’Hagan detailed the HPA’s findings in a paper presented at the March 2013 International Laser Safety Conference in Orlando. The case had previously been reported by LaserPointerSafety.com.
Click to read more...

UK: Low-cost laser event recorder is an iPhone app

A U.K. researcher has developed a laser event recorder which can run on an iPhone, iPad, smartphone, or pilot Electronic Flight Bag. The “LERapp” records laser or bright light events; each record includes a picture of the event, the GPS location, heading, date, time and laser parameters such as color and estimated irradiance.

LERapp-screenshot 300w

Click to read more...

US: Government agency finds most laser pointers they purchased are overpowered

Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology conducted precision tests on 122 laser pointers, most purchased online. Ninety percent of the green lasers, and 44 percent of red lasers did not comply with U.S. safety regulations. Green pointers often emitted dangerous invisible infrared radiation, in addition to the visible green light.

The findings were made public at a March 20 2013 meeting of the International Laser Safety Conference.

Researcher Joshua Hadler designed the measurement device to be accurate, inexpensive and easy-to-use. It would cost roughly $2000 in equipment costs to make a copy of the NIST device; plans are available from NIST for interested parties.

From a NIST press release, March 20 2013.
Click here for the full press release:
Click to read more...

Australia: Ban on laser pointers has been a "detriment" to safety

A scientific paper published in March 2013, which analyzed laser pointers purchased in Australia, has concluded that the country's stringent laws against lasers may have backfired: "...the prohibition laws may have detrimentally affected laser pointer safety within Australia without overtly impacting availability....the one thing more hazardous than a correctly labelled high power laser pointer is a high power laser pointer labelled as safe."

The author, Trevor Wheatley, is chair of the Standards Australia SF-019 Committee on laser safety. He studied 41 lasers purchased online in 2012 that were claimed by the sellers to be legal -- lower than the Australian import limit of 1 milliwatt. Most cost less than AUS $20.

Wheatley found that 95% of these pointers were illegal under Australian law, with outputs above 1 mW. Of the 41, 78% were between 5 mW and 100 mW. (5 mW is generally taken to be the highest safe power for a general purpose laser pointer.)

Based on Wheatley's research, "...there would appear to be a greater than 50% chance that someone attempting to buy a 'safe' laser pointer would inadvertently get a hazardous laser." Further, 100% of the tested laser pointers below $20 "would represent prohibited weapons in most Australian states."

From other statistics, the paper states that "availability has not been significantly impacted." In 2007/2008 there were 648 incidents involving lasers pointed at aircraft. In 2010/2011, well after the import and possession restrictions, the number of incidents had increased to 828.
Click to read more...

US: Gold-coated nanotech could "laser-proof" pilots' glasses

A researcher at the University of Central Florida is developing what he calls “a bulletproof vest for the eyes”, to protect pilots from bright laser beams. Jayan Thomas proposes using glasses coated with gold nanoclusters that have “optical limiting” capabilities, blocking high-energy laser beams. Thomas is an assistant professor of chemistry at UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center.

According to a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, gold-tinted eyewear has been used by military pilots for laser protection but only works against certain wavelengths of laser light. However, said Dan Macchiarella, if Thomas’ idea “could be applied to lasers of all strengths and wavelengths, that would certainly be a big advancement.”

A March 10 2013 Orlando Sentinel story noted that funding cuts and competition for grants mean that Thomas’ research faces “some serious hurdles” to develop this idea further. Thomas said finding research money is “going to be very difficult, very difficult.”

From the Orlando Sentinel

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: North Myrtle Beach bans sale of lasers over 1 mW, and bans possession by minors in detailed new law

Lasers and laser pointers over 1 milliwatt cannot be sold in the city of North Myrtle Beach, SC, and minors cannot possess such lasers. The City Council passed the ordinance on February 18 2013. It provides a penalty of up to $500 or 30 days in jail, plus confiscation of any laser over 1 milliwatt.
Click to read more...

US: FAA updates laser reporting method in AC 70-2A

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on February 8 2013 updated how pilots are to report laser incidents to the agency. This was done in Advisory Circular 70-2A, “Reporting of Laser Illumination of Aircraft”, which replaces the older AC 70-2 which was first introduced January 11 2005.

The changes include:
  • Air Traffic Control can now regard a laser illumination of aircraft incident as an “in-flight emergency”, due to the potential debilitating injuries which could compromise safety and interfere with aircrew duties.
  • New web-based methods by which pilots can report incidents
  • Additional information in the Resources and the Related Documents sections

The key part of the document is the reporting procedure: “On arrival at destination, all aircrews that have been affected by an unauthorized laser illumination are requested to complete the Laser Beam Exposure Questionnaire. The questionnaire is located on the FAA’s Laser Safety Initiative Web site at http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/lasers/ and can be electronically submitted. The questionnaire may also be printed and faxed to the WOCC at (202) 267-5289, ATTN: DEN, or emailed to laserreports@faa.gov.”

From FAA Advisory Circular 70-2A

US: FAA updates pilot reporting questionnaire

For 2013, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has developed a new questionnaire for pilots who report laser illumination incidents. The goal was to capture more detailed information about the incident, its effect on the aircrew, and on the aircraft’s flight and mission. New questions include:

Flight information
  • Aircraft type: Airplane, rotorcraft, lighter than air, other
  • Type of operation: Commercial aviation, general aviation, military, law enforcement, medical, news reporting, other
  • Time of day: Daytime, around sunset, dusk/twilight, nighttime before midnight local time, nighttime on or after midnight local time, around sunrise, dawn/morning twilight
  • Phase of flight: Taxi, takeoff, climb to altitude, cruise altitude, descent, final approach, landing, low-altitude, hover, other

Effect on flight
  • Did the laser interfere with crew duties? Yes (describe), no
  • Did the laser cause a change in flight path? No, minor/non-adverse change, major/adverse change
  • Did the laser disrupt a law enforcement, medical or military mission? Yes (describe), no

Illumination details
  • Did the laser appear to track the aircraft? Yes, no, other
  • Did the laser illuminate any part of the cockpit? Yes, no, other
  • Did the laser shine directly into one or both of your eyes? Did not shine directly, shined a little, shined brightly

Effect on illuminated pilots or crew
  • Choose from a list of vision effects: None, glare, temporary flashblindness or afterimages, blind spot(s), blurry vision, significant loss of night vision, other
  • Choose from a list of physical effects: None, watering eyes, eye discomfort/pain, headache, shock, disorientation or dizziness, other
  • Did you rub your eye after exposure: No, a little, vigorously

If there was an eye exam
  • Type of doctor who did the most comprehensive exam: Retinal specialist, ophthalmologist, optometrist, optician, emergency room doctor/nurse, other
  • List results of the exam

Prior laser knowledge
  • Did you have any prior knowledge or training? None, basic info, detailed specific info on how to “recognize and recover”, simulator training with laser or laser-like exposure, other

From FAA Laser Beam Exposure Questionnaire

US: 2012 laser/aircraft incident statistics

The number of laser/aircraft incidents in the U.S. during the period January 1 2012 through December 31 2012 was 3,482. This was an average of 9.5 incidents each night during 2012. (For 2011’s statistics, see the 2011 laser incidents page.)

What is an FAA-reported “laser incident”?: This is defined as an aircraft pilot seeing one or more laser beams during flight. A mid-2011 study by Rockwell Laser Industries of 6,903 incidents reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration found that in 27% of incidents, beams entered the cockpit (passed through the windscreen). For example, in 2011, there were 3,591 incidents of which approximately 970 (27%) involved beams in the cockpit.

Year-to-Date Comparison
The 3,482 reported U.S. laser/aircraft incidents in 2012 compare with 3,591 incidents during 2011, approximately 2,836 incidents during 2010, and approximately 1,527 incidents during 2009.


