A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
What’s new at LaserPointerSafety.com
This page covers significant new pages and material here at the website. This page does NOT list news about laser pointers and incidents -- you can find these on the three News pages.
Added a header to the website along with numerous graphic and layout changes. The header includes a site-wide search box which unfortunately does not seem to be working (have contacted the appropriate tech support). Updated information at some pages during this process.
Added a page about a new laser safety concept, the Nominal Ocular Dazzle Distance (and the Maximum Dazzle Exposure). Thanks to Dr. Craig Williamson for help in clarifying this discussion, though any errors on the page are the responsibility of LaserPointerSafety.com.
Added a page about hobbyist laser hacks and projects
Added an online laser hazard distance calculator. If you do NOHD and FAA visual interference distance calculations, this can save some time. It also explains the various inputs and results.
Added a page with corrections and advice for persons doing outdoor laser operations who want to notify FAA by filling out the forms in their FAA Advisory Circular 70-1.
Added information on the 2010 study “Green Laser Pointers for Visual Astronomy: How Much Power Is Enough?” where the authors concluded that a 5 mW Class 3R limit for astronomy pointing — at least for a single person or small group — was sufficient.
Added a page about windscreen protective film, to reduce laser light coming in through cockpit windows.
Added a page on how to safely simulate a laser strike, using a safe, inexpensive flashlight. Added links to this page on other pages where appropriate, such as the Tips and training for pilots page.
Added a page on Laser designator “flashlights”. Using one of these is highly recommended for pilot safety demonstrations.
Added information on the number of eye effects or injuries listed in FAA reports.
Added a page about research into whether the blink reflex and similar aversion responses are effective in protecting against excess laser light.
Finalized a cooperative agreement between LaserPointerForums.com and LaserPointerSafety.com. LPF added a notice about laser safety and a forum with “sticky” laser safety info on their site, and in return LaserPointerSafety added a LPF graphic and link to our sidebar, and a text link on our home page.
Put information on the home page about consumer laser projectors such as the “Star Shower,” which are used to put “stars” and images on the outside of a house. This information stays on the home page through the holiday season.
Added a page on emergency signaling devices such as laser flares to attract search-and-rescue personnel. Added a page on laser pointer permits, to put in one place information about various permitting and licensing schemes. Updated various pages to reference FDA’s October 25 proposal to only permit red laser pointers.
Re-did the website to make it easier to use on phones, tablets and other mobile devices.
Added the page If you are being harassed by a laser. This uses material formerly at ILDA’s old website, laserist.org, which now is not directly reachable from ILDA. And the material is more appropriate here at LaserPointerSafety.com. Also added information about a group for people who feel they are being electronically harassed.
Added a page with updates about injuries erroneously claimed to be from “laser toys.”
We would like to welcome a new sponsor, Gentex Aircrew Systems.
Updated the statistical information about the website’s page views, visitors, sessions, etc. on the Sponsorship page. The statistics now cover April 1 2013 through March 31 2014.
Added more up-to-date information on possible treatments for retinal burns to the page If you are hit by a laser.
Solved a problem on April 24, which had been present since at least mid-March 2014, where at least two pages had 404 (unavailable) errors: Non-aviation incidents, and Laser safety calculations. As it turned out, this was caused by an overzealous malware scanner at our website hosting service. The scanner flagged the two words “by” and “wicked” when they appeared together in a sentence, and automatically deleted the files. After many (many!) hours to track this down, the eventual solution was to re-edit the pages so that these two words did not appear together.
Due to requests for high-res photos, added a link to the highest resolution photo available from the FAA, showing a pilot illuminated by laser light. Thanks to Barry Glenn of Orlando Magazine for his help in obtaining this.
Reorganized information on FAA laser/aircraft statistics, and added 2013 statistics. The new information has its own menu on the left side, FAA laser/aircraft statistics. Currently there are two submenus, one for 2004-2013 historical data and one for 2013 laser/aircraft incidents.
Added a page which is a reprint of an article on laser protective eyewear, written by Jason Palidwar of Iridian Spectral Technologies for Photonics Spectra magazine, January 2014.
