A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

News: Statistics, Laws and All other laser pointer news


This webpage has a chronological list of general laser pointer news. There are separate pages for specific aviation-related incidents and non-aviation-related incidents. In addition, the What’s new at the website page lists major changes, updates, and additions to LaserPointerSafety.com.

We sometimes add older news items; since the list is chronological, items new to this page won’t always appear at the top. You may want to scroll down to see if there are new items since the last time you visited.

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US: Air Force develops laser glare protection glasses for pilots

From a May 4 2021 news release in the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, part of the U.S. Department of Defense:

Washington State Patrol pilots successfully test special laser eye protection developed at Wright-Patterson Lab


Story by Mary Pacinda, Air Force Research Laboratory

Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime that can net offenders up to five years in jail or cost them a $250,000 fine. Even with this heavy potential penalty, laser strikes have become increasingly more common. According to the FAA, 6,852 such incidents were reported in 2020, compared with 385 in 2006, and so far this year, incidents of “joy lasing” are up 20 percent over last year. Cheap and easily obtained, hand-held lasers used as pointers and cat toys are certainly harmless when used as intended. But when they are aimed at the cockpit of an aircraft, they can temporarily blind the pilot — with possibly deadly consequences.

Laser strikes are almost always made at low altitudes when an aircraft is taking off or preparing to land — the two parts of flying that require the most attention from a pilot. Even if the beam of light does not hit the pilot’s eyes directly, it can cause a distraction or even raise an alarm that the plane may have become a target. In addition to the possible adverse effects of these human reactions, slight imperfections in the plane’s windscreen can cause the laser light to spread out, creating a glare that can temporarily obscure all vision inside the cockpit.

Of course, passing a law against any behavior — including pointing a laser at an airplane — seldom puts an end to the behavior. Thus, the best way to avoid disaster from laser strikes is to provide some sort of protection for the pilot. As a result, in recent years several manufacturers have developed laser eye protection (LEP) to meet a growing demand for help from military and law enforcement pilots. But this solution is not without problems of its own.

Most laser eye protection works by filtering out green or red light, the colors most commonly used in handheld lasers. Unfortunately, according to FAA studies and years of pilot experience, this can change the pilot’s ability to accurately read the instrument control panel. A 2019 FAA report suggested that this problem might be fixed by changing the type of lighting in the control panel.

Researchers at the Air Force Research Laboratory recently came up with a better solution, one that was successfully tested on the job by Washington State Patrol pilots.

AFRL CALI anti-laser glasses on pilot sq
Flight Officer Camron Iverson of the Washington State Patrol tested laser protection lenses formulated at AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. (Photo by Mary Pacinda)


The Personnel Protection Team in AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, headed by Dr. Matthew Lange, used the cockpit compatibility design software developed for Department of Defense LEP and modified it for commercial use. The commercial version, called CALI (Commercial Aviation Low Intensity) filters out the laser light, but not the light coming from the pilot’s instrument panel. “Simply put,” said Lange, “the lenses maximize protection while minimizing the impact to the cockpit.”
 

Click to read more...

US: Missouri bill proposes 1-year sentence for pointing laser at police

Missouri House Bill 31 would make it illegal to "knowingly direct[] the light from a laser pointer at a uniformed safety officer." As a Class A misdemeanor, a violator could be jailed for up to one year and fined up to $2000.

A number of persons representing doctors and police officers supported the bill. Even the lone person in opposition to the bill supported the general idea but thought that the penalty was too harsh.

On March 2 2021, the Standing Committee on Public Safety in executive session voted 10 to 0 in favor of the bill. It was referred to the Rules - Legislative Oversight committee for further action.

Bill text at the Missouri House of Representatives 101st General Assembly HB 31 webpage. Story from the News & Record, though it is difficult to tell whether the bill described in the story is this one or is HB280 which does not appear to include laser misuse in its text.

US: Charges dropped against protester accused of laser pointer assault

A protester accused of assaulting a San Francisco police officer with a laser pointer had all charges dropped on April 22 2021.

Yusuf Labib had been arrested in March 2021 at a memorial for Breonna Taylor on a charge with "assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury."