Pic 2013-01-04 at 5.18.27 PM
The number of U.S. laser incidents decreased slightly in 2012

Projected 2013 Estimate

If the number of laser/aircraft incidents in 2013 continues to decrease at the same rate as from 2011 to 2012 (-3.04%), then there would be 3,376 incidents in 2013.

Adverse Effects
In 36 (1.0%) of the 3,482 laser/aircraft incidents in 2012, a pilot or aircraft occupant reported a temporary adverse visual effect such as flashblindness, afterimage, blurry vision, eye irritation and/or headache. In four of the 36 eye incidents, the eye effect may have been more serious or long-lasting. In no incidents, either in 2012 or in previous years, was there any permanent eye damage.

Total Incidents, 2004 to Date
There have been approximately 13,737 laser/aircraft incidents reported to FAA, from January 1 2004 through December 31 2012.
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Click to read more...

US: FDA now recommending aircraft/vehicle caution label

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now asking manufacturers of laser pointers and handheld lasers to voluntarily add a Caution label. The following wording is being added to letters sent by FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) in response to a laser pointer/handheld product submission (such as a product report, supplemental report, or annual report):

“CDRH recommends (but does not require) labeling on your product that cautions the purchaser with following or similar language: “CAUTION - LASER LIGHT IS BRIGHT AND BLINDING - DO NOT SHINE AT AIRCRAFT OR VEHICLES AT ANY DISTANCE”.

While FDA can require the familiar labels warning against laser eye and skin hazards, FDA does not have statutory authority to require labels for non-health hazards such as laser distraction or temporary flash blinding. Thus, the agency is only able to recommend -- but not require -- the new aircraft/vehicle caution label.

News of the action came in a December 7 2012 FDA email sent to parties including LaserPointerSafety.com. According to CDRH’s Daniel Hewett, the action applies to all “SLA products.” FDA/CDRH considers that laser pointers and handheld lasers are a subset of such Surveying, Leveling and Alignment laser products. SLA lasers are one of the three laser product uses which FDA can regulate under 21 CFR 1040.10 and 1040.11; the other two are medical and demonstration (education/light show) laser product uses.

From a Dec. 7 2012 FDA email. Thanks to Daniel Hewett for bringing this to our attention.

US: UPDATED - Maryland bill reintroduced to raise fines on pointer/aircraft misuse

Maryland state delegate Sam Arora and state senator J.B. Jennings in November 2012 re-introduced a bill to raise fines for persons convicted of laser pointer misuse. The fines would rise from $500 at present, to up to $2,500 and up to three years in prison.
Click to read more...

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.

New Zealand: UPDATED - Laser pointer bill introduced by MP

New Zealand National List MP Dr Cam Calder has introduced a bill making it illegal to possess a hand-held laser in a public place without a legitimate reason. The bill will go on the agenda for a first reading, and is likely to be debated in the next three weeks.

The bill does not appear to have any laser power limitation; thus, even possession of a laser less than 1 milliwatts (legal in most countries) would be banned under the proposed legislation.

The key text is as follows:

“13B Possession of hand-held lasers
“(1) Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding $2,000 who, in any public place, without reasonable excuse, has any hand-held laser in his or her possession.
“(2) Any constable may without warrant seize and detain any hand- held laser which there is reasonable ground to suppose is in contravention of subsection (1) of this section.
“(3) On convicting any person of an offence against subsection (1) of this section, the Court may order that the hand-held laser be forfeited to the Crown.
“(4) In this section hand-held laser means any hand-held device, designed or adapted to emit a laser beam.”


From MSNNZ News and CamCalder.co.nz. The full text of the bill, including an introductory explanatory section, can be downloaded as a PDF file.

UPDATED September 25 2013: The bill unanimously passed its first reading. LaserPointerSafety.com has an article on this, plus a transcript of the debate.

New Zealand: Proposed options for controlling laser pointers, after 100 incidents in 2011

The New Zealand Ministry of Health issued a consultation document with proposed options for controlling high-powered laser pointers. This is in response to incidents, including about 100 laser strikes on aircraft which were reported to the Civil Aviation Authority in 2011.

New Zealand does not have laws restricting the import, use and sale of high-powered laser pointers.

The deadline for commenting is December 14 2012 at 5 pm. The New Zealand laser pointer consultation document can be downloaded from here.

Feedback from the consultation will help the government determine its final proposals.

From Voxy.co.nz

New Zealand: Pilots want laser pointers prohibited

Officials with the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association said they want a ban on Class 3 laser pointers, similar to Australian restrictions that classify the devices as weapons.

The pilots expressed concern following the September 2012 conviction of a teenager who aimed a green pointer at three commercial aircraft and a police helicopter in January 2012.

The NZALPA president said “It has reached a stage where any member of the public can purchase a commercial grade laser and do what they please with it.”

From Radio New Zealand and Voxy

US: New York area officials ask for public's help

At a September 20 2012 press conference at New Jersey State Police Headquarters, officials from the New York tri-state area asked the public’s help in identifying persons who aim lasers at aircraft. Such incidents occur about once per day at airports in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area.

A pilot from the Air Line Pilots Association told of his experiences when hit by laser light, and said that “Laser illumination can cause temporary blindness and even permanently damage a pilot’s eyes, potentially leading to an aircraft accident…Individuals must understand the danger and their responsibility to report anyone who misuses lasers.”

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is sending officers to schools near airports, to explain the hazards of lasers to children, and to warn them against aiming at aircraft.

An FBI agent said that the bureau is worried about adults and deliberate attacks by terrorists. Fines can range up to $11,000, said an FAA representative. a Coast Guard pilot said that rules requiring helicopters to break off rescues if they are directly lasered, adds to the risk of those the Coast Guard is trying to rescue.

The various law enforcement officials said they were asking the public to call 911 or local authorities if they see misuse, because laser incidents are so frequent and it is rare to apprehend the perpetrators.

A radio station public service announcement has been produced and aired by radio station NJ 101.5. It warns listeners not to aim at aircraft.

From NBC New York and New Jersey 101.5

Catching up: Statistics, laws & other news August/Sept 2012

We were away for most of August 2012, so here is a quick list of links having to do with statistics, laws and other non-incident news.

US: No new laser ordinance yet in Horry County, South Carolina. Due to increasing incidents involving Coast Guard and other aircraft, and increased harassment of citizens, the county considered a new ordinance but tabled it for more study. This area includes Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. From Myrtle Beach Online, September 4.

US: Horry County, South Carolina, to consider a ban on laser pointers above 1 milliwatt. The article gives details on the proposed ordinance to curb widespread laser misuse. Billboards also have appeared in the county, warning about laser misuse. From Myrtle Beach Online, September 1.

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A billboard in the Myrtle Beach area

UK: Lasers posing a “real threat” were seized from a shop in Crawley, West Sussex. One laser tested was “five times what is considered safe for eyes” and could cause a “serious temporary distortion of vision” or if aimed at drivers or pilots, “could have serious and potentially fatal consequences.” From West Sussex Today, August 12 and This Is Sussex, August 15.

US: Laser hits on Coast Guard aircraft from Air Station Savannah have halted air searches
, according to a Coast Guard blog post. Incidents and statistics are given in the post, written by Lt. Stephanie Young. From the Coast Guard Compass, August 14.

US: The Horry (S.C.) County Council heard a presentation by the Coast Guard on the recent laser hits to their rescue helicopters, and on the hazards of lasers to aviation. They were told that a direct hit immediately grounds the helicopter. From CarolinaLive, August 14.

US: Problems with harassment and aviation interference, in the Myrtle Beach and Horry County area, are detailed in a story from the Post and Courier, August 12.

Note: Some of the above stories are part of continuing coverage at LaserPointerSafety.com about ongoing problems at Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.

