A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: Amazon aggressively lowers pricing on Star Shower home laser projectors

The Star Shower is a laser device intended for homeowners, that projects red and green dots or “stars” of light. It is marketed for instant home decorating at holidays, especially Christmas. Since it was introduced in 2015 by Telebrands, there have been warnings from the Federal Aviation Administration to avoid aiming the lights into the sky. In a few incidents, pilots reported seeing or being distracted by the laser beams, and authorities went to homeowners asking them to re-aim or stop using the laser lights outdoors.

A December 14 2016 article in the Wall Street Journal describes a price war between sellers of the updated Star Shower Motion, which adds movement to the laser dots.

The list price from Telebrands was $49.99. It appears they lowered the price to around $35, then Amazon and other retailers lowered their prices to $31-33. The wholesale price of the Star Shower Motion is around $30, meaning that Amazon is barely making money on selling this laser projector.

For consumers this may be good news. However, Telebrands is watching a major distributor undercut its own pricing. And, the lower prices are putting more laser projectors in the hands of consumers.

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Summary at Consumerist. LaserPointerSafety has run previous stories about he Star Shower, since they first became popular in 2015. Click for stories about aviation incidents and for general stories about the lights and their potential hazards.

Portugal: Irish investigators ask Portugal to make aiming lasers at aircraft illegal

In a report issued December 5 2016, the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit recommended that the National Institute of Civil Aviation of Portugal “should review the current civil aviation legislation with a view to taking account of occurrences of deliberate or reckless illumination of aircraft, or persons involved in the operation of aircraft, by laser light or similar.”

This was the sole recommendation resulting from a September 5 2015 incident when the two pilots in a Ryanair flight, on approach to Porto Airport, were illuminated by laser light. The pilot flying was distracted and had to use his hand to shield his eyes. The pilot monitoring had temporary flash blindness lasting a few seconds. This contributed to the aircraft’s approach being “unstable.” The pilots executed a missed approach and did a go-around for a second approach; the plane then landed safely.

Portuguese officials told the Irish investigators that there is no law in Portugal against aiming a laser at an aircraft.

In 2014, there were 294 laser incidents reported in Portugal; in 2015 there were 264 such incidents. In 2014, 107 of the incidents occurred at Porto Airport; in 2015 there were 105 incidents at the airport.

From the Irish Examiner

US: Self-driving cars can be disrupted using a laser pointer

A cybersecurity expert said that he can disrupt self-driving cars that use LIDAR sensors, with “just $43 and a laser pointer.”

LIDAR sensors on self-driving cars work by sending laser light — usually non-visible infrared beams — in order to detect objects’ shapes and distances. According to Jonathan Petit, there is a problem: “Anybody can go online and get access to this, buy it really quickly, and just assemble it, and there you go, you have a device that can spoof lidar.”

The LIDAR can be made to falsely perceive objects that do not exist, or to ignore objects that are actually present.

A simple attack would cause the self-driving car to run into another car or an object. A more sophisticated attack could cause the car to choose a different path. Petit says “[this] means that then the risk could be ‘I’m sending you to small street to stop you and rob you or steal the car.’”

The Business Insider article is unclear but it appears the $43 is for equipment in addition to the cost of the laser pointer. Also, although the article did not say, it may be that the laser pointer needs to emit infrared light instead of, or in addition to, visible light.

Petit is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

From an article in Business Insider, posted December 15 2016. The detailed article also discusses many other non-laser techniques of hacking self-driving cars.

US: FAA Eastern Region warns against holiday & Christmas laser light display misuse

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Eastern Region issued a statement December 14 2016 warning homeowners to keep holiday laser light on their houses.

The full text of the statement is as follows:

“The FAA’s concern is that lasers -- regardless of the source -- not be aimed at aircraft where the beams can threaten the safety of a flight. Consumers who buy laser light displays should take precautions to make sure that the lights are hitting their houses and not shining off into the sky. In situations such as this, we would start by asking the person to either adjust them or turn them off. For more information on lasers, please go to www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/lasers/

From an FAA Eastern Division email to LaserPointerSafety.com, and from the Boston Globe. LaserPointerSafety has run previous stories about Christmas and holiday laser lights such as the Star Shower, since they first became popular in 2015. Click for stories about aviation incidents and for general stories about the lights and their potential hazards.

US: Laser-emitting binoculars being sold for "night vision"

Binoculars that emit a diffused green laser light onto a person or subject of interest are being sold by online and catalog retailers such as Amazon.com and Sharper Image.

The Cassini K-9 “Day and Night Vision Binoculars” are normal magnifying binoculars (for day vision) with a green laser light added between the lenses to illuminate objects for “night vision.” Holding down a button activates a 532 nanometer laser, said to be less than 5 milliwatts, with a spot diameter of 4 meters at a distance of 50 meters.

Cassini K-9 laser binocular


Looking through standard night vision devices, the user typically sees a green glow from the image intensifier that allows enhanced vision in the dark, without any visible light being added to the scene. In contrast, the Cassini K-9 emits very visible green laser light, simulating the look of a night vision device without requiring any other change to the binoculars.

The product manual warns “Please note the green laser is a device and can be harmful if used improperly, and laser radiation can be harmful to the eyes. Do not look directly into the laser beam output aperture during operation. Laser light when reflected off a mirror like surface can cause serious damage and injury. Since the Laser binocular is not a toy, please keep out of reach of children.”

The manual also includes this cautionary graphic:

Cassini K-9 laser binocular warning

Representative prices range from $94 (Amazon) to $160 (Sharper Image). At Amazon, the product has 3.5 out of 5 stars from 13 reviewers. Amazon reviewer comments include:

  • “Didn't realize it would have the bright beam of green light...Very grainy, hard to make thing out….”
  • “If you are looking for something to view the dark, without being detected, this is not the one. The green laser is visible!! That's, like you can see it in the dark! The range is not up to par. The beam is cone shaped and is approximately 2 feet wide at 7 yards, carry that out to 100 yards, my scope works better at night with my mag-light.”
  • “Much better than reviews indicated. Not for tactical use but adequate for bird watching or varmint spotting.”

From Amazon.com and Sharper Image

US: Bird wearing tiny goggles safely flies through laser beam

In a scientific study, a small parrot was equipped with tiny 3D-printed laser safety goggles, to protect its eyes as it flew through a sheet of laser light used to record the bird’s airflow.

2016-12-8 Tiny bird on perch


Researchers at Stanford University wanted to get data on how much lift a bird generates. To monitor the wing wake and vortices, they used a laser beam spread by a lens into a plane of light. The light source was a Litron brand double-pumped Neodymium-doped yttrium lithium fluoride (Nd:YLF) laser. The light was green at 527 nanometers, and had a pulse repetition rate of 1 kHz.

A non-toxic mist in the air illuminated the light sheet, just like theatrical fog used at concert laser light shows. As the bird flew through the light, the mist scattered and showed the air patterns, in a technique called “particle imaging velocimetry” or PIV.

2016-12-8 Tiny bird in laser


Bird-sized goggles were used to prevent any harm to the bird’s eyesight. The lenses came from human laser safety glasses and had an optical density of 6, meaning that they transmitted only 0.0001% of the laser light. The frame was 3D printed and was held on by veterinary tape. The goggles weighed 1.68 grams, which is roughly 6% of the bird’s body weight (equivalent to 9 pound glasses on a 150 lb. human).

2016-12-8 Tiny bird goggles


Before beginning the series of experiments, the researchers trained four parrotlets “through many small stress-free steps of habituation.” After “several months of effort” with the birds, only one — a parrotlet named “Obi” — voluntarily flew with the laser goggles. According to the researchers, “[a]ll training and experimental procedures were approved by Stanford's Administrative Panel on Laboratory Animal Care.”