Added a page with a chart about Laser Classes (2, 3R, 3B and 4)
Added a “Perspectives & opinions” special report on laser toys. The article examines claims that laser toys are widespread and have caused numerous eye injuries.
Added a summary of a major study on laser pointers’ effects on eye injuries, conducted for the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM).
Added information to the International laws page, and to the page on making laws against laser pointers, based on New Zealand’s newly-introduced restrictions on laser pointers over 1 mW.
Added a chart on the Home page showing the number of incidents, day-by-day, since January 1 2004.
Added information about bird strikes on the page that compares laser risks to other devices and activities.
Updated the chart showing the number of laser incidents reported to FAA, to add the 2013 estimate. This chart can be found on the Home page and here.
Added a diagram entitled “Some ways to help reduce the number and severity of laser pointer/aircraft incidents.” This is intended for use in Powerpoint and other presentations to the general public. A larger version, 2048 x 1607 pixels, is available here.
Added a link to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s webpage on green laser pointer usage. The link appears on the LaserPointerSafety.com webpage with tips for outdoor use.
Found an April 2013 FAA report comparing helicopters to fixed-wing aircraft, in terms of the altitude at which they were illuminated, and the adverse effects. Added a short news item as well as a page summarizing the FAA report.
Found that in February 2013 the FAA replaced Advisory Circular 70-2 with an updated version, 70-2A. Updated references as necessary, and also updated the pages To report an incident and How to reduce incidents: For pilots.
Added a page about lasers and camera damage, intended for audience members attending performances where lasers are in use.
Made various revisions based on a review of LaserPointerSafety.com by a leading laser safety expert. These include:
- On the Don’t aim at head & eyes page, lowered estimates of the power that could cause eye damage (from “roughly 50 to 100” mW to “roughly 10 to 20” mW), lowered estimates of the power at which the beam from a laser can be felt (from “around 200-300” mW to “around 150” mW), and changed the date of the most recent issuance of the FDA’s Laser Notice #50 (from 2001 to 2007)
- On the page Comparing risks of lasers to other items and activities, clarified the purpose of the page in the introductory comments, slightly revised the discussion of distraction/flashblinding of automobiles, and removed commentary about deaths to children from falling out of windows
- Clarified purpose of the page with CPSC NEISS laser pointer injury reports
- Removed a statement about laser use in riots and demonstrations in the Fast laser facts for media page, and re-emphasized the hazard of visual interference to pilots
Revised the FDA authority page, to reflect new information. This includes a private communication about how CDRH came to regulate laser pointers, and an email from FDA describing its authority over laser pointers.
Added various papers from the every-two-years International Laser Safety Conference. A summary of 15 ILSC papers is here. Some papers have their own news articles as well.
Added page on illegal laser pointers being sold at Amazon.com.
Updated information in a few places to reflect the fact that Australia had 733 laser incidents in 2011, despite having some of the most restrictive import and possession restrictions in the world.
Added a page summarizing LaserPointerSafety.com’s recommendations on how to reduce the number and severity of laser pointing incidents.
Added the CAA’s self-assessment test for laser damage to the If you are hit by a laser page.
Added a proposed bill in the Georgia state legislature to the U.S. laws page.
Added a page about the Feb. 29 2012 incident in Winthrop, Mass. where a parent aimed a laser pointer at high school girls during a hockey game.
Added two presentations given at the January 31, 2012 SAE G10 Plenary Session, in Melbourne Florida. These are: “Eight Useful Principles of Laser Light Effects for Pilots and Aviation”, and “Review of FAA Laser Incidents in 2011”. Both are available as PowerPoint slide presentations on the Files and Downloads page.
Added information about using lasers to disperse birds, on the Tips for outdoor use page.
Added data on the top 50 airports with laser incidents in 2011, the top 50 cities, and a chart of incidents by altitude. This was added to the 2011 incident statistics page.
