A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use
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This website provides facts and educated analysis to promote the general public’s safe and responsible use of lasers and laser pointers.
We strive to be a comprehensive resource for laser safety information relevant to the general public -- especially in the area of aircraft safety.
Our goals include:
- Educating the public to never aim lasers at aircraft.
- Providing background material for the press, regulators and legislators.
- Helping manufacturers make safer lasers, and better inform their customers.
- Making suggestions for all parties -- users, manufacturers, pilots, regulators -- on how to reduce incidents and improve safety.
- Finding reasonable, practical solutions for laser misuse issues.
Statement of editorial independence
Analyses and views expressed on this website are those of the editor, Patrick Murphy.
LaserPointerSafety.com accepts limited sponsorship support from organizations and companies who share the goals listed above. We stress to all potential sponsors that LaserPointerSafety.com is editorially independent, and that their sponsorship will not affect the content or views posted on this website. Specifically, LaserPointerSafety.com does not necessarily reflect the views of any sponsor, supporter or group, including the International Laser Display Association.
Finally, neither the website’s editor nor ILDA are financially involved with laser pointer and handheld lasers. If laser pointers were banned, this would not affect the editor or ILDA’s work which is in a very different area of lasers, that of professional light shows and displays.
The website’s editor has over three decades of experience with laser technology and laser safety, especially in the area of laser/aircraft issues:
- Patrick Murphy holds a B.A. degree in Laser Art and Technology from Oberlin College (1981) and an MBA degree from the Keller Graduate School of Management (2006). In 1986 he founded Pangolin Laser Systems, which became a leader in the field of software for laser light shows and displays. He served as President of the International Laser Display Association (ILDA) during 1996, was Airspace Issues Coordinator for ILDA from 1996 to 1999, received the ILDA Career Achievement Award in 2004, and has served as executive director of ILDA since 2006.
- He is a representative from ILDA to the SAE G10-T Laser Safety Hazards Committee, the primary group working on laser/aircraft safety issues. In this capacity, he has helped to write regulations and forms used by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for evaluating outdoor laser shows. In 2000 he received an Award of Recognition from SAE G10-T for this work, and an ILDA Certificate of Commendation.
- He is co-chair of the SAE G10-OL Operational Laser Committee, along with former Delta airline Captain Bill Connor. This committee provides operational information on mitigating laser light hazards for aircraft operators and airlines.
- He is a member of three ANSI Z136 laser safety committees; specifically the American National Standard for Safe Use of Lasers (.1), for Safe Use of Lasers in Educational Institutions (.5), for Safe Use of Lasers Outdoors (.6) and for Entertainment and Trade Show Lasers (.10).
- PAPERS AND PRESENTATIONS: He has presented papers at the International Laser Safety Conference, in 1997, 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2019, on the topics of laser/aircraft safety and audience-scanned laser shows. In 2009 he was the invited guest speaker at the 14th Annual Laser Safety Forum at Loughborough University in the U.K. In 2011, he received a Certificate of Appreciation from SAE G10-T for work on Aerospace Standard 6029, “Performance Criteria for Laser Control Measures Used for Aviation Safety.” In October 2011, he was invited by the Air Line Pilots Association to speak at a major Washington D.C. conference held to publicize laser illumination hazards. In July 2012, he was invited by the Airborne Law Enforcement Association to speak at their annual conference in Reno, NV. During 2013, he helped write the FAA’s Laser Beam Exposure Questionnaire and an FAA document (in draft) summarizing laser hazards and mitigation for pilots. He was invited to speak at the July 2015 Health Physics Society annual meeting, on the topic of laser/aviation safety. In 2016 he worked on the SAE G10-OL Operational Laser committee, helping to draft a document on pilot education and protective eyewear, including running tests on pilots with lasers and bright lights in cockpits. He co-authored a paper with Capt. Daniel Hewett of the U.S. FDA about FDA’s Proposed Change to the Regulation of Laser Pointers, which was presented March 21 2017 at the International Laser Safety Conference. In 2017 he became co-chair of the SAE G10-OL Operational Laser committee, which in June 2018 published SAE ARP6378, a guide to help pilots with procedures, education/training and protective eyewear. In June 2018 he was an invited speaker to the NASA Occupational Health Meeting at Kennedy Space Center, on the topic of “Laser Illumination of Pilots: Health Consequences, Current Status, and Mitigation.” He contributed two chapters, on pilot visual interference and pilot eye safety, to the book Understanding Laser Accidents published in September 2018. In January 2019 he was an invited speaker to a symposium in Tokyo on improving Japanese laser safety regulations. In January 2019, he received a Certificate of Appreciation from SAE G10 for work on Aerospace Recommended Practice 6378, "Guidance on Mitigation Strategies Against Laser Illumination Effects.” He presented “Reducing Hazards of Laser Pointer Misuse” at the March 2019 International Laser Safety Conference in Orlando.