2016-12-8 Tiny bird in flight


Twelve cameras were used. Four high-speed stereo cameras were for PIV particle motion recording and recorded 4000 frames per flight. Eight cameras were for recording Obi’s wing and head kinematics as it flew from one perch, through the laser light plane, to a landing perch.

The results give “the clearest picture to date of the wake left by a flying animal.” Unexpectedly, the wing tip vortices did not stay stable as happens with aircraft, but instead broke up quickly and violently. This had not been predicted by any previous models.

2016-12-8 Tiny bird vortex visualization


From a Stanford University news story, picked up by numerous websites and news outlets including Popular Mechanics, NBC News, The Verge, Optics.org and many others. The results were published December 6 2016 in the journal Bioinspiration & Biometrics, volume 12, number 1. Thanks to Drs. Ronald K.A.M. Mallant, MSc. for pointing out an error in our description of OD 6 density; the error has been corrected.

US: Mobile app planned for detecting laser illuminations

A U.S. company will be releasing a mobile app allowing smartphones to detect, measure and record the location of laser illuminations. Pilots are the primary intended users for the app, which is currently called “Laser Event Recorder” or “LERapp”. In a planned upgrade, the app will also notify other nearby pilots of the illumination event.

LERapp was developed a few years ago by Dr. Craig Williamson of the U.K. Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). The app uses the smartphone camera; when a laser or bright light event is detected, the app makes a digital record. This includes a picture of the event, the GPS location of the phone, the user’s heading, the date and time, and laser parameters such as the beam color and estimated irradiance. A March 2013 paper, presented by Dr. Williamson at the International Laser Safety Conference, describes the app in more detail.

LERapp-screenshot 300w
Screenshot from the 2013 version of the Laser Event Recorder app


As far as LaserPointerSafety.com can determine, the app was never made publicly available such as being put on an app store.

To commercialize LERapp, in December 2016 it was licensed to Profound Technologies, Inc. of Warner Robins, Georgia, who will be doing further development and marketing in major regions such as the U.S., U.K. and Europe. Profound’s president Randall Fitzgerald said that there are two planned versions.

One version will be a free or low-cost basic app that has the current features of LERapp. Profound will also be developing a central database where laser incident reports will be automatically filed, which then can be pushed out to other users of LERapp such as nearby pilots. These notifications would be available in a higher-cost version, or perhaps the notification feature would be a “freemium” add-on to the basic app.

The app will not directly be able to locate the laser’s location — the only geographic information stored is the GPS location and heading of the smartphone at the time of the incident. However, having a photo of the laser illumination may allow law enforcement to locate landmarks or street patterns. Also, Profound is considering future versions which could triangulate a ground location or area based on multiple illumination events reported to the database within a short timespan.

LERapp currently runs on Apple’s iOS operating system for iPhones. There is as yet no public release schedule for the basic or database versions. At the time of Apple App Store release, Profound also intends to have an Android-compatible version available.

From a Profound Technologies press release dated December 4 2016 and a December 8 telephone interview with Randall Fitzgerald. LaserPointerSafety.com previously ran a story about the Dstl version of the LERapp in March 2013.

US: Airport police can go off property to find laser attackers

Police officers at Detroit Metro Airport could exercise their powers outside airport boundaries under a new law designed to combat laser strikes at planes.

The measure aims to address people pointing lasers at planes that are taking off or landing and the proliferation of drones near airports. It was signed Tuesday November 22 2016 by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The lasers often are used off airport property but directed at planes while in protected airspace. The beams can fill cockpits with green light and temporarily blind pilots or blur their vision.

From the Detroit Free Press, November 23 2016.

Note from LaserPointerSafety.com: We have been unable to find details about this law. For example, a search of the Michigan Legislature website for bills introduced in 2015-2016 with “laser” as a keyword did not appear to turn up any relevant text. For example, adding “airport” as a search term found no bills at all. A similar search for completed signed bills (“Public Acts”) found a list only with entries prior to August 2016. If anyone has more details about this bill, please contact us.

US: UPDATED - FDA wants to allow only red laser pointers, calling all other colors "defective"

On October 25 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed to designate all laser pointers that are not red as “defective.” This designation would prohibit U.S. sales of green, blue and other non-red pointers and would make it easier for FDA to control and seize imports of such lasers.


spctrm3  FDA laser pointer proposal 0680w

FDA’s primary concern is green lasers’ interference with the vision of vehicle operators including pilots. Green lasers are involved in over 90% of incidents where pilots reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that they saw or were illuminated by laser light during a flight. (The charts below were added in January 2017 after the 2016 FAA final numbers came out.)

FAA 2016 reported laser colors pie chart - 0600w



FAA 2016 reported laser colors pie chart nanometers - 0600w


FDA is also worried about blue lasers which can have greater visibility to night-adapted eyes than red lasers of equivalent power.

Thus FDA is applying the “defective” label — giving them added authority over potentially injurious products — because of what they consider to be a well-known, established public safety hazard to operators of vehicles, aircraft and watercraft.

What FDA is trying to accomplish


FDA has two main goals:

     1) “Turn back the clock” to the 1990s and early 2000s when almost all laser pointers were red. According to the agency, red light has the least interference with pilot vision, compared to equivalent-power green beams which can appear up to 28 times brighter. During this period there were dozens or low hundreds of reported laser/aviation incidents per year, compared with 7,703 incidents in 2015 and 7,442 incidents in 2016.

     2) Make it much easier for customs and law enforcement to identify illegal laser pointers simply by their color. Red and orange-red laser pointers would be permitted; all others would be prohibited for general sales.

In addition, FDA sought to address requests from legislators including Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). After high-profile incidents, lawmakers have written to FDA, asking for a ban on green pointers due to their vision-blocking abilities being a risk to pilots and passengers.

Who would be affected


FDA’s proposed color-based prohibition would only affect the manufacture, importation and sales of laser pointer products introduced into commerce. Although pointers fall under the FDA’s “surveying, leveling and alignment” (SLA) control, only pointers as defined by FDA would be restricted to red. Standard SLA equipment would not be affected — they could use any color beam.

Individuals such as hobbyists who manufacture their own laser products for their personal use would be free from FDA laser product regulations. This is because such individuals would not be considered manufacturers by FDA.

Since federal law cannot control individual use or misuse, states and localities could impose their own regulations. (A few states and localities already have their own restrictions on use and/or possession; these are not currently based on the color of the laser.) One benefit of FDA’s proposal is that any new state and local laws could “piggyback” on FDA’s color-based restrictions. That would make it easier for local law enforcement to use color to easily identify whether a person possessed a prohibited or permitted laser.

FDA’s proposal and rationale was stated in draft amendments presented October 25 to an FDA advisory panel known as “TEPRSSC”.

Click to read more...

Northern Ireland: "Laser Lunacy" drama visits schools to warn students not to aim lasers at aircraft

Belfast International Airport is trying to reach local youths to warn them against aiming lasers at aircraft. The airport worked with Arts & Business to develop a dramatic performance called “Laser Lunacy”. The 20-minute show will be performed for over 2,000 students in six Belfast-area schools.

According to an October 19 2016 story in the Irish News, the performance depicts an aircraft crew member being blinded, which leads to a crash that injures 17 people. The subsequent investigation highlights how a criminal conviction can ruin a young person’s life.

After the performance there is a question-and-answer session to reinforce the message.

BIA’s Jaclyn Coulter told the newspaper “We have a very serious message to get across to young people and we thought that the most effective way of doing that was through drama…. [W]e are delighted with the response we have had both from schools and pupils. We want this practice to be stamped out. It is not fun. It is not a game.”

There were 35 aircraft illumination incidents last year, and 16 thus far in 2016.

From the Irish News

International: (Not a laser) Over 10,000 air rage incidents worldwide in 2015

There were 10,854 incidents of unruly passengers in 2015, according to the International Air Transport Association. With over 13 million flights, this means there was one “air rage” incident for every 1,205 flights. The total is an increase over 2014’s 9,316 reported incidents.