At a court hearing, the prosecutor said "in this instance the People do not believe the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Labib specifically intended to cause fear of bodily harm.”

She continued, “The police officer in this case personally knew colleagues who have suffered permanent eye damage from lasers being shined in their eyes, so they take this conduct very seriously…. The People request Mr. Labib recognize that these potential risks exist before choosing to use a laser pointer in the future.”

Labib told the judge that he heard the prosecutor's comments.

From the Davis Vanguard

NZ: Number of laser strikes on aircraft decreases, but may be due to flights decreasing

Information from the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand shows the number of reported laser illuminations of aircraft dropped 41% in 2020, from 237 incidents in 2019 to 140 in 2020.

The March 2021 New Zealand data has been updated on the Laser/aircraft illumination statistics page. Scroll down to the "New Zealand" section. Also updated is the section comparing five countries including New Zealand.

The information was in a March 15 2021 email from CAA-NZ to LaserPointerSafety.com. The email noted that "Unfortunately our 2020 numbers were low primarily because our aircraft movements dropped so much due to Covid-19."

To look into this further, LaserPointerSafety.com estimated that in 2020 there were 273,000 airport movements (defined as a takeoff, landing or missed approach handled by Airways New Zealand). This compares with 1,023,000 movements in 2019 and a similar number in 2018.

Using this metric, in 2020 there were 256 laser illuminations per 1 million movements. This would be actually be a significant increase from the 2019 figure of 232 laser illuminations per 1 million movements.

Such a comparison may not be fully valid, however. The number of movements probably does not include flights by police and rescue aircraft. Because these are disproportionately targeted by laser perpetrators, a complete analysis would need to include such flights. It is not known if data are available.

Data from a March 15 2021 email from CAA-NZ. Thanks to Jenny Knowlsey for this data. Additional data on New Zealand aircraft movements is listed on the Laser/aircraft illumination statistics page under the "illuminations per 1 million flights" chart. Note that although "airport movements" are discussed above, on the statistics page this has been converted to "flights" by dividing the movements in half. This was done because "flights" is more understandable to the general public than "airport movements."

US: Why did lasers aimed at aircraft increase after the 2020 election?

The chart below shows that laser illuminations of aircraft in the U.S. (light blue line) increased dramatically starting two days after the contentious 2020 presidential election (thin red line).

Laser events 2020 800w - daily total blue chart copy

In fact, of the 10 highest days (most incidents) in 2020, all but one occurred in the Nov. 5-21 period. There were 55 incidents on Nov. 5, 48 on Nov. 6, 44 on Nov. 17, and 41 on Nov. 21. These occurred more than twice as often, compared with the 2020 average of 18.7 incidents per day.

Is this a statistical anomaly or did the disputed election results somehow lead to an increase in laser incidents?

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS BY LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

The chart below indicates that the three previous U.S. presidential elections did not have an effect on lasing incident rates.

It shows that in 2008, 2012, and 2016 the number of laser incidents each day between October 1 and Dec. 31 rose smoothly and steadily. In contrast, the lasing rate in 2020 (black line) slowed substantially around October 26, and rose significantly just after Election Day on November 3.

2020 election analysis of laser incidents 800w
Click for larger view

However, these two effects appear to counter each other. It may be that some other factor, such as how FAA records or processes laser incident reports, slowed in late October and sped back up in November.

In summary, while it is tempting to say that agitation over the 2020 election results led to an increase in persons aiming lasers at aircraft, this was not seen in previous election years and may be a statistical anomaly.

Click to read more...

US: 6,852 laser illuminations reported to FAA in 2020

In 2020, pilots in the U.S. reported seeing lasers 6,852 times, according to FAA data. This is a 10.3 percent increase over the 6,213 reports received in 2019.

Laser illuminations FAA to 2020 800w

This means pilots saw lasers on average 18.7 times each day in 2020. However, the lasing rate was not evenly distributed. It reached a monthly low of about 9 illuminations per day in April 2020 — just as nationwide pandemic restrictions started. The highest rate was in November 2020, with almost 30 illuminations per day.