Articles quoting or referencing LaserPointerSafety.com
An October 27 2022 article in USAToday, "Stop pointing lasers at aircraft! Here's how often dangerous laser strikes happen near you", has quotes from Patrick Murphy on topics including reasons for the increase in incidents during the pandemic, and reasons people might aim lasers at aircraft.
A May 2 2022 article in the New York Times, "Pilots Contend With Record Number of Laser Strikes, F.A.A. Says", had quotes from Patrick Murphy, whom the Times referred to as a laser safety expert "who also serves on a committee that helps advise the F.A.A. and pilots about the issue."
An April 18 2022 news report on Spectrum News (runs on cable systems across the U.S.), "FAA: Laser incidents targeting airplanes on track for another record-breaking year", had segments showing laser hazards and discussing whether bans on laser pointers have worked.
A February 15 2022 article in Aviation Week, titled "What's Behind The Rise In Laser Pointer Incidents?", quoted Patrick Murphy on potential reasons. It also listed LaserPointerSafety.com as a resource for pilots.
A September 4 2021 KITV (Honolulu) news story was pegged to an FAA press release about an increase in laser strikes. Patrick Murphy was interviewed via Zoom, showing types of lasers and laser vision interference effects.
A March 24 2021 article in the Gainesville Sun discussed the rise in laser pointer incidents in the U.S. and in Florida. Patrick Murphy was among persons quoted in the article regarding various aspects of laser/aircraft safety.
In October 2019, Patrick Murphy appeared in an online video produced by Satair, an Airbus subsidiary working on laser glare protection for windscreens and pilot glasses. The video is at the Satair blog post titled "Why is not all laser eye protection suitable for the aviation industry." The video briefly describes how lasers can distract or flashblind pilots, why this is of concern, and that any eyewear used must be developed specifically for the aviation environment (e.g., pilots in cockpits). Satair produced two other videos at the same time, one about the dangers of laser attacks from a pilot's perspective, and one interviewing the chief science officer at MTI, a company producing glasses for pilots.
In mid-2019, LaserPointerSafety.com was referenced in three online blog articles from Satair. The articles are: "Laser protection for pilots. The science, the tech, and what is right for you", "Helicopter pilots are under attack. Laser protection to the rescue" and "Why isn't laser protection equipment an industry standard?"
An April 8 2019 article entitled "Targeting aircraft with a laser pointer or strobe a dangerous game", in the Bakersfield (Ca.) Californian. The article quotes from LaserPointerSafety.com and includes tips on safe laser usage.
On March 20 2019, Charlotte NC station WBTV interviewed LaserPointerSafety.com's Patrick Murphy at length for a 6-minute segment on the show On Your Side Tonight, answering the question "Why are lasers so dangerous?"
An August 17 2018 Wall Street Journal article, “Laser Beam Attacks Bedevil U.S. Military Pilots in Mideast” by Gordon Lubold, referenced the website and included a number of quotes from Patrick Murphy, who also discussed the basics of laser hazards at length with the reporter. A LaserPointerSafety.com summary, with additional commentary, is here.
On June 28 2018, Patrick Murphy was interviewed by Bell Media radio regarding Canada’s new restrictions on possession of laser pointers.
A May 26 2017 article in Laser Focus World online, “Laser pointer safety regulation status”, was written by Patrick Murphy. It is essentially a (very) short version of the ILSC paper co-written by Murphy and FDA’s Daniel Hewett.
The Carroll County Times referred to LaserPointerSafety.com information in a January 18 2017 editorial, “Use common sense with laser pointers.” (A statistic in the article is wrong; it says there are about 10 laser/aircraft incidents per day but as of 2015/2016 the rate is about 20 per day. It is not known if this in an older statistic from somewhere in LaserPointerSafety.com or if it is a newspaper typo.)