Re-calculated 2011 and current incident statistics in order to use the FAA’s clarified definition of “incident”. This has the result of increasing the number of incidents by 4/10 of 1 percent (0.004).
Added 2.75 minutes of material to the 10-minute edited version of the FAA/Air Force video. This new 13-minute extended version is intended for pilots. The new material discusses how laser light adversely affects pilots. The new video is available on the Video from the FAA & Air Force page.
Added a page with laser safety calculations. This makes it easy to calculate the Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance (NOHD) and the visual interference distances for flashblindness, glare and distraction.
Added a page about laser blinding weapons. This includes non-lethal dazzlers, the 1995 Protocol on Laser Blinding Weapons, and use of lasers against sensors such as satellite-blinding lasers.
Added a page comparing the hazard distances of different lasers. This replaced material which had been put on the What makes lasers hazardous to aviation page in October 2011. Having a full page allowed additional discussion and diagrams.
We now have a formal program for sponsors and supporters. If you want to support our work and reach persons interested in laser pointer-related issues and products, see the new Sponsorship Opportunities page.
December 5 - We’d like to welcome NoIR Laser Shields as a new sponsor of LaserPointerSafety.com. Thank you for your support!
Redesigned the website. The menu now is always in the upper left corner (it does not scroll with the body of the page). This allows the sidebar on the left, which has sponsors and (in the News pages) categories and tags, to move higher on the page for better visibility.
Added diagrams to the What makes lasers hazardous to aviation page. These show the eye and visual hazard distances for various lasers. The diagrams demonstrate various principles. For example, the diagram below shows how two otherwise identical lasers can have very different visual hazard distances if one emits green light and one emits blue light. (In December 2011 this material was moved to its own page.)
Added a page on Laser pico-projectors. Our thanks to Dr. Edward Buckley for bringing his safety analyses to our attention.
Added a page, Why laser beams seem to end. This discusses the Planetary Boundary Layer, which helps make beams visible but only for the lowest few hundred meters of the atmosphere.
Added a section to What are pointers good for? page, with an interesting potential parallel between microcomputer hobbyists and laser enthusiasts.
Added links to our new Twitter feed. Follow @laserptrsafety to get up-to-date news on laser pointer incidents and issues.
Added a page listing sentences for laser offenses. This makes it easier to find, in one place, the jail time and fines being given for laser misuse. Note that these are selected listings; we do not have a full list of all persons convicted of laser offenses.
Added a page listing emergency room visits due to laser pointers, from records compiled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Added information from MSNBC about the risks of children falling out of windows.
Added a page on U.S. federal laws for all outdoor laser users (not just laser pointer users).
Added text of the Ocean City, NJ laser possession and sale ban
Added information about Swedish regulations
Added information to the Protective eyewear for pilots page, about NoIR GlareShield anti-laser pointer glasses. Thanks to David Bothner of NoIR for bringing this to our attention.
Added a page discussing a possible tax on laser pointers and handheld lasers. The idea is to increase the price so much that these no longer become casual, impulse purchases.
Added a page describing FDA authority over laser pointers, and giving LaserPointerSafety.com’s views about whether FDA’s interpretation is correct.
Rewrote “Rules for U.S. consumers” to make it clearer.
Created a new category in the menus, “Perspectives & opinions”. Moved “What are pointers good for” into this menu category. Also created a new page, “Risks of pointers vs. other items” that compares lasers to knives, amusement park rides, and other products and activities.
Added a new page, “Latest aviation statistics” which provides a link to the latest FAA statistics, plus a link gathering all News items marked as being about statistics (how many incidents in a country, etc.).
Added information about U.K. laser pen laws relating to aviation, vehicles and assault.
Added substantial information about Ocean City MD and Ocean City NJ laws against laser pointers. Most were added in the News sections. Also added listings for OC MD, OC NJ and NJ state legislation on the U.S. laws page.
Added an excellent paper to the Links page, “The Radiation Control for Health and Safety Act of 1968: History, Accomplishments and Future” by Vivi Tran Lee. This 65-page 2006 paper was written for a Harvard Law School class. It is an overview of how the FDA and CDRH came to regulate various products including lasers. Has 80 references to lasers throughout.