Laser events 2020 800w - daily total blue chart copy

The peak number of illuminations, 55 on Nov. 5, occurred two days after the contentious 2020 election, when a presidential winner had not yet been declared. Of the 10 highest days (most incidents) in 2020, all but one occurred in the Nov. 5-21 period. A separate story at LaserPointerSafety.com discusses whether this is a coincidence or if there is some correlation with the election.

The charts above, and other detailed statistics, are on the Laser/aircraft illuminations statistics page. This includes data such as the following:

  • The total number of U.S. laser/aircraft incidents since reporting to the FAA was mandated in 2004, is 61,712 as of Dec. 31, 2020.

  • The total number of worldwide laser/aircraft incidents since 2004 is over 90,000. Only eight countries are included in this cumulative total, and many of these do not have data for some years in the 2004-2020 time period.

  • Green laser light remains the most-reported. In 2020, 85.4% of incidents involved green light; blue was second with 9.2%. The number of blue lasers reported has steadily increased over the past few years. For example, in 2016 only 2.9% of incidents involved blue laser light.

  • In 2020, only 0.3% of FAA-reported laser/aircraft incidents indicated that crew members suffered eye effects or temporary injuries. This rate has decreased since 2011, when 1.4% of incidents incurred eye effects or temporary injuries. The most-reported effects were flashblindness and/or afterimage; pain, burning or irritation; and blurriness.

US: Arizona law proposes stronger penalty for laser misuse during disorderly protests

A bill was introduced into the Arizona State Legislature, increasing the penalty for aiming a laser pointer at a "peace officer."

Currently, this offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor. House Bill 2309, if passed, would make this a Class 6 felony if the "offense occurs in the course of committing violent or disorderly assembly."

A Class 6 felony is considered aggravated assault, with a mandatory minimum six month jail term.

"Violent or disorderly assembly" is a new term created in the bill, defined as follows: "A person commits violent or disorderly assembly if, with seven or more other persons acting together, the person, with the intent to engage in conduct constituting a riot or an unlawful assembly, causes damage to property or injury to another person."

As of February 24 2021, the bill was reported out of committee to the House.

From the Martinsville Bulletin

US: S. Dakota law proposed to criminalize pointing lasers at police

A bill was introduced in the South Dakota state senate "to make certain uses of laser pointers unlawful." As of January 27 2021, Senate Bill 79 adds a new section stating "If a person knowingly directs light from a laser pointer at a law enforcement officer without the consent of the officer, the person is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. For purposes of this section, a laser pointer is a device that emits light amplified by the stimulated emission of radiation that is visible to the human eye."

The provision was proposed by Republican state senator Helene Duhamel. She said it was a result of lasers being used to disrupt or harm officers during nationwide protests in the summer of 2020.

Persons on both sides of the bill were heard at a January 26 hearing.

Duhamel's proposal was supported by associations of sheriffs, police chiefs and state's attorneys. A police officer representing the South Dakota Fraternal Order of Police said South Dakota officers have been lased, but he did not know of any who were injured. The officer said he spoke with a Washington, D.C. officer with eye injuries and pain "like a sunburn on his eyeballs" from laser use at a protest

A lobbyist for a defense lawyer association said the proposed law was not needed since assaulting a police officer already is covered by assault statutes.

A Republican state senator said it was "awfully broad" since it prohibited aiming anywhere at a law enforcement officer, not just eyes.

Another lawmaker said the bill does not differentiate between on- and off-duty officers.

A citizen asked why the language does not prohibit aiming at anyone, not just police officers.

As a result of the objections, the bill was deferred two days until January 28, 2021.

From the Rapid City Journal. The entire article goes into interesting detail of the pro and con arguments presented during the hearing.

US: New federal law makes aiming laser at watercraft a felony

A new federal law makes it illegal "to cause the beam of a laser pointer to strike a vessel operating on the navigable waters of the United States." The vessels include Coast Guard patrol boats, ferries, merchant ships and small watercraft.

The provision was added as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2021, which became law on January 1 2021. It will be added to Title 46 United States Code, Chapter 700, Subchapter II, section 70014 entitled "Aiming laser pointer at vessel."

The law lists exceptions: "This section shall not apply to a member or element of the Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security acting in an official capacity for the purpose of research, development, operations, testing, or training."