In 11 percent of incidents, there was “physical aggression towards passengers or crew, or damage to the aircraft,” IATA reported.

IATA’s Director General stated “There is no easy answer to stem the rise in reported unruly behavior. We need a balanced solution in which all stakeholders can collaborate. The industry’s core principles can help to manage the small percentage of passengers who abuse alcohol. And it must be balanced with efforts by governments taking advantage of all their deterrence mechanisms….”

From a
September 28 2016 press release from the International Air Transport Association. LaserPointerSafety.com is publishing this as an interesting comparison with the number of worldwide incidents of laser illuminations of aircraft, which are roughly on the same order of magnitude as that of air rage incidents.

UK: Statistics on police helicopter laser attacks; one has been struck 100 times "over the last year"

A September 12 2016 news article in The Star states that “[t]he police helicopter used in South Yorkshire has suffered nearly 100 laser attacks over the past year.” The article also states this is “more laser attacks than any other police aircraft in the country.”

Assuming “over the past year” means “in the last 12 months”, that would be an average of about two laser illuminations per week.

A separate article from BBC News states that in 2015 there were 91 reported laser illuminations of National Police Air Service aircraft. The largest number was 20 attacks against NPAS helicopters taking off from its Carr Gate headquarters near Wakefield, West Yorkshire.”

Reasons for the apparent discrepancy in numbers are not clear. It may be that South Yorkshire is not a member of the NPAS, which provides centralized air support to local police forces.

The BBC News chart below shows the 2015 NPAS laser attacks:

Pic 2016-09-14 at 1.58.41 PM

The NPAS is testing laser protective eyewear, as a means to help protect flight crews.

From The Star and BBC News. Interestingly, a September 14 search of the South Yorkshire Police website, to find more information about these incidents and police concern regarding lasers, did not find any results when searching for the term “laser.”

US: Anti-laser laser for drone defense

The cameras and sensors on drones can be disrupted by laser light. This is of special concern to the military.

To help defend drones against laser light, a California company has developed a defensive laser to be mounted on the drone. When it detects a laser attack, it first analyzes the incoming beam’s power, wavelength, pulse frequency and source. It then uses its own laser to counter the incoming beam.

The exact method is secret. New Scientist speculates “…it may involve fooling the control system into thinking it is hitting its target despite the laser actually pointing a few metres to the side. A direct hit would have produced a big burst of reflected light, so a pulse sent back by an anti-laser laser could make it look like the original laser was on target.”

The company is Adsys Controls of Irvine, California; the anti-laser laser system is called Helios. According to the company, “Helios is a low SWaP [Space, Weight and Power], completely passive Counter Directed Energy Weapon system capable of nullifying the enemy’s DEW [Directed Energy Weapon]. Consisting of a small UAV-mounted sensor package, Helios provides full analysis of the incoming DEW beam including localization and intensity. With this information it passively jams the enemy, protecting the vehicle and the payload.”

From Popular Science and New Scientist

UK: BALPA calls for high-powered lasers to be treated as offensive weapons

The British Airline Pilots’ Association called for greater regulation of lasers and drones, at a Trades Union Congress meeting in Brighton on September 14 2016.

BALPA noted that there were 1,439 reports of laser attacks in 2015, and that 55% of pilots experienced a laser attack in the past 12 months. A spokesperson said BALPA “has been campaigning for a long time for high-powered lasers to be treated as what they are — offensive weapons.”

The association was also concerned with the threat of incidents involving drones.

A motion to ask for improved regulations passed at the meeting.

From a BALPA press release

US: Study examines 4 laser-caused eye injuries in children, at one medical practice

A study in the October 2016 journal Pediatrics described four cases where children had laser-related eye injuries, all being presented at a single clinical practice within a two-year period. The study is entitled “Retinal Injury Secondary to Laser Pointers in Pediatric Patients.”

For details, see this LaserPointerSafety.com article in the non-aviation incident section of our news coverage. We are cross-referencing the article in this section as well, for persons who are looking for articles about scientific studies of laser eye injuries.

India: (Not a laser) Hundreds of severe eye injuries from government pellet shotguns

[Note: We are including this article because there has been concern that lasers used in protests against police could potentially cause eye damage. The article describes actual, serious eye damage caused by a non-laser source to hundreds of protesters. As of August 29 2016, LaserPointerSafety is unaware of any serious or permanent eye injuries from lasers used in protests, riots, and similar civil disturbances.]

From mid-July 2016 to late August 2016, more than 570 persons have gone to the main government hospital in Srinagar, Kashmir for treatment of eyes that have been damaged by “birdshot” (lead pellets) fired from shotguns into crowds by Indian security forces trying to break up protests and crowds.

An August 28 2016 New York Times article describes some of the lead pellet-caused eye injuries:

“The patients have mutilated retinas, severed optic nerves, irises seeping out like puddles of ink.”

“[A] patient’s eyelids have been stretched back with a metal clamp, so his eyeball bulges out of glistening pink tissue. The surgeon sits with his back very straight, cutting with tiny movements of his fingers. Every now and then, a thread of blood appears in the patient’s eye socket. The patient is 8 years old…. Slowly, as residents stood around him in hushed silence, the surgeon flattened out the boy’s retina, as thin and delicate as a lace doily, and used a laser to reattach it to the back of his eye.

“In most cases, it became clear, the pellets had burst into through the cornea and out through the retina, leaving little hope of fully restoring vision…. ‘Once it goes in the eye, it rotates like this, and destroys everything there inside,’ Dr. Qureshi said. ‘It’s physics. This is a high-velocity body. It releases a high amount of energy inside. The lens, the iris, the retina get matted up.’”

The author, Ellen Barry, notes that “….most countries do not use them on unarmed civilians, as the pellets spray widely and cannot be aimed…. This year, the use of pellets on Kashmiri protesters increased sharply, with the police firing more than 3,000 canisters, or upward of 1.2 million pellets, in the first 32 days of the protests, the Central Reserve Police Force has said.”

From the New York Times

Ireland: Laser incidents decline over past two years

Incidents of lasers aimed at aircraft in Ireland fell from 153 in 2014, to 134 in 2015, and could be less than 50 in 2016, according to the Irish Aviation Authority.

In 2014 the State Airports (Shannon Group) Act made it illegal to aim laser pens at aircraft. According to the Irish Examiner, “Since the legislation was introduced, there has been a significant decrease in the number of laser incidents reported by Irish pilots in Irish airspace to Irish Air Traffic Control.”

As of August 26 2016, there were 31 reports of lasers deliberately pointed at aircraft in Irish airspace. If the remainder of 2016 continues at that rate, there would be about 47 laser incident reports for the entire year.

Except for mentioning the 2014 legislation, the news report did not indicate any other reason for the decline.

From the Irish Examiner

UK: Arrest persons carrying "high-powered" laser pointers in public, says top aviation regulator

The head of the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority said that persons carrying “high-powered” laser pointers in public should be arrested even if they are not using them. He said that CAA and the British Airline Pilots Association want legislation outlawing possession of high-powered laser pens without a license. The chief executive of CAA, Andrew Haines, was speaking in late August 2016 to the Press Association about the misuse of lasers, which he considers to be a greater threat than drone near-misses, since laser misuse is “a deliberate attempt to cause harm.”

According to Haines, laser attacks have permanently damaged pilots’ vision, and it is conceivable that they could cause an aircraft crash. In 2015 there were 1,439 laser incidents reported to CAA.

Haines said there is no legitimate reason for a person to have a high-powered laser pen in public. Press reports did not indicate Haines’ definition of “high-powered”. (In the U.K., lasers used as pointers are limited to 1 milliwatt [the U.S. limit is 5 mW], so it is possible that “high-powered” would mean any handheld laser above 1 mW.)