US: Newsday editorial calls for warnings, enforcements to reduce laser attacks

The Long Island-based newspaper Newsday, in an editorial published August 23 2012, called for additional warnings and prosecutions to help reduce incidents of pointing lasers at aircraft.

The paper, ranked 13th in the country with a circulation of 393,000 weekday subscribers, said “It’s a serious offense that should be firmly punished…. Heavy fines, and in some cases, jail time, would send a powerful message that it’s a life-threatening crime.”

The editorial was the result of incidents in the Long Island area in the past month. It was titled “Enforce anti-laser laws with laser-like force.”

From Newsday. Subscriber information from USA Today.

UK: Leeds Bradford Airport has 3 laser incidents per week

Leeds Bradford International Airport, in West Yorkshire, had 153 laser incidents reported in 2011. Although the airport was 16th busiest in U.K. passenger traffic, it ranked fifth in the number of laser incidents, behind Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.

From the Yorkshire Evening Post

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: Sen. Schumer asks FDA to overhaul laser regulations

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for an overhaul of “lax and outdated” federal regulations on lasers and laser pointers. In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration released on August 5 2012, Schumer said the limit on laser pointers’ power should be less than the current 5 milliwatt limit. He also asked FDA to restrict the sale of more powerful Class 3B and 4 lasers sold for “recreational” purposes. Finally, he requested that FDA require warning labels stating that aiming at aircraft is a federal offense.

From the Associated Press via the Wall Street Journal. To read the text of Schumer’s letter to the FDA, and his press release, click the Read More link below.
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: 198 calls to police about lasers in 3 months; Coast Guard "cracking down" in Myrtle Beach

Despite anti-laser pointer ordinances in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, police have responded to 198 reports of laser misuse between May 1 and July 31 2012. A police spokesperson said this keeps police away from other, more important business. He said one problem is informing the many visitors about Myrtle Beach’s restrictions. For example, anyone shining a laser at persons or aircraft can be charged with a misdemeanor.

The local Coast Guard echoes the concerns. Twice in two weeks, search and rescue missions were ended prematurely because of lasers being aimed at helicopters. (See a report here.) Under Coast Guard regulations, after laser exposure the aircraft is grounded and the pilots are medically evaluated before being allowed to fly again.

The Coast Guard issued a letter asking the public to stop aiming at aircraft, and saying that they want to enforce South Carolina’s state law against lading aircraft. The letter is reprinted below (click the “Read More” link).

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

Click to read more...

South Africa: 170 laser incidents so far in 2012; up about 66%

There have been 170 laser incidents in South Africa to date in 2012, according to the director of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). That is roughly on pace for 290 incidents for the entire year, which represents a 66% increase over the 175 incidents in 2011.

The information came at an August 1 2012 press conference where representatives from SACAA, airline pilots, a laser expert, and others spoke about the potential hazards of lasers being aimed at aircraft. SACAA was planning a public information campaign to warn about laser-aircraft hazards.

Penalties include a fine or up to 10 years in prison. But only three people have been caught. One was a minor and charges were dropped. The other two cases had “dragged on in the courts and the SACAA had lost track of them.”

From The Citizen. Additional statistics and information are in a story from Defense Web.

US: Appeal of 3-year sentence hinges on "willfully" aiming vs. "willfully interfering"

The language of a statute prohibiting “willfully interfering with an aircraft operator with reckless disregard for human life” is at issue in the appeal of a Massachusetts man who was sentenced in January 2011 to three years in prison, plus two years probation and a $200 fine.

The August 2012 case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit hinges on instructions given to the jury during Gerard Sasso’s trial in January 2010. The judge in that trial told the jury that Sasso could be convicted for willfully aiming the laser at the helicopter. The judge also said that the government did not have to prove that Sasso knew that his aiming would interfere with the pilot.

Click to read more...

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.

Australia: 733 laser incidents in 2011; appears to be almost 3x the U.S. lasing rate

A story in The Age says there were 733 reports of lasers being shone into aircraft cockpits in 2011, and 370 reports in the first six months of 2012 (on pace for 744 reports in 2012), according to a spokesman for the Australian Department of Infrastructure and Transport.

The story did not give additional details. It is assumed this data is for all of Australia, since DIT is a federal agency.

From The Age

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: Australia’s laser/aircraft incident rate appears to be 2.8 times the U.S. rate, based on incidents per capita. This is despite the fact that Australia has nationwide import restrictions on laser pointers, and that many Australian states severely restrict or ban possession of laser pointers.

There may be other reasons for this discrepancy. Perhaps laser incidents are not counted the same way in these two countries. Perhaps population is not the best way to compare the two countries’ laser incident rates.

However, on first analysis it appears that Australia has a significant problem with lasers being aimed at aircraft even though widespread restrictions on availability and possession of laser pointers. This is a preliminary indication that bans and restrictions may not work as anticipated. They may need to be combined with other actions, or it may be that other actions have more of an effect to reduce the incident rate.

Calculation details: Australia’s population is estimated at 22,680,322 as of July 25 2012. Australia had 733 incidents in 2011 according to The Age story above. This is a rate of 1 incident for every 30,942 persons. The U.S. population is estimated at 313,979,000 as of the same date. The U.S. had 3,591 laser incidents in 2011. This is a rate of 1 incident for every 87,435 persons.
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Australia: Illegal laser imports up 60%; threaten aircraft safety

The following is from a press release issued July 24 2012 by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.


Illegal imports of laser pointers explode - 24 July 2012

Customs and Border Protection is warning travellers and online shoppers about Australia’s tough laws prohibiting the import of laser pointers.

This follows a dramatic increase in the number of these dangerous items being seized by officers at the border.

In the past year, the number of laser pointers seized by Customs and Border Protection officers at the Sydney International Mail Centre alone has increased by close to 60 per cent, from around 9,000 to over 14,000.

Pic 2012-07-24 at 5.17.08 AM
Australian import officers spill out a container full of confiscated packages of illegally-imported laser pointers.


Importing laser pointers greater than one milliwatt in intensity is prohibited in Australia without a permit.

“The sheer volume of these importations suggests that people do not understand the threat these items pose to safety, particularly to commercial aircraft,” said National Manager Cargo Operations, Jagtej Singh.

Customs and Border Protection officers are trained to detect prohibited and restricted items from the millions of items which arrive each week.

“If you try and import laser pointers without a permit, there’s a high possibility they’ll be found by Customs and Border Protection, seized, and you may even face fines of up to $275,000.”

Customs and Border Protection has produced a video clip outlining the risks being taken by people who inadvertently or deliberately breach the laws on laser pointers.

It can be viewed on the agency’s
YouTube channel.


According to this video, “Customs officers screen all incoming mail imported into Australia, and items such as laser pointers WILL show up on X-ray.”


Media enquiries: Customs and Border Protection Media (02) 6275 6793



From Australia Customs and Border Protection

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.

Canada: RCMP purchases anti-laser glasses

According to Night Flight Concepts, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has purchased an unspecified number of the company’s Laser Armor Aviator Glasses to help protect RCMP airborne units from laser illuminations. The glasses reduce the intensity of laser beams “without compromising visual acuity or cockpit display panel color recognition.” Included with the glasses is access to NFC’s online training of how to recognize and respond to laser incidents.

From Vertical magazine
Click to read more...

US: Lasers used to tag UFOs?

According to an article at Examiner.com, college students are using lasers to tag UFOs that they see using night vision equipment. Author Tom Rose, the “East Stroudsburg Paranormal Examiner,” writes that night vision equipment is now more affordable, so it can be used to detect cloaked objects in the sky. These may be secret military aircraft or extraterrestrial ships.

Rose refers to YouTube clips where handheld lasers are pointed at moving dots of light in the sky.

Click to read more...

