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Proposed U.S. law to help protect pilots from laser light


In 2011, House Resolution 386 was introduced to punish “knowingly aim[ing] the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft ... or at the flight path of such an aircraft”. In the view of this website (LaserPointerSafety.com), H.R. 386 is a good but flawed attempt to prosecute unsafe use of lasers outdoors.

Below is a suggested rewriting of this bill.
Blue type indicates text that has changed significantly from H.R. 386.

An important improvement is to make the law apply to lasers in general, not just one particular type of laser (only those "designed ... as a pointer or highlighter"). Overall, these suggested changes balance the need to prosecute deliberate misuse plus negligent accidental use, while not casting the net so wide as to prosecute anyone using lasers outdoors.


THIS WAS A PROPOSAL DEVELOPED IN 2010. IT WAS NOT INTRODUCED INTO CONGRESS. THE LANGUAGE BELOW IS PRESENTED AS AN EXAMPLE TO LAWMAKERS ELSEWHERE WHO MAY WANT TO INTRODUCE SIMILAR LEGISLATION.

Proposed “Protecting Pilots Against Lasers Act”


AN ACT
To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide penalties for aiming lasers at airplanes, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Protecting Pilots Against Lasers Act'.

SEC. 2. PROHIBITION AGAINST AIMING A LASER AT AN AIRCRAFT
(a) Offense- Chapter 2 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

Sec. 39A. Aiming a laser at an aircraft
      (a) Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser into airspace with the intent to track, target or interfere with aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.
      (b) Whoever aims the beam of a laser at an aircraft, or in the immediate vicinity of an aircraft, in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both, when both of the following conditions are true:
             (1) the calculated or measured beam irradiance on the aircraft, or in the immediate vicinity of the aircraft, exceeds limits set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the FAA-specified laser flight zone (Normal, Sensitive, Critical, or Laser-Free) where the aircraft was located, and
             (2) a pilot in the illuminated aircraft files a laser incident report with the FAA.
      (c) As used in this section, the term `laser' means any device designed or used to amplify electromagnetic radiation by stimulated emission that emits a beam.

      (d) This section does not prohibit aiming a laser beam at an aircraft, or in the immediate vicinity of an aircraft, by
             (1) an authorized individual in the conduct of research and development or flight test operations conducted by an aircraft manufacturer, the Federal Aviation Administration, or any other person authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct such research and development or flight test operations;
             (2) members or elements of the Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security acting in an official capacity for the purpose of research, development, operations, testing or training; or
             (3) an individual in an emergency situation using a laser to attract the attention of an aircraft for bona fide rescue purposes; or
           
  (4) an individual whose laser operations have been submitted to and reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration, when
                (a) the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a letter not objecting to the laser use, and
                (b) the laser is operated in conformity with the Federal Aviation Administration submission.

      (e) The Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, may provide by regulation, after public notice and comment, such additional exceptions to this section, as may be necessary and appropriate. The Attorney General shall provide written notification of any proposed regulations under this section to the Committees on the Judiciary of the House and Senate, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the House, and the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in the Senate not less than 90 days before such regulations become final.

(b) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 2 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new item:
39A. Aiming a laser at an aircraft.