Haines asked “Why does Joe Bloggs walking down the street need a laser that can pop a balloon at 50 miles, that can cause permanent damage to a pilot?”

The CAA chief wants new, restrictive legislation because at present, it is difficult to find laser perpetrators and to prove they had intent to endanger aviation, under the Air Navigation Order 2009.

A U.K. government spokesperson said "We take this issue very seriously and we continue to work with other Government departments, the CAA and industry to determine how best to control the sale, use and possession of laser pens. We are looking to make changes as soon as possible."

From the Daily Mail, BBC, the Mirror, and other news sources. For commentary about Haines’ statements, click the “Read More…” link below.
Click to read more...

Australia: Study shows inexpensive green laser pointers are mislabled and significantly over-powered

A study done by researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Victoria, found that inexpensive green laser pointers had output power up to 127 times the Australian legal limit of 1 milliwatt. Results of the study were presented by Dr. Kate Fox at the IEEE Engineers in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) scientific conference, on August 19 2016 in Orlando, Florida.

The researchers purchased eight laser pointers from sources including electronics stores and online stores. They bought four lasers with green beams and four with red beams. The cost of each laser was less than AUD $30 (USD $23).

All of the lasers were advertised to have a maximum output power of either less than 1 mW or less than 5 mW. The green laser pointers’ actual output power measured from 51 to 127 milliwatts. Dr. Fox said “At that upper level, the beam would cause catastrophic retinal damage.”

Apparently much of the green lasers’ power was in the infrared. These types of lasers work by generating non-visible infrared light which is then converted by a crystal into visible green light. A filter is normally used to block the infrared light, and only let the green light through. However, “[t]he research team found that imported laser pointers were poorly made, with manufacturers tempted to skip installing infrared-blocking filters to hold down costs.” The researchers did not measure how much of each lasers’ output was in the visible, and how much was in the infrared.

The 127 milliwatt green laser was labeled as a Class 2 device, with maximum output power of 1 mW. In a previous study from the U.S. NIST, the highest power output they measured was 66.5 mW from a green laser labeled as having a maximum output power of 5 mW.

Three of the four red laser pointers were found to be within the legal limit of 1 milliwatt. The fourth red pointer was about 8.5 milliwatts. The researchers felt that the red lasers’ spots were less focused than green lasers, meaning there was less risk of retinal damage. Also, red lasers use diodes. The maximum power output of these diodes is limited; excessive current will destroy the diode’s lasing capacity instead of providing a more powerful beam.

The researchers noted that “Our experiment raised two very pertinent concerns – first, why were class 3B lasers so easily purchased via the internet without licensing? This suggests that there are many loopholes in the importation of these products and more stringent processes need to be reinforced. Secondly, why did green lasers labeled as Class 2 reach up to a power output of 127mW, effectively attaining a class 3B classification? It is very likely that there is a significant infrared component. This drastic degree of non-compliance suggests that there needs to be more rigorous testing and quality control of these commercially available lasers – merely imposing a power limit of less than 1mW is insufficient.”

The researchers concluded by stating that “Authorities such as the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) and medical authorities such as the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) ought to advocate more strongly for stringent testing, quality control and licensing of green DPSS lasers.”

From an
RMIT press release, “Over-the-counter laser pointers a threat to eyesight” and an advance copy of a paper, “Green lasers are beyond power limits mandated by safety standards,” which will be published in the Proceedings of the 2016 IEEE Engineers in Medicine and Biology Conference, online at the IEEE Xplore website. Thanks to Dr. Kate Fox for the paper.

Israel: Lasers are seen as potential terrorist tool

A study published August 16 2016 by an Israeli-based counter-terrorism center states that lasers are one of the technologies that are likely to be used by terrorist organizations against aircraft.

The laser portion of the 21-page document is four paragraphs long. The analysis appears to be sourced primarily from news accounts and public documents.

The fourth paragraph, which concludes the laser discussion, states: “Although no real damage has yet been caused by the laser threat against airplanes, the possibility cannot be ignored that terrorist organization will use laser beams against pilots in order to carry out a terror attack. This issue becomes even more significant in light of the fact that there are particularly powerful laser devices that can be found in the possession of terrorist organizations.”

Other potential aviation threats described in the document include drones, anti-aircraft missiles, recruiting disaffected airport employees, and cyber-terrorism.

The study was published by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) of Herzliya, Israel, a non-profit organization that calls itself “one of the leading academic institutes for counter-terrorism in the world.”

From
Trends in Aviation Terrorism (PDF document)

Canada: Students developing laser scarecrow to keep geese from crops

A group of students at the University of Victoria developed a prototype system that uses green lasers to drive geese from farmers’ fields. In an August 8 2016 radio report, CBC News interviewed Peter Rashleigh, a farmer and 4th-year mechanical engineering student, who worked with five other students on the project.

The group’s research found that green lasers, even at low power levels, scare geese at night when they are roosting in fields, eating the green shoots of crops such as wheat and barley. They can do “significant damage,” Rashleigh said.

There is a solution during the daytime involving noise from pyrotechnics, but this can’t be used at night in a residential area.

For nighttime geese deterrence, the students looked at other options and concluded that using lasers was the best way to solve the problem. They developed a device placed about 12-15 feet off the ground, installed in the center of the field. It moves the laser across an area, throughout the night. So far, it appears to be “fairly effective.” Response has been “quite positive” from other farmers.

Rashleigh told CBC News that “safety is a huge concern.” The laser only shines where it is intended, in the field. The beam is less powerful than most handheld laser pointers; a person would have to stare into the beams for “about 8 seconds” to have any risk of damage. To protect aircraft, the device can detect if it is being pointed above the horizon, and can shut itself off.

From
CBC News, via Forbes

US: Pilot group forms to combat laser strikes

A group of pilots has formed Pilots Against Laser Strikes, LLC. The group’s mission statement says the non-profit volunteer organization is “dedicated to educating and informing the public of the dangers of laser strikes on aircraft and reducing the number of laser strikes that occurs on a daily basis.”

Pilots Against Laser Strikes logo smaller 250w

On the education side, volunteers will visit schools and airports to provide information about why people should not aim lasers at aircraft.

On the legislative side, the group wants to create a National Laser Registration List for Class 4 lasers (those over 500 milliwatts of power), with federal law mandating registration.

PALS was founded in March 2016 by pilot Craig Pieper, who was illuminated by green laser light in December 2015 while on approach to Newark Liberty International Airport. The organization’s website is at pilotsagainstlaserstrikes.org.

From Aero Crew News August 2016, pp. 26-27 and Metropolitan Airport News, August 2016, p. 10.

UK: Money from convicted terrorist used to buy laser pointer

Funds provided by a convicted terrorist were spent on items including a laser pointer pen and a night-vision telescope.

There was no indication as to any intended use for the devices.

According to a July 28 2016 report, Adeel Ul-Haq, 21, received a five-year sentence for “helping in the preparation of an act of terrorism” and a one-year sentence for “funding terrorism.”

Ul-Haq raised approximately £4,200 (USD $5560) via Twitter donations. Some of the money purchased the laser and night-vision equipment.

The money was confiscated, and was redistributed by the Charity Commission to two registered aid charities.

From CivilSociety.co.uk

US: Army looking for battlefield goggles which include laser eye protection

The U.S. Army is looking for prototype Next Generation Eye Protection (NGEP) which will include protection against laser light. The solicitation notice is expected around August 3 2016. Below is text from the pre-solitication notice issued July 20 2016. The laser requirement is in boldface.

The US Army Contracting Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Natick Contracting Division (NCD) on behalf of the US Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) intends to issue a solicitation under Authority of FAR Part 15 for Research and Development (R&D) efforts to deliver prototype systems capable of meeting Next Generation Eye Protection (NGEP) requirements. Eyewear must be capable of exceeding military ballistic fragmentation protection requirements for eye protection as currently outlined in MIL-PRF-32432, meet optical quality requirements, provide configuration(s) with laser eye protection, accommodate varying light conditions, and be compatible with the Universal Prescription Lens Carrier (UPLC) to accommodate Marines requiring vision correction. Since follow-on production is envisioned, the ability to produce protective eyewear in production quantities is also a key consideration.