Canada: Health Canada again warns about hazards of pointers, handheld lasers

For the second time in less than a year, Health Canada has issued a press release about hazards of pointers and handheld lasers. The June 25 2012 press release focuses on the potential for permanent eye damage.

The agency states that battery-powered pointers and handhelds “manufactured, advertised, sold, imported or leased should be limited to … Class 3R” which is less than 5 mW visible output. It is unclear whether “should” is advisory or is a regulatory requirement.

The document focuses on eye, skin and fire hazards of lasers and does not discuss the problem of visual interference with pilots’ or drivers’ vision while operating vehicles.

From
Newswire. The 2012 Health Canada press release is below (after the Read More… link). The July 2011 press release is here.
Click to read more...

South Africa: Laser pointer strapped to archer's head, to improve shooting accuracy

A South African scientist plans to strap a laser pointer-type device to the head of Olympic archer Karen Hultzer, to help make her shooting form consistent. Hulzer hired Johan Steryn of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to develop the device, which is not legal for competition but should improve muscle memory when used during training.

From the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

UK: UPDATED - Selling illegal laser pens could net a 3-month sentence for UK man

A man who sold hundreds of lasers, illegal under British law, was in court facing a possible three-month sentence for “supplying lasers and other goods that flouted safety regulations.”

33-year-old Techyun Hii ran Sky Laser Pointers from his home in Ribbleton, a suburb of Preston, Lancashire. In 2011, Lancashire Trading Standards officials found he had lasers that were up to 150 milliwatts, substantially over the U.K. limit of 1 milliwatts for laser pens sold to the public through an eBay store. Three packages were being sent to Greece, just before the Greek riots. He had been warned twice before about U.K. laws and his obligations.

In April 2012, investigators placed a test purchase which led to Hii’s arrest. He pleaded guilty to five counts of selling illegal goods, and will be sentenced July 4 2012.

From the Lancashire Evening Post

UPDATED November 25 2012: Hii was sentenced to a 180 day jail term, suspended for 18 months and was ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work. The lasers sere destroyed by burning them in a hospital’s furnace. From the Lancashire Evening Post.

UPDATED March 22 2013: The case was the subject of a paper in the Proceedings of the 2013 International Laser Safety Conference, “Laser Product Assessment for Lancashire County Council Trading Standards Service” by John O’Hagan, Michael Higlett and Marina Khazova, pp. 181-188. A summary of the paper is here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

Italy: 10 incidents at Aviano NATO airbase in 18 months

In the 18 months from January 2011 to June 2012, there have been 10 incidents where lasers have been pointed at aircraft using Aviano Air Base, a NATO facility in northeast Italy. Military and Italian police have been trying to find the perpetrators but thus far have not had success. If found, the offenders could be prosecuted under U.S. federal or military law, or under Italian law.

From StrategyPage.com and Air Force Times

Canada: Laser statistics for 2010, 2011 and Q1 2012

Transport Canada reported that 183 aircraft were illuminated by lasers in 2010 while 229 were illuminated in 2011. This represents a 25% increase from 2010 to 2011. Between January 1 and March 31 2012, there were 51 incidents nationwide. The following is a province-by-province breakdown:

Pic 2012-05-28 at 12.49.19 PM

According to the Toronto Star, from January 1 to late May 2012 there have been 36 laser incidents at Pearson International and other Toronto-area airports, and 100 incidents nationwide. (This is probably based on their own analysis of the CADORS incident database since the Transport Canada chart above only went through the first quarter of 2012.)

WestJet has arranged for a Calgary-based ophthalmologist to examine pilots’ eyes after laser incidents. A spokesperson said “We want to have an individual identified in every major city so we can send that (pilot) right away to be tested.”

Canada lags other countries in aggressively prosecuting offenders, according to the chair of the flight safety division of the Air Canada Pilots Association: “The judicial system should apply the law to its maximum extent rather than soft-shoeing around the issue.” At the federal level, aiming a “directed bright light” at an aircraft is illegal under the Aeronautics Act. The maximum penalties are a prison term of five years and a fine of $100,000.

From the Toronto Star; chart courtesy Transport Canada

UPDATE, May 30 2012: At LaserPointerSafety.com’s request, Transport Canada analyzed first quarter incident statistics for the past three years. They found 29 incidents in Q1 2010, 27 incidents in Q1 2011, and 53 incidents in Q1 2012. (Note that they found two additional Q1 2012 incidents which were not included in the province-by-province breakdown above.) A Transport Canada spokesperson speculated that reasons for increased incidents in general may include increased awareness and reporting by pilots, and “copycat” actions by persons who would not think to aim a laser at aircraft until they hear news reports of incidents.

US: New Virginia law makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly aim at an aircraft

A bill making it illegal in Virginia to “knowingly and intentionally” aim a laser at an aircraft goes into effect July 1 2012. House Bill 87 was introduced December 21 2011 by Barry Knight, delegate from Virginia Beach, which has had numerous problems due to widespread sales of low-cost laser pointers. Throughout HB 87’s journey through the General Assembly, in committee votes and on the House and Senate floors, there were never any “No” votes against the measure. HB 87 was signed by the Governor on March 30 2012.

The bill amends the Commonwealth’s Acts of Assembly Chapter 5.1-22, covering interference with aircraft to also prohibit “projecting a point of light from a laser, laser gun sight, or any other device that simulates a laser at an aircraft…” The only exception is for persons authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration or by U.S. armed forces. Violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

From the Virginia Legislative Information System and FairfaxTimes.com.

Scotland: 107 laser incidents in Glasgow in 2011

In a story about a May 14 2012 laser incident, the Scotsman reported that there were 107 laser incidents involving aircraft in Glasgow during 2011, up from five incidents during 2008.

From the Scotsman

US: FAA to take harsher actions against persons aiming at aircraft

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration “will pursue the toughest penalties” against persons who deliberately aim lasers at aircraft, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on May 16 2012. Since June 2011, FAA has taken action against 28 persons, with a fine of $11,000 per laser strike. The highest penalty sought so far is $30,800.

FAA has directed its staff not to seek warning notices or counseling, but to use “moderately high civil penalties” for inadvertent laser illuminations, and maximum penalties for deliberate violations.

In a video provided by FAA, LaHood said “I wonder how stupid people really can be” for not knowing that laser light could “cause great harm if the pilot is not able to continue to fly the plane safely…. people’s lives could be in jeopardy.” LaHood also said people should “understand that there are serious consequences to shining a laser at a pilot.”

The complete press release is below (click the “Read More...” link). This also has links to video and audio from LaHood and the acting FAA Administrator.
Click to read more...

UK: 15 laser incidents at East Midlands Airport in 10 months

Local police say that laser pens were aimed at aircraft using East Midlands Airport about 15 times from July 2011 to May 2012. In addition, laser pens have been pointed at cars, buses, and police helicopters. In a few cases, children have been found to be responsible.

Police warned of the hazards of endangering pilots and drivers, and noted that a violation could result in being sentenced to prison for life.

From This Is Derbyshire and the Loughborough Echo

Israel: Advanced anti-laser filter announced

A newly developed anti-laser filter works by blocking laser light based not just on the wavelength (color) as with traditional filters, but based also on the light level (irradiance). KiloLambda Technologies of Tel Aviv says their filter “is clear at all wavelengths until it is hit by an incoming power above a certain level. Below the threshold, the filter has high transmission over the whole spectral band, but when the input power exceeds the threshold, transmission is either limited to a certain value or blocked completely."

It is not clear whether the filter is available at this time (May 2012). The company intends to incorporate it into glasses and night-vision goggles worn by pilots, to protect against flash blindness, meaning power densities from 100 µW/cm² up to 1000 µW/cm².

