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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.
The new green 1 watt S3 Krypton has a Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance of 489 feet (149 m). This is the same eye hazard distance as the blue S3 Spyder III Arctic introduced in June 2010. However, because human eyes are much more sensitive to green light, a 532 nm green beam appears 28.86 times brighter than a 445 nm blue beam of the same power. This makes it an increased visual interference hazard for pilots.

Specifically, the 1 watt S3 Krypton can flashblind a pilot up to 2,312 feet, can cause glare up to 10,339 feet (2 miles), and is a distraction up to 103,390 feet (19.6 miles).1 This compares to the blue S3 Arctic which has a flashblindness distance of up to 430 feet, a glare distance of up to 1,925 feet and a distraction distance of up to 19,246 feet (3.6 miles).2

In a review, gadget website Gizmodo said the S3 Krypton is “completely, paradoxically useless” due to its extreme power. The safety manual says not to use it for presentations, not to look at the beam or the dot or the reflected light, not to shoot it at stars or planets, not to use it as a gunsight and not to shoot it at friends or pets. The review concludes with “I’m terrified of it…. It’s a giant, metal, $1,000 liability.”

Engadget notes that “goggles are a must (and are bundled with the handheld laser).”

In addition to the $1,000 nominal3 1 watt version, Wicked also is selling a 1/2 watt (500 mW) version for $500 and a 300 mW version for $300.

From Gizmodo and Engadget

Technical footnotes:

1 Hazard distance calculations are based on a green S3 Krypton emitting 532 nm light which has a visual efficacy of 88% (appears 88% as bright to the eye compared to the eye’s maximum sensitivity peak of 555 nm). Beam divergence is 1.5 milliradians according to Wicked’s website. A blue S3 Arctic emits 445 nm light which has a visual efficacy of 3.05%; the beam divergence is also 1.5 mrad according to Wicked.

2 Visual interference distances vary as the square root of the visually corrected power difference. This is why the green S3 Krypton appears 28.86 times brighter than the blue S3 Arctic, but the visual interference distances are only 5.4 times greater.

3 We have stated “nominal” 1 watt power because Wicked specifies the green “1 watt” S3 Krypton’s power to be between 1/2 watt and 1 watt (between 500 mW and 1000 mW). The blue “1 watt” S3 Arctic is also specified at 1/2 watt minimum, 1 watt maximum. Users have reported the S3 Arctic to have an actual output in the 0.7 to 0.8 watt range. If the S3 Krypton is similar, the actual power will be less than the nominal 1 watt power. This also means that the S3 Krypton hazard distances will be shorter; for example, if the actual power is 0.8 watts (800 mW), the NOHD is 437 feet, the flashblind distance is up to 2,068 feet, the glare distance is up to 9,248 feet (1.8 miles), and the distraction distance is up to 92,475 feet (17.5 miles).