Added black-and-white versions of the three 1-page flyers that laser pointer sellers can provide to their customers. This is a benefit if the seller does not want to print these flyers in color.
Added a bar chart showing U.S. aircraft incidents, month-by-month since Jan. 2009. The bars are color-coded to aid in analyzing any seasonal patterns.
We have added some additional categories and tags to the news items. For example, there is a new “Statistics” category to make it easier to find items with statistics on laser incidents. Also, we have added “Age” tags, so that it is possible to group together items involving people of a specific age range (10-19, 20-29, 30-39, etc.). A quick perusal of this data shows that incidents occur across all age ranges, not just teenagers and those in their 20’s. Another new tag on the Aviation incidents page is “Annoyed”. This is used for incidents where a person aimed their laser at aircraft that were bothering them.
News items have been separated into three groups, to make them easier to find. The groups are: individual aviation incidents, individual non-aviation incidents, and all other (includes overall statistics about incidents, new regulations and laws, safety warnings and publications, and the occasional odd or fun item).
A few ILSC attendees were curious about LaserPointerSafety.com’s readership. Averaged over one year, the website had 175,000 page requests from 63,000 unique non-robot hosts. By far, the most popular page is the “NEVER aim laser pointers at aircraft!” page. Top search request terms were “laser pointer safety”, “laser pointer airplane”, “laser pointer laws” and “1 watt laser” (referring to lasers introduced in June 2010 that use nominal 1-watt 445 nanometer blue diodes such as the ones in Casio data projectors and the Wicked Lasers Spyder III Pro Arctic laser).
March 14-17, we attended the International Laser Safety Conference. We had excellent discussions with many persons, and want to thank them for their insights. Special appreciation to Jerome Dennis, Joshua Hadler, Greg Makhov, John O’Hagan, Jay Parkinson, Greg Rockwell, Casey Stack, and Tony Zmorenski.
Substantially revised material about pilot protective anti-laser glasses. This is a result of attending the International Laser Safety Conference, and learning about Sperian Laser-Gard glasses. As described on the new Protective eyewear for pilots page, these are specifically designed for aviation use. United Airlines pilot Greg Rockwell, who is also a laser safety expert, found these to be effective against the most common laser pointer wavelengths, without adverse effect on color recognition. We were able to informally test the glasses and found they greatly reduced 532 nm laser light. Therefore, we revised our original concerns about laser glasses. We also revised the FAQ question about whether pilots should be required to wear glasses, in light of this new information.
Added Norwegian laser pointer possession and use regulations which went into effect 1 Jan 2011.
Added before-and-after photos to show how goggles can change the color of cockpit lights.
Added an essay, “What are laser pointers and handheld lasers good for?”
Added a page “Fast facts for media”, and rearranged the menu to put all the “facts” and FAQ menus together.
Removed the page “About the NY Times article” from the menu since it has been about a month since the article appeared. The page is still available by directly clicking the link.
Added a page “Safe outdoor laser shows”, with language from ILDA about how outdoor shows are not part of the current problem with laser pointer illuminations of aircraft.
Moved aviation fact pages under their own menu, “Aviation hazard facts & video”. This helped shorten the main menu a bit.
Removed ILDA’s name from the page with the proposed U.S. laser law. The proposal is now attributed to this website (LaserPointerSafety.com). This was done because ILDA’s new Regulatory Committee may have different suggested language.
Added material to some pages and FAQs about the recent CDRH reinterpretation of “surveying, leveling and alignment” (SLA) lasers. Did not change every page or reference yet.
Added a pilot checklist (what to do if illuminated).
Added an AVI format version of the FAA/Air Force video. Now the 10-minute edited version can be downloaded either in MOV (MP4/M4V) format, or AVI format.
Added a page about the SAE G10T Laser Safety Hazards Subcommittee. The page includes a list of documents written by SAE G10T, and available for purchase from SAE International.