It also defines laser pointer as follows: "In this section the term `laser pointer' means any device designed or used to amplify electromagnetic radiation by stimulated emission that emits a beam designed to be used by the operator as a pointer or highlighter to indicate, mark, or identify a specific position, place, item, or object.''

According to the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, "[o]ffenders who target a Coast Guard vessel with a laser pointer and harm an officer can receive up to $25,000 in civil fines, and criminal penalties can include up to 25 years imprisonment."

Text of the Enrolled Bill is available from Congress.gov. As of January 27, 2021 the text of the Public Law 116-283 has not been uploaded. Comments by the CGIS are from an article in The Maritime Executive.

COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM

This is the maritime version of the February 2012 law prohibiting aiming laser pointers at aircraft, U.S.C. Title 18, Chapter 2, Sec. 39A. There are some interesting differences.

The 2021 maritime law prohibits a beam from striking a vessel on the navigable waters. The 2012 aviation law prohibits aiming at an aircraft or at the flight path of an aircraft. Apparently aiming at a maritime vessel would not be illegal unless it struck the vessel.

The 2021 maritime law has one exception, for the Defense or Homeland Security departments. The 2012 aviation law has four exemptions. The first is for FAA, aircraft manufacturers, and FAA-authorized persons doing research or flight tests. The second is identical to the 2021 DoD and DHS exemption. The third exemption is for persons using a laser emergency signaling device to send a distress signal. The fourth allows the Justice Department in consultation with the Department of Transportation to provide additional exemptions; these are not considered or allowed under the 2021 law.

Both laws, 2021 and 2012, have an identical definition of "laser pointer."


US: Los Angeles bans lasers from demonstrations

On November 3 2020, Los Angeles municipal code section 55.07 was amended to prohibit carrying or possessing lasers while attending or participating in any public demonstration, rally, protest, picket line or public assembly. Specifically, it prohibits "laser pointers or laser-style device emitting any color beam, milliwatt output level, intensity class level or any visibility level, including infrared or non-visible."

At an October 27 2020 public meeting, the deputy chief of the L.A. Police Department, said "… we have experienced numerous instances of individuals among these groups intentionally using laser devices and pointers to attempt to blind and cause harm to officers by pointing them purposely at their eyes…. Laser-type devices have no legitimate use outside of the business or educational venues."

The department warned officers to "adjust their vision" to avoid laser beams, and "has since sought to use eyewear and screens" to protect eyes from laser light.

An LAPD spokesperson said thus far in 2020, there had been 20 incidents of laser pointers being used to blind or distract people. Twenty-four people reported eye damage during the incidents, according to the spokesperson. Twenty of them were police officers; some were driving at the time.

The Los Angeles Times reported "In July, LAPD Officer Kyle Rice lost his vision in his right eye, as well as his ability to balance, and was left with migraine-like headaches after he was targeted with a laser pointer after responding to a radio call of a disturbance in Little Tokyo. A person not involved in the dispute between an homeless person and a business owner is accused of pointing the laser at Rice’s eye. An arrest was made in the incident."

According to the L.A. Sentinel, "Some people who spoke during the meeting said it was ironic that the LAPD was asking for a laser-pointer ban at protests, as officers have been photographed using bean bag projectiles that have allegedly caused gruesome injuries to some protesters, such as lost eyeballs and teeth."

Section 55.07 also prohibits items such as wood, pipe, hard signs, baseball bats, aerosol spray (tear gas, mace, pepper spray), firearms, BB guns, tasers, knives, glass bottles, open flame torches, shields of metal, wood or hard plastic, bricks, and rocks.

From the Los Angeles Times, and from the City News Service via the L.A. Sentinel and NBC Los Angeles. More on officer Kyle Rice is here.

UK: Reports of UFO over Coventry turns out to be light show laser

A mysterious light appearing in the skies over Coventry on October 17 2020 was "the talk of the city and many people commenting on social media wondered if it could be a sign of an alien invasion," according to The Star.

2020-10 Kvant laser over Coventry UK 01


The blue-green shaft of light was from a laser said to be "the world's most powerful display laser." According to Mat Lawrence from the laser company Kvant, advance notice had been made to the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority before the test was done.

Lawrence said the beam could be seen from 20 miles away.