The Government is anticipating awarding 1 or more firm fixed price (FFP) contracts with a period of performance of 12 months for the required services. The Government reserves the right to award one or no contracts as a result of the solicitation.


From the pre-solicitation notice at FedBizOpps.gov. The Solicitation Number is W911QY-16-R-0043.

US: Air Force buys 11,805 laser eye protection glasses for $30.1 million

The U.S. Air Force Materiel Command is purchasing up to 11,805 Aircrew Laser Eye Protection (ALEP) Block 2 spectacles. According to the June 25 2016 notice,

“Air Force aircrew members require an ALEP system for day and night applications that balance requirements for laser eye protection, mission/aircraft compatibility, and flight safety. The ALEP Block 2 system provides aircrew members with enhanced protection against hazard and threat laser devices in combat and training situations while minimizing visual acuity degradation. The ALEP Block 2 system also provides sufficient protection to prevent permanent eye damage and temporary effects (glare, flash blindness, etc.) from laser weapons/devices. The Block 2 system is compatible with current aircrew flight equipment, cockpit/cabin displays, exterior aircraft lights, and airfield lights, night vision devices, helmet mounted displays, and exterior scenery.”

The supplier is Teledyne Scientific & Imaging. The contract amount is $30.1 million, meaning the cost amortized over each spectacle is $2,550. The sole source contract stated “Teledyne is the only firm capable of providing the supplies without the USAF experiencing substantial duplication of cost that could not be expected to be recovered through competition and unacceptable delays in fulfilling its requirements.”

From GovTribe and airforce-technology.com. The federal solicitation number for this contract is FA8606-15-C-6370.

Worldwide: Star Wars drones feature aerial laser battles

Quadcopters shaped like Star Wars vehicles, which have lasers for aerial combat, are set to be sold in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in September 2016, with release in North America scheduled for later in the year.

The “Star Wars Battle Quads” can move at speeds of 40-50 mph, and have clear propellers on the bottom to help maintain the illusion of a Millennium Falcon, X-Wing, TIE fighter or speeder bike flying on its own.

According to the manufacturer, Propel, up to 24 drones can have a laser battle simultaneously. A publicity photo shows laser beams clearly visible in a smoky environment:

Propel Star Wars lasers 01

Below is a freeze-frame from a Propel video that shows the drones (upper left corner) flying in a public demonstration. The circles show where the laser beams are shooting onto an audience.

Propel Star Wars lasers 02

According to the Verge, “When a ship is hit by a laser from an opposing ship, its paired controller … shakes in the pilot’s hands. After three direct hits, the drone will slowly spiral to the ground the game is over. Although the prototypes weren’t ready for one of these battles when we saw them, the lasers alone were pretty striking.”

The caption of this photo from the Verge states that the lasers are “Around the strength of a laser pointer.” Empire vehicles have green lasers, Rebellion vehicles have red.

Propel Star Wars laser 03


The cost is reported to be between $200-$400.

From Wired, Engadget and the Verge. Freeze-frame from a video in a PC Mag article.

US: FAA bill mandates quarterly reporting of laser incidents and prosecutions; increases civil penalties

On July 15 2016, President Obama signed the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016. One of the provisions provides funding for the agency to report four times a year to Congress about the following:

  • the number of laser pointer incidents reported to FAA
  • the number of civil and criminal enforcement actions
  • the resolution of any incidents that did not result in a civil or criminal action
  • any actions taken to help deter laser pointer incidents

In addition, the maximum civil penalty that FAA can impose was raised to $25,000. It was formerly $11,000.

U.S. Government Printing Office. The full text of the laser pointer provisions of the Act is below (click the Read More… link).
Click to read more...

US: Cleveland bans lasers from area around convention; guns are allowed

Lasers, light bulbs, tennis balls, hammocks and toy guns are among 72 items the public is banned from possessing in a 3.3 square mile “event zone” surrounding the site of the July 18-21 2016 Republican National Convention. However, the public is permitted to openly carry real guns in the area.

The prohibition lasts from July 18 through July 22. The list of items was first published by the city of Cleveland as part of regulations issued May 25 2016.

In the list, some items have specific descriptions, such as a restriction on “Lumber larger than 2” in width and 1⁄4” thick, including supports for signs” or “Umbrellas with metal tips.” For lasers, the list simply bans “Lasers;” there is no additional description such as allowing lasers under a certain size or power output.

The general public can possess a banned item if it is used in a workplace or at a home within the restricted zone, and if the item is used within the business or home.

The public is allowed to have guns in the event zone due to an Ohio state law allowing open carry by licensed gun owners. The event zone covers most of downtown Cleveland.

A much smaller security zone inside the convention arena, under the jurisdiction of the Secret Service, has banned guns.

From Wired and Q13 Fox. The city of Cleveland regulations are here. Click the “Read More…” link for a map of the event zone and the complete list of 72 banned items.
Click to read more...

Vietnam: Proposal to make it a crime to aim a laser at an aircraft

The head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam in early July 2016 asked the Ministry of Transport to make aiming lasers at aircraft illegal, with both criminal charges and “administrative punishment for violating civil aviation safety.”

In three airports in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Pleiku, there were six incidents where lasers were aimed at aircraft between May 28 and June 14 2016. The perpetrators remain unknown as of July 6 2016.

From Vietnamnet.vn

US: Hobbyist builds 200-watt portable laser from scrap parts

A video on YouTube shows a homemade 200-watt portable laser “bazooka” made from cast off parts and broken electronics. One week after being posted on June 28 2016, the video from user “Styropyro” (Drake Anthony) had 1,733,000 views. Stories about the laser were also featured on major media sources including the Daily Mail, the Mirror, Popular Science, Yahoo News/Popular Mechanics, Gizmodo, and TechCrunch.

Anthony started by harvesting lasers used in DLP video projectors, such as the Casio “LampFree” series:

Casio LampFree laser hybrid projectors

He purchased four broken projectors, each with an array of blue laser diodes totaling 50 watts, to get a grand total of 200 watts of laser output. He then used knife-edge optical components to help superimpose all the laser beams.

When energized, the beam is immense and powerful:

styro-small

The highest (most hazardous) laser classification is Class 4, which starts at 500 milliwatts (0.5 watts). Such lasers can cause instant eye injury, skin burns and can burn materials. Anthony’s 200 watt laser is 400 times more powerful than the 0.5 watt limit where Class 4 begins.

In the video, Anthony says “this feels like I’m holding a bolt of lightning in my hands. This is definitely my new favorite toy.”

Adding a magnifying glass to the end focuses the beam onto a spot that can almost instantly burn a block of wood:

200w styropyro laser 02

When operating the laser, Anthony wears a welder’s mask with laser goggles fitted. This prevents potential retinal burns caused by looking at the concentrated laser light. Below he is shown with the laser and mask.

200w styropyro laser instagram

At the end of the video, he says “I'm glad to have finally finished this beast because that means I can start working on some of my other projects, and in the coming months I have a lot of crazy stuff planned including impulse lasers that peak in the megawatts as well as explosively pumped lasers, so I'm looking forward to that….Until the next time, stay safe and happy lasing!”

Drake Anthony is a 23-year old senior at Southern Illinois University, who has been accepted into the University of Rochester PhD program. In a Feb. 2016 newspaper profile entitled “SIU student turns passion for lasers into potential career”, the author notes that “What really excites Anthony is the science behind the beam.” She quotes him as saying “From a theory perspective, it’s beautiful. It uses physics, it uses quantum physics, chemistry, good things of math, engineering. It’s just this conglomeration of all the best things that humans have come up with.”