From Optics.org

Bahamas: Laser pointer is attached to a shark fin for publicity, science

In a publicity stunt involving a modicum of science, a 50 mW laser pointer was attached to a shark’s fin by a marine biologist in the Bahamas. He found that other sharks were attracted to the beam.

Pic 2012-05-02 at 4.54.33 AM


The late April 2012 undertaking was inspired by a recurring theme of Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies, who wanted a weapon of “frickin' sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their frickin' heads.”

From Wired

US: Man builds a replica Star Trek phaser

A story made the rounds on the Internet in late April 2012, about a “working” Star Trek phaser. It uses a blue diode inside a toy or replica phaser housing, and is shown in a video popping a balloon.

Pic 2012-05-02 at 4.19.05 AM

This is not the first time such a project has been done. In 2007, Kip Kedersha (“Kipkay”) posted a YouTube video showing how he bought a surplus Playstation 3 laser diode for $45 and a Star Trek toy for $30, in order to make a laser-emitting phaser.

A Huffington Post story has the 2012 video, as well as links to earlier videos and detailed build instructions.

From Reddit via the Huffington Post

UK: CAA issues Safety Notice to pilots, after 2,300 laser attacks in 2011

The Civil Aviation Authority issued Safety Notice SN-2012/005, containing recommendations regarding operational safety to counter laser attacks, on April 13 2012.

Below are highlights from the document, which gives some background information and statistics, and then describes how affected crew should prepare for and react to a laser attack. (Emphasis in bold added by LaserPointerSafety.com.)
Click to read more...

UK: Eye test for pilots available from CAA website

The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority have produced an “Aviation Laser Exposure Self-Assessment”, to be used by persons exposed to laser light. It was developed for the CAA’s medical department by Stephanie Waggel, of George Washington University.

The ALESA card is available in hard copy, and can also be downloaded from CAA’s website. If downloaded, the Amsler Grid on the first page should be printed so it is 10 x 10 cm.

Pic 2012-04-10 at 9.36.25 AMPic 2012-04-10 at 9.37.22 AM
Click for PDF version from CAA ALESA webpage


When staring at the dot in the center of the grid, if the lines appear distorted or there are blank or faded areas, there may be a problem. The person is encouraged to remove themselves from aviation-related duties such as flying or air traffic control, and to see an eye specialist.

The second page has a flowchart of exposure conditions leading either to a “1” meaning unlikely eye damage or a “2” meaning eye damage possibility. If the person scores a “2”, the flowchart suggests they see an eye specialist.

From PilotWeb and the CAA ALESA webpage. The CAA press release about ALESA is here.

South Africa: 181 laser incidents in 2+ years

There have been 181 laser/aircraft incidents recorded in South Africa, from January 1 2010 to February 29 2012, according to the Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS). Cape Town International Airport recorded 106 of these events, followed by Lanseria with 21 incidents, and OR Tambo and East London tying at 14 incidents each.

On March 25 2012, an ATNS statement noted that air traffic control towers have been illuminated by laser light, in addition to airplanes and helicopters. ATNS said there have been at least two arrests, but thus far, no prosecutions.

South African aviation groups are joining together to publicize the hazards and penalties of aiming lasers at aircraft. They are also considering strengthening laws. According to the statement, laser ownership requires a permit, but illegal sales are taking place via imports and black market stores.

From The Star via Independent Online, News 24, and the Daily News. Thanks to Dr. Ian Powell for bringing this to our attention. The ATNS press release is after the link (click “Read More…”).
Click to read more...

US: Maryland "Laser Safety Act" passes House, goes to Senate

The text in blue, below, is from a press release sent March 26 2012 by Maryland State Delegate Sam. Arora. It has been slightly edited to re-arrange a few sentences.

UPDATE, November 20 2012: The bill did not pass. According to Arora, it “passed the House of Delegates in March [2012] but ultimately failed to reach a vote in the state Senate during the final hours of the regular legislative session, when a budget showdown between the two chambers effectively killed scores of bills that were scheduled for votes.” It was reintroduced in November 2012, as discussed in this story.



AIRCRAFT LASER ATTACK BILL PASSES MARYLAND HOUSE, MOVES TO SENATE

Bill Would Punish Shining Laser Pointers at Pilots in Flight

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- A measure aimed at curbing a dangerous trend targeting aircraft passed the Maryland House of Delegates Monday afternoon and now will head to the state Senate for approval.
 
The bill, the
Laser Safety Act (HB 130), sponsored by Maryland State Delegate Sam Arora (D-Montgomery Co.), seeks stiffer penalties for people who shine laser pointers into aircraft cockpits, potentially blinding pilots in flight. The Act would carry a penalty of up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Current law only permits for a $500 fine for “misuse of a laser pointer”.
Click to read more...

US & UK: UPDATED - Laser incident rate in U.K. more than twice the U.S. rate

Aircraft in the United Kingdom are 2.24 times more likely to be involved in a laser incident, than aircraft in the United States, according to a LaserPointerSafety.com analysis. The figures compare the number of aircraft takeoffs and landings, to the number of reported laser incidents. Specifically:

  • U.S. airports had 9,079,000 flights in 2011, with 3,591 laser incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration. This is a rate of one U.S. laser incident for every 2,528 flights. Said another way, this is 0.40 incidents per 1,000 flights.
  • U.K. airports had 2,152,787 flights in 2011, with 1,909 laser incidents reported to the Civil Aviation Authority. This is a rate of one U.K. laser incident for every 1,128 flights. Said another way, this is 0.89 incidents per 1,000 flights.

The ratio of U.K. to U.S. rates is 2.24, meaning that the U.K. had more than twice the number of laser incidents than the U.S., when adjusted for the number of flights. (Important note: These figures do NOT mean that commercial aircraft are targeted at the rates indicated. Many laser incidents involve police helicopters. The analysis is simply meant to compare the two countries’ rates of laser misuse against aircraft of all types.)

It should also be noted that there could be many underlying factors affecting the precise numbers. For example, it is not known if the U.S. counts laser incidents in the same way as the U.K.

However, the figures do indicate that the U.K. rate of laser incidents appears to be significantly higher -- roughly twice the U.S. rate, based on the number of flights.

From an analysis by LaserPointerSafety.com, March 22 2012.

Updated May 27 2012 to correct a math error and make clear that it is the United Kingdom which has a higher rate of laser incidents (e.g., more incidents per 1000 flights). Our thanks to Brian Turner for pointing out this error.

Methodology: We define a “flight” as a takeoff plus a landing. US flight figures are from the Airline Activity “departures” statistic from the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. It is assumed that each flight which departs also lands, so the data is accurate for “flights” as we have defined it. UK flight figures are from totaling column G, Total ATMs, from “Table 4, 1 Air Transport Movements 2011” found on the CAA UK Airport Statistics 2011 page. A UK “movement” is one takeoff plus one landing, so this is the same as our “flights” definition.

While the flight statistics compare only airline (US) and air transport (UK) flights, and do not include law enforcement flights, we believe this is a valid “apples to apples” comparison of how many more flights take place in the U.S. than in the U.K. A previous LaserPointerSafety.com analysis showed that law enforcement flights are less than 1% of the total flights from U.S. airports. Inclusion of law enforcement flight numbers would not significantly change the ratio of U.S.-to-U.K. flights.

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US: Georgia bill would ban aiming at police and aircraft

Georgia Senate Bill 441 passed the Senate Feb. 27 2012 by a vote of 43 to 4 (with 5 Senators not voting and 4 Senators excused). As of March 21 2012, SB 411 is under consideration by the House.

The proposed bill would 1) establish the offense of unlawful pointing of a laser device at a law enforcement officer, and 2) prohibit aiming a laser pointer or projecting a laser on or at an aircraft or the flight path of an aircraft. The legislative history of the bill, including the full text of the Senate and House versions, is at the Georgia General Assembly website. We have also put the full text of the House version on the U.S. laws page here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

One interesting point is that the bill contains an exemption for “laser or laser pointer airspace uses that have been reviewed and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.” This is a broader provision than the recently passed U.S. law, which only permits certain FAA-reviewed uses such as research and development.