2020-10 Kvant laser over Coventry UK 02


From The Star and Coventry Live

UK: Petition to ban all laser pens looking for 10,000+ signatures

An online petition calling for a ban on the sale of handheld laser pens has been established by the wife of a Wiltshire Air Ambulance paramedic.

Claire Tucker undertook the effort out of fear for her husband Dan's safety. As of early September 2020, a Wiltshire air ambulance had been illuminated four times by laser light. Her husband was involved in at least one of those, on September 7, in which he saw 'red spots for a while after the laser caught him."

That night, Claire Tucker made an emotional appeal on Facebook, which was also put online by BBC News. In it she said, in part:

"Last night, Dan was in the helicopter, and all of a sudden, they were just about to come in to land. So all of a sudden, the laser light came in and caught Dan's goggles. So when it hits the goggles, it magnifies it. Number one: It could blind him. It could mean that he never gets to see his children again. If they were unlucky enough to hit the pilot's goggles, it could: A, blind the pilot, but B, disorientate the pilot, which will mean the helicopter hits the ground. Okay? So you're going to cause a helicopter crash… If you know anybody that has one of these lasers, please, take it off them, throw them out. Somebody knows somebody who's got these bloody lasers. Alright? It needs to stop. I do not want a knock on the door in the middle of the night by the police because the helicopter has come down."

Clare Tucker laser appeal on Facebook squashed
Tucker during her Facebook appeal


She researched pointers online and found a laser pen on eBay with a claimed 50 mile range for £12 (USD $15.50). Her goal is to get laser pens banned for sale and importation.
 

Click to read more...

US: YouTuber makes 200 watt car-mounted laser, aims into sky

A YouTube video shows a 200 watt infrared (non-visible) laser beam being focused and aimed at various objects, all of which burn, melt and/or burst into flames. At 12:55 into the 14 1/2-minute video, the laser is aimed outdoors at night, into the sky. This is the view through a night vision camera that can see into the infrared:

200 watt car mounted laser - backyardscientist

The video was done by 29-year-old Sarasota, Florida resident Kevin Kohler, who uploads as TheBackyardScientist on YouTube (4,500,000 subscribers) and who is on Twitter as @ChemicalKevy.

In the video, he states "As normal, you should never shine a laser into the sky. But we've checked the flight radar and there's no airplanes in 100 miles that direction."

(Click the link for more additional safety information)

Click to read more...

US: Journalist describes being hit in eye with suspected pepper ball round in Portland (not a laser)

On July 26 2020 during the Portland, Oregon attacks on the federal courthouse, a photojournalist suffered eye hemorrhages requiring hospitalization after being shot by federal agents.

Trip Jennings had worked at protests around the world. His photos and videos have appeared in National Geographic and PBS.

In Portland, he said he was walking away following a dispersal order. He had his camera above his head so security forces could see he was a journalist, "but as soon as I turned around just a little bit, they shot me in the face…. I got hit right in the eye. I remember seeing the lens of my gas mask shatter and then closing my eye and just blood inside of my mask." He believes agents shot him with a pepper ball.

He did not lose vision in the eye which was shot.

From CNN and Business Insider

Note: This story is part of our occasional coverage of eye injuries at protests which were not caused by a laser. This is because the number of actual or claimed laser eye injuries at protests (generally inflicted on police or security forces) is vastly outnumbered by actual or claimed eye injuries to protesters, journalists and bystanders (generally caused by police or security forces). In our view, no one should aim a laser or projectile at anyone's eye or head during protests, demonstrations and civil unrest.

US: Report describes 12 severe eye injuries during late May 2020 protests (not a laser)

A July 14 2020 Washington Post report described eye injuries during protests. The paper found that on one day, May 30 2020, "eight people lost vision in one eye after being struck by police projectiles." Six were protesters, one was a photojournalist and one a passerby.

According to the Post, "in three instances, video evidence undermines official accounts of what happened." The report said four additional people were also partially blinded by police during the week that included May 30.

From the Washington Post

Note: This story is part of our occasional coverage of eye injuries at protests which were not caused by a laser. This is because the number of actual or claimed laser eye injuries at protests (generally inflicted on police or security forces) is vastly outnumbered by actual or claimed eye injuries to protesters, journalists and bystanders (generally caused by police or security forces). In our view, no one should aim a laser or projectile at anyone's eye or head during protests, demonstrations and civil unrest.