From the YouTube video
“My Homebuilt 200W LASER BAZOOKA!!!!!”, posted June 28 2016

US: Statistics for second half of 2015 show unusual rise and sudden decline

An analysis of daily laser pointer illumination reports finds an unusual rise in the second half of 2015, with a sudden decline just before Christmas.

The chart below, showing FAA laser illumination reports for the past nine years, demonstrates how the number of reports increased and even more dramatically decreased (yellow area):

FAA incidents 2007 - May 28 2016 1150w
Click for larger image

A closer look at the past two years shows this more clearly:

FAA incidents past 2 years 50pct
Click for larger image

A possible cause of the increase is that on July 16 there was widespread nationwide publicity about 11 flights that were illuminated on July 15 in and around New Jersey.

However, this event is not a full explanation. While the publicity may have triggered a “copycat” effect, incidents had been increasing at least two weeks prior to July 16.

LaserPointerSafety.com is not aware of any other external events such as new laser pointer products, changes in laws, etc. that could also account for this increase. And, we have no explanation for the dramatic fall-off starting December 23. We have reached out to FAA to find out if there were any changes in pilot reporting requirements or in data gathering procedures.

Knowing reasons for the increase — and especially for the sudden decrease — could provide clues in the effort to reduce laser pointer incidents in the U.S.

US: 2016 laser incidents up 33% over same period in 2015

From January 1 through May 28 2016, pilots filed 2,925 reports of laser illuminations with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. This is a 33% increase over the 2,194 reports filed during the same period in 2015.

2016-05-28 Number Jan 1 - May 28 600w



LaserPointerSafety.com estimates there will be over 8,500 laser incidents reported for 2016. This is based on comparing the number of illuminations Jan 1 - May 28 2016, with the average of the same period in the past four years.

2016-05-28 Number per year 600w


Australia: Study shows laser pointers are #2 cause of pilot incapacitation

A February 2016 study by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that from 2010 to 2014, laser strikes were the second leading cause of flight crew incapacitations, after gastrointestinal illnesses.

There were 113 flight crew incapacitations in Australia during the study period — an average of about 23 per year. Of these, 15 (13.3%) of the reported incapacitations were due to laser strikes.

The study looked at “high-capacity” and “low-capacity” air transport, as well as general aviation.

During the study period there were 1,316 laser strikes reported to the ATSB in high-capacity operations. Of these, eleven (0.8%) of the laser strikes resulted in flight crew incapacitation.

A summary of the ATSB study is here. The full 30-page PDF document is available online from ATSB or from a local copy here at LaserPointerSafety.com.

Canada: Transport Canada warning of laser dangers via social media

Transport Canada on May 24 2016 launched a social media awareness campaign, warning Canadians of the dangers and consequences of aiming lasers at aircraft.

The campaign began with a press conference where Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport and Tony Cusimano, Superintendent of York Regional Police spoke about the hazards.

Garneau said, "Pointing a laser at an aircraft is not only a reckless act that puts people at unnecessary risk, it’s simply not a bright idea. As Minister of Transport, I take this type of behaviour seriously because Canadians and their families deserve to feel safe while flying. We want people to know there are serious consequences, including $100,000 in fines and up to five years in prison. Transport Canada and law enforcement across the country are working together to ensure offenders face the fullest force of the law.”

Transport Canada has set up a website at www.tc.gc.ca/NotABrightIdea. It includes a catchy animated video, “Dumb Ways to Blind” aimed at millennials, plus three other more conventional videos on the topic.

According to the website, “[i]n 2015, there were almost 600 reported incidents.” This was an increase over the 502 incidents reported in 2014.

Transport Canada urges those interested to use the hashtag #NotABrightIdea. On Twitter, since January 1 2016 there have been about 40 posts with this hashtag; 33 of them about lasers and 7 about other topics that are “not a bright idea.”

From a news release issued by Transport Canada

US: Coast Guard seeks FDA waiver; wants to use laser illuminators on helicopters

The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking a waiver from Food and Drug Administration laser safety regulations, so that CG helicopters can use laser illuminators to enhance video vision. The problem is that the laser illuminators do not have a minimum altitude interlock. This prevents use when the laser is used so close to a person that the irradiance is above the FDA’s Maximum Permissible Exposure levels, and thus could cause eye injury.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Defense is permitted to self-certify their laser equipment and usage. The DoD’s Army, Air Force and Navy agencies do not need FDA approval of their helicopter-based laser illuminators. However, the Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which does not have a self-certification waiver. The Coast Guard must currently apply for FDA approval.

On April 14 2016, Rep. Duncan Hunter sent a letter to FDA, asking that the Coast Guard be permitted to self-certify their laser systems. Hunter called FDA’s policy “onerous and burdensome”.

One issue may be that the helicopter-based video system already has low-light and infrared capabilities. Although the laser illumination can further enhance the image, it may not be considered a necessity for operations.

From Seapower magazine

US: Scientist uses "laser-pointer-in-a-can" to discover dinosaur eyes, feathers

A scientist using what he describes as a “laser-pointer-in-a-can” has discovered evidence of dinosaurs’ soft tissues including eyes, skin, feathers and scales. Tom Kaye illuminates a sample with the laser light, and photographs it with a camera that is filtered to see fluorescence of the sample, caused by the light. The entire apparatus costs about USD $500.

In a social media post around late March 2016, Kaye posted photos of a dinosaur’s eye that is only visible with his technique.

Tom Kaye laser pointer dinosaur eye

A science story notes that Kaye is “maybe the only person on Earth not named Sam Neill who can say he’s looked into the eyes of a pterosaur.”

In previous studies he used green (532 nm), blue (457 nm) and violet (407 nm) laser modules with powers from 150 to 500 milliwatts. This provides much brighter illumination of the subject. For example, a standard 20 watt ultraviolet fluorescent lamp has an irradiance (power over a given area) of 510 milliwatts per square centimeter. A 500 milliwatt (1/2 watt) laser, by comparison, provides an irradiance of around 4000 to 8000 milliwatts per square centimeter.

Tom Kaye laser pointer paleontology
Kaye with his laser apparatus


The story “What Did Dinosaurs Look Like? Tom Kaye Finds Answers, Feathers With Lasers” appeared online at Inverse.com on April 19 2016. Inverse also featured a previous story, “Lasers Can Tell Us More About Fossils Than Before” on October 8 2015. A May 27 2015 paper by Kaye and associates, written for the online journal PLOS ONE, “Laser-Stimulated Fluorescence in Paleontology”, is here.

UK: Consumer lasers hazardous up close, but will not injure pilots, say 3 top UK experts

Three top U.K. laser safety experts published an overview of consumer laser hazards in the April 19 2016 British Journal of Ophthalmology. The key finding that made news (at sources such as CNN, ABC and the Daily Mail) was that lasers aimed at aircraft have not caused eye injuries to pilots, and are not likely to do so.

But in addition to this declaration, the authors also provided a succinct summary of the current state of consumer laser pointer misuse, and how ophthalmologists should proceed when studying a patient’s laser exposure.

Experts John Marshall, John O’Hagan and John Tyrer began by noting that low-powered Class 2 (less than 1 milliwatt) and Class 3R (1-5 mW) lasers “are not an eye hazard, and even if used inappropriately will not cause permanent eye damage.”

However, consumer laser devices with Class 3B (5-500 mW) and Class 4 (above 500 mW) powers have begun to cause injuries. “….[C]lass 4 devices are capable of causing irreversible retinal damage if directed into the eye over short ranges, up to several metres. Such devices have resulted in foveal injuries in children with current estimates of 150 cases in the UK. The [UK] media has given significant coverage to this growing problem.”

Ophthalmologists were advised that in cases of close up exposure, there may potentially be permanent damage. A detailed examination would be warranted, although there is no treatment to reverse permanent damage.