A brief reference was made to LaserPointerSafety.com in an excellent August 22 2016 article by Lily Leung. Although the title, “Experts fear disaster amid leap in laser-pointer strikes around Southern California airports” may sound dramatic and local, the article is a well-researched look at many aspects of this complex topic. Highly recommended.
A May 26 2016 article in Business Insider, “Canadians keep shooting lasers at planes and it's becoming a problem” quoted LaserPointerSafety.com about the value of pilot training.
A February 15 2016 article in the Guardian, “Pilots' union calls for laser pointers to be classed as offensive weapons”, quoted Patrick Murphy about the value of pilot training.
A January 5 2016 article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Daytona Beach police arrest aviation student in airline laser pointing”, mentions LaserPointerSafety.com and a proposal for labels on pointers to warn against aiming at aircraft.
A November 16 2015 article, “Laser-Targeting of Planes a Soaring Concern,” on East County Magazine’s website, relied heavily on LaserPointerSafety articles and news stories. The last paragraph mentioned the website as a source for more laser safety information.
Patrick Murphy was interviewed on July 16 2015 by radio station WINS in New York City, regarding reports of 11 New Jersey area laser/aircraft illuminations in a single night.
Patrick Murphy gave a presentation to the Health Physics Society, meeting in Indianapolis July 14 2015, on “A Review of Laser Pointer Incidents and Safety Considerations for the Aviation Environment.”
A July 13 2015 article in the Boston Globe entitled “Pilots say they’e contending with lasers pointed at cockpits” by Catherine Cloutier reviewed the rise in laser pointer incidents, with special concentration on the Massachusetts and Boston areas. LaserPointerSafety.com’ s Patrick Murphy was quoted in the article regarding various aspects of this problem.
A July 6 2015 article in Techlicious entitled “6 Surprisingly Dangerous Tech Products” lists the eye and visual interference hazards of laser pointers. The article quotes LaserPointerSafety.com regarding laser incident statistics and a report of eye damage to a police pilot.
A June 23 2016 article at Mental Floss entitled “What Pilots See When You Shine a Laser Pointer at Aircraft” contained a number of links to information at LaserPointerSafety.com.
The Laser Institute of America put out an April 30 2015 press release highlighting potential solutions to laser pointer misuse, that were presented at the LIA’s International Laser Safety Conference in March 2015. One of the presentations was by Patrick Murphy, editor of LaserPointerSafety.com. He proposed a “laser safety facts” label that would more clearly state the hazards of laser misuse.
A survey of laser incidents and injuries in the April 2015 Retina Today mentions this website as a resource: “Valuable information, updates, and case reports germane to this issue can be found at the independent website laserpointersafety.com.”
A U.S. Coast Guard press release linked to LaserPointerSafety.com’s list of California laser incidents. The September 24 2014 release was giving background information about a September 19 laser incident, and included the list of California incidents as the only external link.
Reporter Emilie Eaton, researching Arizona laser incidents for a September 22 2014 article “New state law addresses danger of laser pointers to aircraft”, interviewed and briefly quoted LaserPointerSafety’s Patrick Murphy.
A July 14 2014 article at DelmarvaNow.com, Laser pointers source of contention in Ocean City, contained quotes from an interview that author Brian Shane conducted with LaserPointerSafety.com’s Patrick Murphy. The article discussed the apparently successful results of Ocean City MD’s May 19 2014 ban on laser pointer sales and possession.
Patrick Murphy was interviewed by Vocativ’s Shane Kavanaugh for a Q&A appearing June 9 2014, “The FBI is Coming For Your Laser Pointers.” It includes a photo that probably never should have seen the light of day, showing a large homemade “laser pointer” built in 1980. (Note: This was an hour-long interview, so many details, caveats and subtle distinctions were lost in the author’s editing process.)
An April 4 2014 BBC Mundo story ¿Por qué son peligrosos los punteros láser? described the FBI’s publicity-and-reward program. Author María Esperanza Sánchez quoted LaserPointerSafety.com’s Patrick Murphy as saying "en los 17 mil incidentes que se han producido desde 2005 hasta la fecha, no ha habido ningún daño permanente a los ojos de ningún piloto".
Travel writer Rudy Maxa interviewed LaserPointerSafety.com’s Patrick Murphy about laser interference with aircraft on Saturday, May 3. An audio recording of the 9-minute interview on the syndicated Rudy Maxa’s World show is here. Alternate versions (if the first one does not play) are here and here.
