Site logo
Site logo
<div id="myExtraContent1"> </div>
<div id="myExtraContent2"> </div>
Site logo
Site logo
Site logo
Site logo

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

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.

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.
Read More...

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”
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.

Read More...

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.”

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: 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.

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

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.
Read More...

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.
.

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.
.

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.
.

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.
.

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.
.

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.
.

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.
.
.

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

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

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

US: 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

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

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

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

US: 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.

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.

Worldwide: Laser pointers reach 2000 milliwatts (2 watts)

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

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

US: 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.

US: Lasers prove ineffective at dispersing deer

A detailed scientific study entitled “Green and Blue Lasers are Ineffective for Dispersing Deer at Night” has determined that lasers would not be effective in wildlife management of deer. A number of previous studies had shown that some bird species strongly avoid red laser beams. Because deer cannot perceive red beams, blue and green lasers were scientifically tested in the field during 2004.

Results showed that while deer could see the laser spots, they “appeared to be more curious than frightened. We conclude that laser light has no potential as a nonlethal management option for reducing deer damage.”

The six authors jointly recommend that “lasers should continue to be evaluated across taxonomic groups as potential frightening devices for species that cause human-wildlife conflicts.”

From the Wildlife Society Bulletin, Vol. 34, Issue 2, pp 371-374, June 2006. First
published online December 13 2010.

Paper abstract: “Over-abundant populations of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) create agricultural and human health and safety issues. The increased economic damage associated with locally overabundant deer populations accentuates the need for efficient techniques to mitigate the losses. Although red lasers can be an efficient tool for reducing damage caused by birds, they are not effective for deer because deer cannot detect wavelengths in the red portion of the spectrum. No research has been conducted to determine if lasers of lower wavelengths could function as frightening devices for deer. We evaluated a green laser (534 nm, 120 mW) and 2 models of blue lasers (473 nm, 5 mW and 15 mW) to determine their efficacy in dispersing deer at night. Deer were no more likely to flee during a green or blue laser encounter than during control encounters. The green and blue lasers we tested did not frighten deer.“

A passage from the paper: “The lasers were first directed at vegetation close to and in front of deer and moved vigorously in a zig-zag manner. If this did not prompt a flight response within 15 seconds, we moved the laser beam in the same manner across the bodies and heads of deer. Data recorded for each encounter included: field number, treatment (laser or control), number of deer per group, initiation and termination times of the encounter, geographic location (UTM coordinates of vehicle), distance and compass bearing from vehicle to deer at initiation and termination (if still visible) of the encounter, deer behavior during the encounter (fleeing or other [bedded, walking, feeding]), and vegetation type (alfalfa, wheat, soybeans, or grass) that deer were located in at the initiation and termination of the encounter.”
.

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

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

BarBerCut Lite

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

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

From Vending Times

US: "SkyTag Green Laser Aircraft Tracker" gag product

Internet retailer ThinkGeek is advertising a laser aircraft tracker called SkyTag. This April Fool’s page has a bogus description of the gag product.

skytag

According to ThinkGeek, SkyTag comes with software that finds aircraft through online tracking websites. A built-in GPS orients SkyTag so it knows its own location. It can then identify aircraft “that are at the appropriate altitude for your green laser.”

Excerpts from the description:

  • “Stop worrying about things like mandatory jail time and social isolation and play the intriguing game of SkyTag today.”
  • “Successful back-to-back tags might even earn you a complimentary visit from your local FBI office!”
  • “Arrives with a voucher you can redeem to get 5% off your first fine of $25,000 or greater!”

A note states “Is this product legal? … CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO!” This leads to a file-not-found page (Error 404), as does clicking the “Add to Cart” button.

From ThinkGeek. Thanks to Frank Chaves, U.S. DHS, for bringing this to our attention. A list with SkyTag along with other ThinkGeek April Fool’s day products, such as the USB Pet Rock, is here.