The hazards from this short range misuse differ from the hazards of aiming a laser towards pilots. Because the laser-to-aircraft distance is typically “hundreds to thousands of metres”, and because of scattering from the windscreen, eye injuries are nonexistent: “Fortunately, these exposures are at irradiances that are incapable of producing irreversible retinal damage even at distances of 100 m.”

They said that only one case of alleged retinal damage has been reported in pilots. [LPS.com note: this is for publicly available reports involving civilian pilots.] The experts concluded the case is suspect for a number of reasons; they do not believe laser targeting caused the alleged injury.

Marshall, O’Hagan and Tyrer turned from injuries to the hazards of distracting pilots with bright laser lights: “Obviously, if such a distraction occurs at a critical time such as during landing then the result could be devastating.”

For ophthalmologists examining pilots, if there are no permanent abnormalities on an Amsler grid test, the physician should not do any detailed eye exam, as this “would only serve to compromise the pilot's vision for a longer period.” The authors noted that pilots may delay seeing an expert for “many hours or a day or so during which there may be a growing psychological element.”

In an interview with CNN, Marshall said the findings on pilot hazards are based on previous laser safety research as well as a new study done with field experiments at a military base over about three years.

In the BJO editorial, the three experts agreed that current laser safety standards and guidelines are based on valid experiments and science. The standards do not need to be revised, “…but clearly further attempts must be made to educate the public.”

The editorial concluded “The European Commission has mandated the European Standardisation bodies to produce a standard specifically for consumer laser products. This should allow enforcing authorities to remove unsafe products from the market. However, compliance by manufacturers will remain an issue, as will direct imports by the public purchasing unsafe laser products over the internet.”

From the British Journal of Ophthalmology editorial “Eye hazards of laser ‘pointers’ in perspective” by John Marshall, John O’Hagan, and John Tyrer, available in HTML text and as a PDF document. Click on the blue “Read More…” link below for an April 19 2016 press release from the BJO summarizing the paper’s findings relative to pilot hazards.
  Click to read more...

Australia: Laser incidents rose 2007-2012; fell from 2013-2015

Data from Airservices Australia shows that pilots’ reports of laser illuminations increased in the four years after a ban on sales and possession of laser pointers, but then dropped somewhat in the subsequent three years.

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.58.31 AM


Compare this with the number of illuminations in the United States over the same period:

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.59.12 AM


Australia’s data roughly tracks the U.S. data during the period 2007-2012. Here are the two charts above, superimposed, with the Australia numbers multiplied six times. The slope of the lines are similar for the first six years.

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.59.47 AM


Data from Airservices Australia, a corporation owned by the Australian Government whose services include air traffic control and aeronautical data. The information was provided in response to a LaserPointerSafety.com media inquiry. Thanks to Amanda Palmer for her assistance with the request.

Canada: 663 laser/aircraft incidents in 2015 based on newspaper analysis of CADORS data

A report published February 19 2016 in the Ottawa Citizen states that there were 663 laser incidents in Canada. This was based on the newspaper’s analysis of Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS). The paper noted that Transport Canada considers the reports preliminary and “subject to change.”

Here is the CADORS data:

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.49.29 AM


Compare this with the number of illuminations in the United States over the same period:


Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.48.58 AM


Canada’s data roughly tracks the U.S. data. Here are the two charts above, superimposed, with the CADORS numbers multiplied 11.7 times. The slope of the lines are similar for all but 2013/2014, and the endpoints are remarkably close.

Pic 2016-06-22 at 11.48.11 AM


From an analysis by Andrew Duffy in the Ottawa Citizen. Note that a few days earlier, CBC News stated that there were 590 laser/aircraft incidents in 2015. There is no indication as to reasons for the discrepancy.

UK: Government safety expert says eBay needs to crack down on sale of lasers

A laser safety expert at Public Health England told the Sun that “eBay needs to crack down on the sale of [laser pens] to keep the British public safe — and prevent a major incident.”

Dr. John O’Hagan said that many of the handheld laser pens and pointers being sold on eBay “are very clearly not one milliwatt.” According to eBay guidelines, such lasers above 1 mW are not supposed to be listed. O’Hagan noted that the pens may be “misleadingly …. designed to look like less powerful lasers, and are priced at only around £5 [USD $7], so people may not even be aware of what they are buying.”

From the
Sun; scroll down to the “Lasers” section. See also a similar warning from a UK laser pointer seller.

UK: Laser pointer seller says eBay is the main source of UK illegal high-powered lasers

The managing director of two UK websites that sell laser pens issued a statement saying that eBay is the primary source of illegal, high-powered lasers in the United Kingdom. The February 17 2016 statement from Paul Loudon also notes that lasers above 1 mW are not freely available, and that existing laws already make it illegal to point a laser at an aircraft or vehicle.

Loudon estimates that eBay sales “are in the thousands” each day. According to the statement, “Currently there are over 2000 laser pens for sale on eBay UK. It appears 90% of the listings are for products that are clearly over 1mW and often with sales histories of thousands in a single listing. Multiply that and it becomes really obvious where all these overpowered lasers are coming from that idiots are abusing.”

He calls for eBay to begin “monitoring and delisting all these crazy hyped up laser listings”.

From a statement emailed to LaserPointerSafety.com on February 17 2016. The complete statement is reprinted below; click the “Read More…” link. And click here for other eBay-related stories, including one a day later where a UK public safety official called on eBay to “crack down” on laser sales.
Click to read more...

UK: Government department in talks to possibly withdraw high-powered lasers

On February 16 2016, the U.K. Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said it will meet with “stakeholders, including the Civil Aviation Authority, to determine what more can be done to protect the public from the potential dangers of certain laser products.” This comes on the heels of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) asking for lasers to be treated as “offensive weapons” after a Virgin Atlantic flight turned back due to a laser illumination.

The meeting is scheduled to occur during the week of February 22-26. A department spokesperson said on February 16 that it was too early to discuss any potential changes to laws.

From the Telegraph

South Africa: One incident roughly every two days in early 2016

According to the South African Civil Aviation Authority, there were 20 reports of laser illuminations of aircraft in the 47 days between January 1 and February 16 2016.

From htxt.africa

Canada: 590 laser/aircraft incidents in 2015; pilot group wants handheld lasers classed as weapons

Transport Canada received 590 reports of laser illuminations of aircraft in 2015, according to a February 16 2016 news story by CBC News. They reported that this is up 17% from 2014, and is three times the 2009 figure of around 120 reports.

The head of the Air Canada Pilots Association said that the figures show that education is not working, and handheld lasers should be designated as prohibited weapons.

From CBC News. Note that a few days later, the Ottawa Citizen did an analysis of Transport Canada’s database which shows different figures: 663 laser incidents in 2015, which is up 32% from the 2014 total of 502.

UK: BALPA calls for "more action" after Virgin Atlantic flight diverts back to takeoff airport

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), a professional association and registered trade union, issued a statement about the Virgin Atlantic flight that diverted back to Heathrow due to a laser illumination causing a pilot to have medical concerns.

The following is from the BALPA website, Feb. 15 2016. More news items referencing BALPA are here.



LASER INCIDENT SHOWS MORE ACTION IS NEEDED
15/02/2016

Last night’s laser attack incident clearly shows why more needs to be done to tackle the growing use of lasers against aircraft.

The crew of Virgin Atlantic flight VS25 bound for New York took the decision to return to Heathrow after reportedly being attacked with a laser shortly after take off.

Jim McAuslan, General Secretary of BALPA, said,

“This is not an isolated incident. Aircraft are attacked with lasers at an alarming rate and with lasers with ever-increasing strength.

“It is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Shining a laser at an aircraft puts that aircraft, its crew and all the passengers on board at completely unnecessary risk.

“Modern lasers have the power to blind, and certainly to act as a huge distraction and to dazzle the pilots during critical phases of flight.