An article on page 22 of the May 2014 Orlando Magazine, by Barry Glenn, “Not a Bright Idea”, quoted LaserPointerSafety’s Patrick Murphy regarding how a laser “could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
A February 20 2014 article on WorldMag.com, “Could laser pointers soon be banned as dangerous weapons?” used LaserPointerSafety.com as a source of information on laser pointer restrictions.
On February 11 2014, the FBI issued a news story about a 60-day initiative in 12 cities, attempting to reduce laser pointer incidents. The news story listed 5 information resources; 4 of them from the Bureau and the fifth being LaserPointerSafety.com. The story was picked up by numerous news sources. Some that directly referred to LaserPointerSafety.com: the Daytona Beach News Journal, AllGov, NBC News and Fox News.
A February 3 2014 article on Arizona’s proposed tougher laser penalties included quotes from Patrick Murphy about the issue of laser/aircraft safety.
Patrick Murphy was interviewed by reporter James Ryan of WBAP radio in Dallas/Fort Worth on October 30 2013, on the hazards and prevention of laser pointing incidents against aircraft.
A BloombergBusinessweek story, “Morons With Laser Pointers Near Record for Airplane Harassment”, published October 30 2013, references LaserPointerSafety.com. It says “The site urges fans not to ‘annoy’ anyone with their lasers and warns that a rise of incidents could ultimately lead to bans. Another danger for laser enthusiasts, as outlined by the site: ‘You may get shot.’”
USAToday’s Bart Jansen referenced LaserPointerSafety.com statistics, in a story published October 26 2013.
On August 15 2013, Baltimore CBS station WJZ broadcast a video news piece built around LaserPointerSafety.com’s exclusive story that 2013 laser incidents were at 1,500 and indicate a 1-16% increase.
The Tampa ABC affiliate interviewed Patrick Murphy on August 11 2013 when covering a story about a Coast Guard boat crew that was illuminated with a laser. The interview video may be available online here.
BBC West Midland’s Shane O’Connor (guest-hosting the Danny Kelly show) interviewed Patrick Murphy on August 7 2013 about laser pointer hazards and laws. He was specifically interested in whether the UK should have a nationwide law specifically prohibiting aiming laser pens at aircraft.
LaserPointerSafety.com was a source of information for the article “Lasers are dangerous, can get you in hot water” in the June 10 2013 Mail Tribune of Medford, Oregon.
Radio New Zealand’s Briony Sowden interviewed LaserPointerSafety.com’s Patrick Murphy for an April 24 2013 radio report titled “Government Clamp Down on Lasers Could Back Fire.”
The Los Angeles Times used information from LaserPointerSafety.com a number of times in a July 17 2012 article tied to a JetBlue incident in New York two days earlier.
ABC’s World News Tonight used excerpts from an interview with LaserPointerSafety.com’s Patrick Murphy, for a video report Pilots Blinded by Laser Pointer which aired July 7 2012.
The U.K. Civil Aviation Authority Safety Notice on Laser Attacks, issued April 13, 2012, lists LaserPointerSafety.com as one of the five “Further Reading” resources. The others include the FAA, Health Protection Agency, and Eurocontrol.
A March 27 2012 story in the Orlando Sentinel, by reporter Gary Taylor, quotes LaserPointerSafety.com regarding an Orlando man accused of aiming at aircraft at least 23 times in three months. The article discusses some unusual aspects of this case.
On March 5 2012 the sports podcast Hang Up and Listen, from Slate magazine, had a segment on laser pointers being misused in sports. The excerpt is available on Deadspin. At 2:45 into the segment, podcaster Josh Levin quoted LaserPointerSafety.com as saying “In sports, there have been cases of ‘laser louts’ who aim lasers at sport players in a stupid attempt to disrupt the play. It goes without saying this is unacceptable and is illegal. It is this kind of behavior that causes the public to support a ban on laser pointers.”
LaserPointerSafety.com was quoted on page A11 of the Jan. 22 2011 New York Times, in an article by Christine Negroni entitled “High-Powered Laser Pointers Pose Risk to Pilots”.
LaserPointerSafety.com was quoted in a Jan. 6 2011 front-page story in the Honolulu Star Advertiser, entitled “Lasers a danger to pilots”.
A review of this website, LaserPointerSafety.com, was in the April 2010 issue of the Flight Safety Foundation magazine. The review is on the third page of the PDF file.