US: Ophthalmologists cite 20 eye injuries from U.S. protests (not a laser)

A June 19 2020 press release from the American Academy of Ophthalmology was titled "Eye Injuries During Protests Are an Emerging Public Health Problem." The AAO called for a ban on rubber bullets used on protesters "after more than 20 Americans across the country suffered serious eye injuries while peacefully protesting." The article had statistics about the injuries:
  • 7 persons lost an eye, "with additional patients undergoing surgery to save their eye"
  • Persons who lost an eye ranged in age from 21 to 37 years
  • Persons with an eye injury ranged in age from 16 to 59 years
  • Injuries were caused by rubber bullets, bean bag rounds, pepper balls, a tear gas canister, and a corneal injury from a taser.
AAO listed seven other medical organizations that support the AAO's statement on rubber bullets.

In addition, the AAO press release had links to stories about eye injuries during protests in Kashmir, Chile and Hong Kong.

On June 3 2020, AAO issued a statement condemning rubber bullet usage, and giving tips on eye protection from projectiles and from tear gas. They noted that tear gas "typically doesn’t cause irreversible eye injuries, but tear gas has caused serious eye injuries, including hyphema, uveitis, necrotizing keratitis, coagulative necrosis, symblepharon, secondary glaucoma, cataracts and traumatic optic neuropathy and loss of sight."

A day later AAO provided information, social media handles, photos and graphics in a post called "Help Us Stop Rubber Bullets Before They Blind More People."

2020-07-08 AAO eyes injured in protests squashed
Graphic tweeted by AAO

Note: This story is part of our occasional coverage of eye injuries at protests which were not caused by a laser. This is because the number of actual or claimed laser eye injuries at protests (generally inflicted on police or security forces) is vastly outnumbered by actual or claimed eye injuries to protesters, journalists and bystanders (generally caused by police or security forces). In our view, no one should aim a laser or projectile at anyone's eye or head during protests, demonstrations and civil unrest.

Canada: Pilots want lasing aircraft to be a crime

The president of the Canada section of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has said that lasing an aircraft in Canada should be made a criminal offense, and the government should launch an information campaign to discourage misuse. He also said high-powered lasers should have warning labels and require permits to use them.

Tim Perry made his proposals May 11 2020 after a Jazz Aviation pilot was hospitalized due to being illuminated by laser light on approach to Ottawa/Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, on February 15 2020. The laser source was about three nautical miles from the aircraft. The co-pilot of the de Havilland DHC-8-300 passenger aircraft had to turn control over to the captain, who was able to land without incident. The co-pilot was taken to hospital as a precaution due to actual or potential injuries. No additional information was made available by Jazz due to privacy restrictions.

Perry said that other Canadian aviators have actually suffered permanent retinal damage as a result of laser strikes, according to the National Post. Details on the Jazz pilot's condition, or on the other pilots — how many, degree of severity, eventual outcome — were not listed in the Post article. There were eye injury claims in February 2020 when an Ornge medical support aircraft was struck by a green laser in downtown Toronto, and an eye injury claim by a WestJet pilot flying from Newfoundland to Orlando in May 2019.

The article stated that "Most of the reports in the CADORS [aviation incident] database indicate that police were notified, but neither Transport Canada nor the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] could cite an example of anyone in Canada ever being prosecuted." [Note: LaserPointerSafety.com has found at least four cases of Canadian prosecutions.]

Canada has previously taken steps to reduce laser/aircraft incidents. These may be having some effect, as laser incidents have been dropping from a reported high of 658 in 2015, to 274 in 2019, according to the National Post article.

On June 28 2018 Transport Minister Marc Garneau banned the use of hand-held lasers 1 milliwatt or more (the power of a small pet laser pointer) in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and within 10 km of airports or heliports. There are exceptions for uses such as work, education, school or astronomy.

Any person with a battery-operated, handheld laser in a prohibited zone 1) outside of a private dwelling and 2) without a legitimate purpose can be fined immediately and “on the spot” up to CDN $5,000. A corporation violating the law can be fined up to CDN $25,000. The fines are in addition to any criminal prosecution; intentionally aiming a laser at an aircraft can result in five years in prison and/or up to CDN $100,000 in fines.