Added an FAA/Air Force video called “Aircraft Laser Illumination” , which covers laser/aviation incidents and hazards. A key audience for this video is pilots.
Added a page “2008 FAA windscreen transmittance study”. This is a technical report which may be of interest regarding how much infrared light goes through an aircraft windscreen. (We are not aware of studies on visible light.)
Added a page “Rules for U.S. consumers”. This clarifies that, while a pointer may be illegally labeled or illegally sold, once it is in the hands of consumers it is not illegal to possess or to responsibly use the pointer. (Obviously there are some caveats which are discussed in more detail at the page.)
Added a page “FAQ for doubters”. Some questions were moved from the old FAQ, which has been renamed “FAQ - General questions”. A few new questions have been added. This was done because we see the same questions over and over. Most are asked by persons who genuinely cannot understand how their small laser toy could bother a pilot or put them in jail. A few persons seem to be “tin hatters” or Internet trolls who enjoy arguing fine points and missing the big picture. While the new FAQ for doubters may not help the latter two, we hope it will be informative for those who are sincere and want to learn more.
Added a page “About the NY Times article”. This is for persons who saw the January 22 2011 article in the New York Times. It clarifies a few points, and gives summaries and links of the most important issues related to laser/aviation safety.
Added a link to “Laser Hazards in Navigable Airspace”, a 4-page PDF brochure from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration intended for media, pilots and others. It describes the hazards of laser light, FAA flight zones, FAA regulations and publications, and what pilots can do if they experience an incident.
Added an analysis based on FAA’s January 2011 press release which listed the total number of U.S. laser incidents in 2010 (2,836) and the top 20 affected U.S. airports. The LaserPointerSafety.com analysis shows that, on average, a laser incident occurs about once every 8,300 takeoffs and landings.
LaserPointerSafety.com was quoted in a Jan. 6 2011 front-page story in the Honolulu Star Advertiser, entitled “Lasers a danger to pilots”.
Added the results of a December 2010 study by the FAA, of over 2000 laser illumination events occurring in the five years from 2004 to 2008 inclusive.
Added an explanation about why a laser beam appears to end in the night sky. This may be one reason why people aim at aircraft -- they mistakenly think that the beam cannot reach the aircraft.
Added the page “If you are hit by a laser beam”. This has information about symptoms, eye exams, and treatment.
Updated the status of HR 5810, which is probably dead for this Congressional session.
Removed June 2010 alert (high-powered lasers) and August 2010 alert (Congressional bill HR 5810) from the home page. The “alert” status for both of these has passed; the material remains accessible from the menus.
Updated the Sponsor and Supporters information, found on the left side of most pages (below the menus).
Wicked Lasers became a 6-month sponsor of the website (this sponsorship ended on May 13 2011). They did this because they share many of the goals and purposes of this website. However, please note that while we appreciate their six-month sponsorship support, it does not affect the content or views of this website. LaserPointerSafety.com remains editorially independent. More information is on the About LaserPointerSafety.com page.
Added a page About LaserPointerSafety.com.
Rewrote the opening paragraphs of the Aviation hazards of lasers page, to improve clarity and flow.
Added a review of the Wicked Lasers Spyder III Pro Arctic series laser. The review concentrates on the safety aspects of this Class 4 laser.
Added a section to the website with pages about Class 4 lasers.
Created three flyers that laser sellers can download and include with their products. These flyers give users essential safety and responsible-use information. There is a flyer for Class 2 and 3R laser pointers, for Class 3B handheld lasers (too powerful to be sold as “pointers” in the U.S.) and for Class 4 lasers.
Added a page analyzing a proposed U.S. law, H.R. 5810 banning knowingly aiming laser pointers at aircraft or their flight path. The law passed the House and currently is awaiting Senate action. One webpage has our description, analysis and status report of HR 5810. Another webpage has ILDA’s suggested improved version of the bill. Both ILDA and LaserPointerSafety.com believe that HR 5810 should not be passed in its present form.
Provided information to a reporter from the National Post, after an Aug. 17 incident in Calgary.