In the view of LaserPointerSafety.com, the Georgia bill’s language is more flexible and still maintains safety, since they leave it up to the FAA to determine what outdoor laser uses are approved (technically, “non-objected”).

UK: 1,909 laser incidents in 2011; renewed calls for laser ban or restriction

The March 15 2012 arrest of a Keighley, West Yorkshire man has led to renewed interest in U.K. laser pointer incidents, and potential restrictions. Kris Hopkins, Member of Parliament from Keighley, said there should be stronger punishment for laser misuse, and that government should consider regulating laser purchasers.

In 2011, a law was introduced by MP Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West), to make it a criminal offense to shine a laser into an aircraft cockpit.

According the Civil Aviation Authority, there were 1,909 laser incidents in the U.K. in 2011, compared with three in 2008. [Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: The 2008 statistic is almost certainly incorrect. A previous LaserPointerSafety.com news item from BBC News reported 27 lasers were used against commercial aircraft in 2007, and there were 80 cases from January through September 2008.]

From the Bradford Telegraph and Argus

Worldwide: Laser weapons 10-20 years away from widespread deployment

Lasers and other directed electromagnetic weapons won’t be widely deployed until the 2022-2032 time frame, according to experts speaking at a conference on Direct Energy Systems.

One speaker noted “…we have had kinetic weapons for 500 years and laser weapons for 10-15 years…. The soldier wants a reliable, easy-to-handle, clear to understand system that has the reliability of a normal M16 rifle, or whatever, therefore the superiority is on the kinetic side.”

From Optics.org

US: Amateur astronomers illuminate International Space Station with spotlights and 1-watt laser

On March 4, 2012, amateur astronomers from San Antonio and Austin were able to flash the International Space Station with two 800 million lumen white spotlights and a 1-watt blue laser, aimed from the Lozano Observatory in Spring Branch, Texas. This appears to be the first time that astronauts have seen civilian light beams aimed at them.

ISS flash5-6 anim_400w
Two-frame animated GIF showing bright and dim light from the Lozano Observatory (center) near the city of San Antonio (left). North is to the right in this photo from the International Space Station, taken by astronaut Don Pettit. Click on photo for a larger version.


The spotlights were flashed at the ISS by holding plywood sheets in front of the lights every two seconds. This procedure can be seen in the video below.

The animated GIF above shows a bright blue light alternating with a dim light. The bright light is almost certainly from the spotlights. The bluish tint may be an artifact of oversaturating the camera’s sensor. Astronaut Don Pettit reported that the bright light appeared white, and the dim light appeared blue. He wrote “We could only see the laser when the white light was off and not all the time.” (E.g., the white spotlights overpowered the blue laser.) He added, “It was like there were tracking issues with the laser to keep it on target.”

The dim light in the animated GIF may be the laser only, or it may be light from the spotlights that wasn’t fully blocked by the plywood sheets. The astronomers will be working with Pettit, trying to pin down exactly how visible the laser light was.

Click to read more...

General interest: Article discusses pros and cons of laser sights for weapons

An interesting article at Officer.com describes how laser sights can be used to enhance firearm proficiency. According to the article, laser sights help in training and simulation, allow faster target acquisition, “help minimize collateral damage, reduce tunnel vision and allow proper use of cover and/or concealment.”

Author John Wills notes that laser sights are not as effective beyond 20 feet, and they do not substitute for marksmanship techniques such as grip and stance.

Glock 23 with laser sight_300w
Glock Model 23 with M6 Tactical Laser Illuminator (xenon light plus red laser pointer < 5 mW).
Image from nukeit1 at Flickr, CC by 2.0 license.


Green laser sights are now available; they are more easily seen than an equivalent-power red laser. Infrared laser sights are made for use with night vision goggles. The beam cannot be seen by the naked eye, so a bad guy does not even know he is being targeted.

Wills concludes by saying “like any other tool there is a right way and a wrong way to use” lasers.

From Officer.com

US: Tampa police purchase anti-laser filters for night vision goggles

The Tampa (Florida) Police Department Aviation Unit has purchased anti-laser filters for use with night vision goggles (NFGs). Manufacturer Night Flight Concepts said that Tampa is one of the first law enforcement agencies to use the filters. According to Aviation Today, the Tampa police department has four helicopters: two Bell 407s, one Bell 206, and a Hughes OH-6.

A person wearing NVGs is normally not at risk of retinal injuries, since direct laser light falls on the image intensifier device and not the eyes. (Depending on the NVG mounting style, it may be possible for direct laser light to enter from the side or from parts of the vision not covered by the NVG optics.) However, a serious concern is with laser light causing “blooming” of the night vision enhanced image, or even damaging the NVG sensor. To help prevent this, Night Flight Concepts developed “Laser Armor” Light Interference Filters.

Pic 2012-03-01 at 11.51.53 AM


Company consultant Dr. Dudley Crosson says the screw-in filters “allow the goggles to function normally by reducing the blooming effect significantly.” A Laser Armor product sheet says the filters reduce blue (445-450 nm) intensity by 97%, and reduce green (532 nm) intensity by 99.5%.

From Aviation Today and a Night Flight Concepts press release

US: First comments on new U.S. law, from Western Pa. prosecutor

On February 14 2012, President Obama signed a law making it illegal to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, or its flight path. The first official comment we have seen on this law comes from David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for Western Pennsylvania. He was quoted on February 27 as saying “This is a serious federal crime which could cause disastrous consequences and will have serious repercussions in the criminal justice system.”

Hickton noted that the new law makes it easier to prosecute since malicious intent is no longer required. Instead, it must be proven that the defendant “knowingly” targeted an aircraft or its flight path with a laser pointer. The new law’s penalty is up to $250,000 fine and/or prison for up to five years.

A map from the FAA Allegheny Flight Standards District Office shows the location of 51 laser events between September 2009 and October 2011. Arrests were made in only two of these cases: “Hickton and other officials concede it can be difficult to pinpoint culprits.”

Allegheny FSDO lasers 9-2009_10-2011
Click on map to enlarge it


From 90.5 FM Essential Public Radio and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. A press release from Hickton’s office is below (click the Read More link). Edited Feb. 28 2012 at 3:15 PM EST to correct a statement from 90.5 FM.

Click to read more...

UAE: Laser pointers seized, destroyed in Dubai

Officials from Dubai’s Department of Economic Development (DED) seized “laser-pointer items” being sold at one or more local markets, according to the newspaper Emirat Alyoum. The lasers were among items such as lighters shaped as pistols and inflatable toys said to be a threat to security and to health. The laser could cause burns to the body and “is prohibited trading in general, affecting the navigational systems for aircraft”, according to a DED director. He warned dealers against importing or marketing such items, saying violators could be fined and even shut down if they are caught again.

The newspaper report did not have specifics about the lasers’ numbers, power, color, etc.

From Emirat Alyoum. English-language reports from Emirates 24/7 and Bikya Masr.

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: Obama signs bill making aiming laser pointers at aircraft a federal crime

President Barack Obama signed a bill on February 14 2012 which contains a provision making it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft. This new law is contained in Section 311 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 658).

Violation can result in a fine and/or imprisonment up to five years. The bill does provide a few exemptions for research and development, flight testing, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security. The only exemption for ordinary citizens is when “using a laser emergency signaling device to send an emergency distress signal.”

The laser pointer misuse prohibition becomes part of the United States Code; specifically, Title 18, Chapter 2, new section 39A: “Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft”. The text of the new law is here.