“We are sure the police will do everything in their power to find the culprits of this attack and prosecute them.

“We repeat our call to the Government to classify lasers as offensive weapons which would give the police more power to arrest people for possessing them if they had no good reason to have them. This incident shows why this is becoming more-and-more urgent.

“Pilots across the world know how dangerous laser attacks are and therefore will join with me in commending the actions of the crew of VS25 who put their passengers’ safety first and took the decision to return to Heathrow.”


UK: Around 9,000 laser incidents, Jan 2009 - June 2015, according to CAA

According to the Daily Mail, “Between 2009 and June 2015 more than 8,998 laser incidents across the country were reported to the UK Civil Aviation Authority.”

For comparison, in the United States from January 1 2009 through May 31 2015, there were 21,414 laser incidents reported to the Federal Aviation Administration. (An additional 457 incidents were reported during June 2015.) From January 1 2004 through December 31 2015 there were 29,097 laser incidents reported to FAA.

U.K. information from the Daily Mail. U.S. information from FAA data.

US: Sen. Schumer gets new FDA leader to consider banning high-power green laser pointers

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer met on February 3 2016 with Dr. Robert Califf, nominated to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to discuss the threat of high-powered green laser pointers. At Sen. Schumer’s request, Dr. Califf agreed to consider having the FDA ban the sale of such pointers.

As of February 4, Califf’s nomination still awaited Senate approval.

Sen. Schumer, a Democrat from New York State, issued a statement saying “We’re only one month into 2016 and already there has been a green laser strike targeting aircrafts in the New York metropolitan area. We need to do something, and that is why I am pushing the FDA Commissioner nominee to act ahead of his confirmation. Green laser pointers have been a repeated danger to pilots across the country and I will continue to urge the FDA to use its authority and finally ban green, long-range, high-powered laser pointers once and for all.”

According to Newsday, there would be an exemption for professional uses. No additional details on the exemption criteria were available.

From Newsday (Note: accessing the article may require payment or answering survey questions)

Canada: 61 pilots studied after laser exposure; no problems found

A paper in the Canadian Journal of Opthalmology reported on 61 commercial airline pilots who had laser exposure during flight and who were examined by an ophthalmologist retinal specialist. Although “[a]ll pilots in the study experienced some degree of immediate ocular irritation or light sensitivity,” the specialist concluded that “No definite cases of ocular damage were attributed to laser strikes. No pilot had any functional ocular deficits.”

Examinations were done within three days of the strikes: “Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study visual acuity, colour vision, visual fields, intraocular pressure, slit-lamp examination, dilated fundus examination, colour fundus photographs, and ocular coherence tomography.”

The paper concluded, “Our study revealed that laser strikes on aircraft did not result in permanent visual functional or structural deficits. However, laser strikes cause immediate visual effects, including glare, flash blindness, and ocular irritation that can interfere with a pilot’s visual function.”

From the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology, December 2015, Volume 50, Issue 6, pages 429-432. For the full abstract of the study, click the “Read More…” link.
Click to read more...

US: Laser incidents nearly double in 2015 to 7,703

The number of FAA-reported laser incidents nearly doubled in 2015, to 7,703. This is a significant increase over the 2010-2014 period, which had hovered around 3,500-4,000 incidents per year.

2004-2015 incidents annually 450w


Here is the same data, presented to show the number of incidents per day:

2004-2015 incidents per day 450w


Below is a closeup of the 2014-2015 data. The thin light blue line represents the number of incidents on each day. Note the wide variability, from as few as no reports in a day (May 27 2014) to as many as 65 on December 11 2015.The thick blue line is a 30-day moving average, to smooth out the data.

2014-2015 FAA reported laser incidents 400w


2014-2015 incidents 450w

Both charts show identical data. On the second chart, two dates have been highlighted. Around July 1 2015, the number of incidents per day (light blue line) starts to increase. The only significant change that LaserPointerSafety.com can find around that time, is that on July 16 (purple line) there was widespread nationwide publicity about 11 flights that were illuminated on July 15 in and around New Jersey.

However, this event is not a full explanation. While the publicity may have triggered a “copycat” effect, it is apparent from both the thin and thick lines that incidents had been increasing at least two weeks prior to July 16.

Another date with widespread nationwide publicity is marked, November 12 2015 (red line). Three news helicopters and a police helicopter were illuminated in New York City the night before. Again, while there is some increase in incidents after that date, there also was a consistent increase from July through November.

Based on this analysis, “Copycat” laser use does not seem to be a significant factor in the near-doubling of 2015 laser incidents.

UK: UPDATED - Medical report on commercial pilot injured by blue laser at 1300 feet

The journal Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance in January 2016 published a paper entitled “Blue Laser Induced Retinal Injury in a Commercial Pilot at 1300 ft”. The case report is as follows:

“An airline pilot presented to our department complaining of a blind spot in the upper left area of his visual field in the right eye (right supero-nasal scotoma) following exposure to a laser beam while performing a landing maneuver of a commercial aircraft. At around 1300 ft (396 m), a blue laser beam from the ground directly entered his right eye, with immediate flash blindness and pain. Spectral domain ocular coherence tomography highlighted a localized area of photoreceptor disruption corresponding to a well demarcated area of hypofluorescence on fundus autofluorescence, representing a focal outer retinal laser injury. Fundus examination a fortnight later revealed a clinically identifiable lesion in the pilot’s right eye commensurate with a retinal-laser burn.”

The paper said the pilot’s symptoms “fully resolved 2 wk later” and that there was no “deficit in visual function.”
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US: Prosecutor says laser sentences are "getting lighter" since Gardenhire appeal

California federal prosecutor Karen Escobar said in January 2016 that sentences for aiming lasers at aircraft have been “getting lighter” since an April 2015 federal appeals court decision that struck down a 30-month sentence given to Adam Gardenhire.

The April 30 2015 decision by three judges of the Ninth Circuit found that prosecutors had not presented evidence of “reckless endangerment” of aircraft. The judges sent the case back to the U.S. district court in Los Angeles for a new sentencing hearing under a new judge. Under the original sentencing guidelines, Gardenhire had been recommended for 27 to 33 months in prison taking into account the reckless endangerment charge, or 4 to 10 months in prison without the charge.

From Ars Technica

Sweden: Study of 47 laser eye injury cases from 2013 to 2015

In 2013 the The Strål Säkerhets Myndigheten (Swedish Radiation Safety Authority) released a study investigating eye injuries from laser pointers. In December 2015, SSM updated that study with an additional 47 cases that had occurred worldwide in the 2013-2015 time frame.

The main body of the 2015 study includes an analysis of the laser power versus the observed injuries.

The authors note “If the availability of the handheld lasers continues to increase, along with higher optical power and lower cost, we expect that the number of severe eye injuries will continue to grow. Also, the distance from which the lasers can be used to disrupt various societal functions, such as air traffic (pilots) and policing will also increase. Almost all the reported cases involve young children and teenagers. There is also a huge overrepresentation by males. Often the lasers are sold as toys and purchased by a relative as a gift to a child. Earlier reports originated almost exclusively from developed countries. This situation has now changed and more and more reports originate from developing countries. The problem is worldwide and hence there is a need to educate and inform the societies of this danger.”

The 47 new cases are listed in an appendix. Here is a random sample listing two of the cases:

Pic 2017-01-05 at 6.22.11 PM

Author: Jörgen Thaung, Cesar Lopes and Stefan Löfgren
Publisher: Strål Säkerhets Myndigheten (SSM - Swedish Radiation Safety Authority)
Language: English
Publication date: December 2015
No of pages: 45
Price per publication: 100 SEK (incl. VAT)
Download: 2015:54 Retinal injuries from handheld lasers: An updated report [2200 kb]

A summary by LaserPointerSafety.com of the study’s objectives, major findings, and conclusion is here. The earlier 2013 study is summarized here and the full SSM document is available here.