Concerned about laser pointers? Want them used safely?
Welcome to LaserPointerSafety.com. We are an independent resource for users, regulators, pilots, media and others concerned with handheld portable lasers.
NOTE: As of March 20 2014 this website is having a server problem where a few pages, including the Non-aviation incidents page, are not showing up. Instead, a “Page Not Found” message is shown. We are working on the problem, and will remove this note when it is resolved.
While laser pens are useful and fun, they are all too often misused. This website has details about why you should never aim laser pointers at aircraft, as well as news, the latest statistics on aircraft incidents, a FAQ, a video from the FAA and Air Force, how to report incidents, laser safety glasses for pilots, and much more information. Check the menu at left for a complete list of our pages. For the latest updates to the site, see our What’s new page.
A helicopter being deliberately targeted by a laser pointer. The light is a distraction and, if bright enough, can cause temporary flashblindness. A video of the incident is here.
Public domain photo from the U.S. FAA, showing how a laser beam spreads over long distances and can fill the windscreen. The FAA’s highest-resolution version is here.
This diagram shows the hazard distances of a 5 mW green laser pointer. Click to enlarge.
This diagram shows various ways to help reduce laser pointer incidents. Click to enlarge.
Laser incident statistics
In the U.S. during 2013, there were 3,960 reports to the Federal Aviation Administration by pilots who saw or were illuminated by lasers.
For more details on 2013 incidents, such as the most common laser color, the areas that had the most reports, etc. see the webpage 2013 laser/aircraft incidents. We also have a separate webpage with historical data such as the above, looking at the rise in incidents from 2004 through 2013.
In the U.K., there were 1,570 laser incidents reported to the Civil Aviation Authority in 2012. This was down 18% compared to the previous year’s total of 1,911 reports, according to the Sunday Express.
New for 2014: Special Report on Laser Toys
In December 2013, over 25 articles appeared in various publications, stating that laser toys were being sold and had caused eye injuries to children. These were based on two press releases issued by the American Academy of Ophthalmology stating that high-powered blue handheld laser devices are “often marketed as toys,” and that toys containing lasers “commonly cause eye injuries.” Both of these AAO claims are unsupported and false.
A comprehensive review by LaserPointerSafety.com has found that the threat, if any, is vastly overstated. There are very few laser-containing children’s toys sold in the U.S. Only one, the Glow Crazy Distance Doodler, appears potentially hazardous. And while some children have misused general-purpose laser pointers and received eye injuries, our searches have been unable to find a single instance of anyone ever being injured by a laser-containing toy.
An award-winning laser toy that appears to be safe and legal
Much more on this topic is in our Special Report, entitled “Are laser toys an actual hazard?” Six additional supporting webpages go into further detail and can be found in the left-side menu under “Perspectives & Opinions/Are laser toys a hazard?”.
A special message for laser pointer usersThere are far too many incidents where airplanes, helicopters, vehicles, athletes and ordinary citizens are harassed by laser pointer beams. It is annoying, at best. It can be unsafe if the beam gets in someone’s eye or if it causes a driver or pilot to be distracted or flashblinded. You personally can get arrested and even jailed.
Plus, laser incidents create a bad image and can lead to laser pointers being banned. This has happened in a number of areas. (In New South Wales, you can be fined for possessing a laser pointer, and you can go to jail for up to 14 years for a laser assault.) There are strong calls in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. to restrict or ban lasers.
It is really simple: NEVER aim a laser beam at an aircraft, a vehicle, or towards strangers. In other words, DON’T ANNOY PEOPLE WITH THE LASER BEAM.
For more specific information about laser pen hazards and safe use, see the various topics in the menu at left. For a quick summary aimed at consumers, check out the FDA’s December 2010 safety notification.