From AVStop News

US: First laser dazzler FDA-approved for non-military police

A laser dazzler has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for non-military use by law enforcement officers. The 200 milliwatt GLARE Enforcer enlarges the green laser beam more than a conventional laser pointer, in order to create a “cone” of light that can encompass a number of persons in a vehicle or on foot. It is visible as a warning device up to 1.25 miles away, and can produce disruptive dazzle up to 1600 feet away.

Pic 2012-02-14 at 9.05.54 AM
Range diagram from a
PDF product brochure for the GLARE Enforcer laser dazzler


While the nominal ocular hazard zone (NOHD) at full power is 130 feet, the device includes a safe, low-power laser that measures the distance to a person or reflective object, and lowers the light level so it is safe at the detected distance. Military dazzlers do not have such a feature, relying instead on training soldiers not to aim the laser at persons closer than the hazard distance.

Laser journalist Jeff Hecht reported in a February 13 2012 article that there have been “some injuries” from military dazzlers, most of them minor. He also noted that ordinary citizens armed with laser pointers could be more of a hazard than police or military dazzlers. For example, lasers were used against police in Greece during riots in June 2011.

From New Scientist. The B.E. Meyers Electro-Optics GLARE Enforcer product page is here.

UK: 1,600+ laser pen incidents in first 9 months of 2011

A February 10 2012 newspaper report mentioned in passing that there were more than 1,600 laser pointer incidents in the UK, in the first nine months of 2011. Extrapolated to the full year, that would mean over 2,100 incidents for all of 2011.

From the Croydon Guardian

US: FAA clarifies "incidents" vs. "aircraft" laser illumination events

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has clarified how it defines “incidents” in the FAA Laser Incident Database. According to FAA, each time the pilot, crew or (in rare cases) passengers of an aircraft see a laser beam -- either outside the cockpit or coming through the windscreen -- this is one “incident”. According to this criteria, the numbers of incidents in the past five years are as follows: 3,591 incidents in 2011, 2,836 incidents in 2010, 1,527 incidents in 2009, 949 incidents in 2008, and 639 incidents in 2007.

This is important because the FAA Laser Incident Database sometimes listed multiple reports from aircraft on a single spreadsheet row, if these were all in the same location at about the same time. Thus, it might appear that there was one “incident” which was reported by multiple aircraft. (This is how LaserPointerSafety.com interpreted an “incident” prior to February 15 2012.) However, FAA is now saying this was not their intent. While FAA may suspect that a single perpetrator was involved, they cannot be certain and thus to FAA this would be multiple incidents.

For example, in 2011, there were 12 spreadsheet rows that listed two or more aircraft as seeing the same laser. One row listed 5 aircraft, one row listed 3 aircraft, and ten rows listed 2 aircraft. Thus, there were 28-12 or 16 additional incidents according to FAA’s clarified definition.

The statistical analysis at LaserPointerSafety.com here and here reflects how FAA counts incidents.
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US: Proposed Maryland law to increase penalties for shining lasers at aircraft

Proposed Maryland House Bill 130, the “Laser Safety Act”, would make it a misdemeanor to “knowingly and willfully cause or attempt to cause bodily injury by shining, pointing, or focusing the beam of a laser pointer on an individual operating a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft.” The penalty is a maximum 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.

Co-sponsor Sam Arora said “We need this law … we’re talking about potential death.” The Maryland State Police testified in support of the bill at a February 7 2012 hearing that “the results [of a laser incident] could be deadly.” A WJZ TV news report said “Blinding a pilot at night is a good way to kill people.”



The bill only applies to laser pointers, defined under Maryland law (Title 3, Subtitle 8, Section 3-806) as any device that emits visible laser light. There are exemptions for lasers used for flight testing for the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

The bill was introduced January 23 2012, and had its first reading on February 7. A companion Maryland Senate bill is expected to be introduced soon.

From Essex-Middle River Patch, CBS Baltimore WJZ, and the Maryland legislative information website. The full text of the bill is here; the Maryland definition of laser pointer is here.

Editorial note from LaserPointerSafety.com: A Maryland state police paramedic gave an erroneous demonstration to reporters purporting to show how a laser can be a hazard to aircraft. In a hangar, he aimed a red laser pointer at a helicopter windscreen only a few yards away. The resulting (grossly inaccurate) video shows a tiny red dot on the windscreen and in the aircraft. This is NOT what happens in a laser-aircraft incident. Instead, the light would be many inches across, even at low, helicopter-hovering altitudes of many hundreds of feet. The windscreen would further spread the light so that there would be a wide area of glare. In other words, the hazard is not a pinpoint that can go into one’s pupil, but a large “blob” of light that can cause temporary flashblindness, glare or distraction. This is an example of how laser hazards close up (within a few feet or yards) are very different from laser hazards to aircraft hundreds or thousands of feet away.
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New Zealand: 100 incidents in 2011; pilots want Class 3 laser imports banned

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association (NZALPA) has called for a ban on importation of Class 3 and 4 lasers. President Glen Kenny said that laser “strikes” have been increasing and “It has reached a stage where any member of the public can purchase a commercial grade laser and do what they please with it.” A ban would mean that only lasers with powers below 1 milliwatt could be imported for the general public.

There are currently no restrictions on the public’s ownership of lasers in New Zealand.

NZALPA’s technical director Stu Julian told TV ONE that if the laser incidents continue, they could cause a crash due to distracting a pilot when they have minimal reaction time.

According to the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, there were 100 laser pointer incidents in 2011, with 40 of those at the Auckland airport. A spokesperson for the Eagle police helicopter said the crew had lasers pointed at them “all the time. It happens fairly often and it’s a real risk to the crew.”

From MSN NZ, TVNZ, Scoop NZ, and the New Zealand Herald. The text of a Feb. 7 2012 press release from NZALPA is below (after the “Read More” link). Thanks to Mark Wardle of NZALPA for bringing this to our attention. The New Zealand Herald link has a list of selected New Zealand laser incidents. To find all aviation incidents from New Zealand reported at LaserPointerSafety.com, click here.
Click to read more...

US: Air Force spending $2,400 each, for 3,000+ laser protection glasses

Teledyne Technologies Inc. announced February 3 2012 that its subsidiary, Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, LLC (TS&I), was awarded a $7.7 million contract by the United States Air Force to fabricate, test, and deliver 3,137 Aircrew Laser Eye Protection Block 2 spectacles. The potential value of the contract including options is $20.4 million for a total of 8,500 spectacles over three years. Deliveries began in December 2011. TS&I was the prime contractor for the prior Aircrew Laser Eye Protection Block 1 program, where the company delivered approximately 5,000 eyewear to the United States Air Force.

[NOTE: The amounts above represent about $2,400 per pair of laser protection spectacles. More information about anti-laser glasses for pilots, including non-military versions protecting against one or two visible wavelengths for roughly $100-200, is here.]

From a Teledyne Technologies press release

US: 2011 total: 3,591 laser/aircraft incidents

The number of laser/aircraft incidents in the U.S. during the period January 1 through December 31 2011 was 3,591. This was an average of 9.8 incidents each night.

Note: The FAA reports the 2011 total as 3,592. This is because the last entry in the FAA’s laser incident spreadsheet is on line 3,592. However, the spreadsheet headings are on line 1, so the actual number of 2011 incidents is 3,591 -- the number we use below.

What is an FAA-reported “laser incident”?: This is defined as an aircraft pilot seeing one or more laser beams during flight. A mid-2011 study by Rockwell Laser Industries of 6,903 incidents reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration found that in 27% of incidents, beams entered the cockpit (passed through the windscreen). For example, in 2011, there were 3,591 incidents of which approximately 970 (27%) involved beams in the cockpit.

PowerPoint version available: A set of slides, presented to the SAE G10 aviation safety committee on Jan. 31, 2012, is available on the Files and Downloads page.