Added a link to an article in the British Medical Journal, about a teenager whose eyes were damaged by his green diode laser pointer.
Added a press release from Optra Inc. about the FBI buying Optra’s “Laser Event Recorders” for cockpit use. These not only record the event with GPS location and timestamp, they also tell pilots whether the laser light is at potentially damaging levels.
Added a page covering the June 2010 introduction of ultra-high powered Class 4 laser pointers such as the Wicked Lasers Spyder III Pro Arctic. It describes the hazard, explains why these should be banned, and discusses why current U.S. laws are not strong enough.
Added material encouraging laws to make it harder to “harvest” lasers, as was done with the Spyder III Pro Arctic. (Wicked Lasers gets the diodes from Casio data projectors sold in everyday office supply stores. Thus, a “good” device containing lasers can be turned into a device that LaserPointerSafety.com considers too powerful for consumer use.) See the section about cut-off lasers and harvesting on the page If you are writing a laser law.
Added news and Internet commentary about the Spyder III Pro Arctic.
Added a FAQ question, “Why is a laser pointer hazardous to aircraft?”
Added a page “For professionals using lasers outdoors” to the “How to reduce incidents” section. This talks about the use of aircraft spotters and automated/semi-automated systems such as radar.
Added information about the FAA, and how they control outdoor use of lasers, to the U.S. regulatory agencies page.
Added SAE G10-T Laser Safety Hazards Committee, ANSI Z136 committee, and IEC 60825 TC-76 committee to the Links page, under the “Laser and industry groups” heading.
Added a new page, "To find incident reports". If readers are aware of similar online lists of aviation incidents which include laser illuminations, please contact us.
Added a new page with suggested definitions and concepts, for anyone considering writing a law to restrict laser uses or limit access to certain types of lasers.
Added two pages listing many international (non-U.S.) and U.S. laws prohibiting various aspects of laser pointer use.
ILDA suggested changes to legislation intended to be introduced in the U.S. Congress. The old version (which did not become law in 2005 and 2007) is here. ILDA's updated version is here.
We are pleased to note that a major Internet laser distributor is now including an aviation safety warning on their U.S. labels. For details on this encouraging progress, see this news item.
Moved information about the CDRH and other U.S. regulators to a new page, under the “Laser pointer laws” section.
Minor wording and format changes on some pages. Added a link to an interesting (if not always accurate) debate on whether laser pointers should be banned, from a debating website. Added some older news items about the March 2008 Sydney incidents that led to the New South Wales ban on laser pointers.
Added a link to the July/August 2009 issue of FAA Aviation News magazine. On page 28 is an article, written from the FAA’s perspective, on laser illumination incidents.
Added links to a June 2009 webpage and PDF brochure from the U.S. FDA CDRH, about laser pointer hazards. Added a new page, summarizing the results of a 2009 Dutch study comparing searchlights to lasers. The complete study is available on the Files and downloads page.
Added a question to the FAQ about whether searchlights need to be regulated like lasers. Started a new section (submenu) with pilot effect reports, in anticipation of release of the 2009 Dutch study comparing searchlights to lasers.
Added a new section about Federal rules for those selling laser pointers in the U.S., and about what happens if you break the rules.
Added new pages on “How to reduce incidents”. This gives guidance for users, manufacturers & sellers, pilots, airlines & FAA, and FDA/CDRH.
Added a new diagram on the page NEVER aim at aircraft. The diagram shows how police helicopters can find and help apprehend people who illuminate airplanes with laser pointers.
Added a private area, requiring a password for entry. This is currently under construction.
Added a new Files page. Two of the files added are PowerPoint slide presentations about lasers and aviation safety. The presentations were given at the March 2009 International Laser Safety Conference, by Van Nakagawara of the FAA and by Patrick Murphy of ILDA.
Added a new link to a paper “Lasers and Aviation Safety”, presented by Patrick Murphy of ILDA at the March 2009 International Laser Safety Conference.
Added a page where users and pilots can report a laser incident.
Updated the Aircraft hazard diagram to a new version with dark photographic background and additional text information.