A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

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.

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

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: 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

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

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: 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.”

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...

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.

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: 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.

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.
.
.

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...

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...