Yearly Comparison
Here are the number of incidents reported to FAA in recent years:
  • 2011: 3,591 incidents (9.8 per night)
  • 2010: 2,836 incidents (7.7 per night)
  • 2009: 1,527 incidents (4.2 per night)
  • 2008: 949 incidents (2.6 per night)
  • 2007: 639 incidents (1.8 per night)
  • 2006: 384 incidents (1.1 per night)
  • 2005: 283 incidents (0.78 per night)
  • 2004: 46 incidents (0.13 per night) involving an unknown number of aircraft Note: FAA mandated that pilots report incidents using Advisory Circular 70-2, beginning January 19 2005. Before this date, pilot reporting was voluntary.

This is a total of approximately 10,201 incidents reported to FAA, from 2004 through the end of 2011.

Adverse Effects
In 55 of the 3,591 laser/aircraft incidents (1.5%), a pilot or aircraft occupant reported a temporary adverse visual effect such as flashblindness, afterimage, blurry vision, eye irritation and/or headache. None of these effects was classified as a recordable injury by FAA medical experts.

In these 55 incidents…
  • … there were 31 reports of pain or discomfort in the eyes or elsewhere (e.g., headache).
  • … there were 31 reports of vision impairment such as afterimages (10) and blurry vision (7).
  • … seven persons sought medical treatment after the laser exposure.
  • … one person was grounded temporarily.
  • … three flights were affected: in two cases, the pilot turned control over to the co-pilot; in one case the pilot felt he had to land immediately.

Rate of increase, by year
While laser incidents continue to increase, during 2011 the rate of increase slowed significantly.

Pic 2012-02-16 at 7.27.49 AM

The rate of increase dropped 59% in 2011 (from 86.4% to 27%). If there is another 59% drop in 2012, (dashed line), then there would be a decrease in laser incidents for the first time, from 3,591 incidents in 2011 to 2,836 incidents projected for 2012.
Click to read more...

Worldwide: Concern over laser dazzling of satellites

A new book by Economist reporter Benjamin Sutherland has a chapter about lasers being used by military forces to dazzle or possibly blind satellites. In an interview published January 21 2012, Sutherland discussed the “Endangered Birds” chapter in his book Modern Warfare, Intelligence and Deterrence:

“There are lasers used to hit satellites, it’s called dazzling, and it’s a show of force. There are a handful of countries that can do it. China dazzles U.S. and French satellites in low earth orbit not often, but regularly. What if a laser hits them, maybe lingers too long? A show of force can actually damage the satellite, knocks out some sensitive equipment. If that happens, and it’s from China, is that an act of war? What do you do? Political leaders have to be briefed on this. They have to make an effort to avoid escalation.”

From an interview in the Santa Barbara Independent conducted by Kevin Zambrano

South Africa: 70 incidents in 2011, including a go-around; no arrests

In 2011, there were 70 laser illumination incidents in South Africa reported to Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS). One was a go-around of a commercial airliner at OR Tambo International Airport, which serves Johannesburg and is the busiest airport in Africa. Although pilots were temporarily flashblinded, the go-around did not result in any injuries.

The majority of South African incidents occurred in Cape Town, with other reports at OR Tambo, Wonderboom in Pretoria, and Lanseria International. In an incident in Lanseria, “two pilots were blinded so badly that after landing they couldn’t see the man who signaled where to park the plane” according to News24.com.

There were no persons arrested during 2011 for aiming a laser at aircraft. Over all years, there have only been two incidents resulting in arrests (as of January 11 2012):


A Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson said “It is a serious hazard to point laser lights at aircraft.” The maximum penalty for an offense is a “hefty fine and up to 30 years in jail.”

The general manager of the Air Line Pilots Association of South Africa said ALPA-SA members were reporting increasing numbers of incidents where “sudden and intense bursts of light [are] deliberately shone at aircraft…”

From The New Age and DefenceWeb

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: The figure of 70 incidents reported to ATNS in 2011 is probably low. A May 5 2011 news story quoted ALPA-SA as saying they receive between 10 and 12 complaints from pilots every week. That would result in 520 to 624 laser illuminations per year. Also, the 70-incident figure may be a misunderstanding or misquote. A news story from March 2011 quotes ALPA-SA as saying there were 70 incidents in the 10 months from April 1 2010 through February 28 2011; see News24.com.
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US: "The Straight Dope" answers the question "Should I be afraid of laser pointers?"

The syndicated newspaper column “The Straight Dope” answered a reader’s question about laser pointers as weapons: “Now more than ever, the world seems to be in need of ray guns…. What’s the holdup? Should I be scared of laser pointers?”

The answer first noted that laser weapons are large. An anti-missile laser required a Boeing 747, the Navy set fire to a boat with a destroyer-mounted laser, and a dazzler-type laser called the PHaSR is as portable “as a bag of cement.”

Then, Straight Dope purchased a 1 watt blue handheld laser (the same or similar to the Wicked Lasers Spyder III Arctic). They aimed it at room temperature pork chops and bacon. From one foot away, it took 27 seconds of continuous exposure before smoke appeared. Even with matches, it took 11 seconds to light a match from one foot away, and 15 seconds from 32 feet away.

The January 6 2012 column concluded that handheld laser ray guns are not practical: “…the likelihood that this laser would actually change somebody’s mind (other than via intimidation alone) is virtually nil…. no bad guy is going to sit still while you fry him.”

Story and photos are at the Straight Dope website. The column was also printed in the Washington City Paper.

UPDATE: In comments at the Washington City Paper, “dave b” noted that exposure to skin isn’t necessarily the important factor: “The key is to get the laser into someone’s eye.”
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US: Los Angeles TV news report about increasing laser pointer incidents

On January 4 2012, Los Angeles TV station KABC presented a two-minute report on the increasing numbers of lasers being pointed at aircraft. It was triggered by the previous day’s arrest of a man in Glendora, California for aiming a laser at a police helicopter.

KABC quoted the Glendora regional police helicopter tactical flight officer who was illuminated as saying “The laser could cause [eye] damage, and there’s a potential for the helicopter to crash.” The report said he and a pilot were recently trained by the FBI in how to handle a laser attack and how to track down a suspect.

Laser incidents are rising both nationwide and at local airport Los Angeles International (LAX), stated the report. It concluded by reminding the public that “any offense jeopardizes the safety of everyone.”

Pic 2012-01-05 at 11.18.25 AM
Click the screenshot above to view the video report from KABC


From
KABC


UK: MP wants action to reduce laser pen attacks at Leeds Bradford Airport

Leeds North West Member of Parliament Greg Mulholland is concerned that laser pen attacks near Leeds Bradford International Airport have not been reduced in 2011. In a January 3 2012 news story, Mulholland said he would be asking what additional steps the Civil Aviation Authority can take, and if they will develop a plan to deal with the laser incidents.

Figures for 2010 showed about 100 laser pen attacks on flights taking off or landing at the Yeadon-based airport. Figures from January 2011 through October 2011 showed 80 such attacks, indicating that the 2011 total would be similar to 2010.

A CAA spokesperson said laser pen misuse in Britain was not letting up in 2011: “The people who are carrying out these attacks are either still ignorant of the dangers high-powered lasers present to the safe operation of an aircraft, or they simply do not care.”

Mulholland said “a blanket ban on laser pointers is not the way forward because of the effect it would have on legitimate users. Something does, however, need to be done to address this serious ongoing issue.”

From the Bradford Telegraph and Argus

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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Click to 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 Airline 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.Click to 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:Click to 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.”

Click to 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.”Click to 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).Click to 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.Click to 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.Click to 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.Click to 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.Click to 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).Click to 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).Click to 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 MarketwireClick to 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.Click to 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.Click to 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.
Click to 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.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.

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.Click to 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.Click to 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.”Click to 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. H