On May 24 2016, Garneau announced a social media awareness campaign. This included setting up a webpage in June 2015 that includes a catchy animated video, “Dumb Ways to Blind” aimed at millennials, plus three other more conventional videos on the topic. Transport Canada also tweeted using the hashtag "#NotABrightIdea".

Section 7.41(1) of Part I of the Canadian Aeronautics Act is a general prohibition against behavior that endangers aircraft. It provides a fine of up to CDN $100,000 and up to five years in prison for interfering with the duties of a crew member. This has been cited by Transport Canada as part of its webpages discouraging persons from aiming at aircraft.

From the National Post, March 11 2020. Note that there has been a discrepancy between newspaper reports of the number of annual laser/aircraft incidents, and Transport Canada figures. For more information, see the Canada section on the Laser/aircraft illumination statistics page. Thanks to Randy Paura for bringing this news to our attention.

Gaza Strip: WHO says 21 persons lose vision during 21 months of Palestinian demonstrations (not a laser)

According to the World Health Organization, "21 people suffered permanent loss of vision because of injuries caused during the [Palestinian 'Great March of Return'] demonstrations" near the Gaza perimeter fence at the Gaza Strip. A 16-year old boy lost vision in both eyes.

The injuries were tallied during the 21 months from March 30 2018 until December 31 2019. There was no further information on the causes, nature, and prognosis of the injuries.

From the WHO Health Cluster Bulletin, Nov-Dec 2019 issue (see page 2, last sentence in the fourth bullet point). Link and photo from B'Tselem article Feb. 24 2020 article, updated Feb. 27 2020.

Note: This story is part of our occasional coverage of eye injuries at protests which were not caused by a laser. This is because the number of actual or claimed laser eye injuries at protests (generally inflicted on police or security forces) is vastly outnumbered by actual or claimed eye injuries to protesters, journalists and bystanders (generally caused by police or security forces). In our view, no one should aim a laser or projectile at anyone's eye or head during protests, demonstrations and civil unrest.

US: Hobbyist modifies clear computer case to use laser beam illumination

A hobbyist building a custom computer has modified the case to have laser beams bouncing around the case, which features a clear side.


The laser in this photo is green, but other photos show it as red and blue (e.g., using a three-color or RGB laser module)


The cost of the laser mod was said to be about USD $50.

It appears the beam is fully enclosed within the case, so it could not enter a person's eye. However, if the case was jarred in such a way as to knock one or more mirrors out of alignment, then laser light could exit the case window.

Also, during construction or when the case was open, there would be a potential laser safety hazard.

One story on a gamer website noted the potential for eye injury, and to follow any applicable laws and regulations on laser possession and use.

From the Reddit r/nvidia subreddit, via PCGamesN.com

US: 2019 laser incidents up almost 10% compared to 2018

In 2019, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration received 6,213 reports from pilots of lasers being visible or illuminating their aircraft. While this is 16% fewer than the peak total of 7,398 reports in 2016, the 2019 total is up 9.7% from the 5,663 reports received in 2018.




During 2019 there were 17 laser incidents reported each night in the U.S., on average.

This brings the 15-year total to 54,860 incidents since 2004 when FAA first started requiring pilots to report laser sightings or illuminations.

The majority of reports continue to involve green lasers (87.2% of 2019 reports). However, reports of blue lasers have risen steadily, from 2.9% in 2016 to 8.2% in 2019.

Holiday lights do not seem to be a significant problem. In 2019 there were only 11 reports (out of 6,213) involving Christmas or holiday laser light projections.

The number of incidents with reported eye effects or claimed injuries was 31 in 2019, a significant increase over the 23 reported in 2018. There were no serious or permanent injuries. The most-reported effect was being flashblinded and/or seeing spots. Six pilots had pain, burning or irritation in their eye. Only three pilots sought or considered seeking medical attention for their eye effects — the lowest number in the seven years analyzed by LaserPointerSafety.com (2011, 2012, and 2015-2019).

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Additional charts showing U.S. and other country laser illuminations, are on the Laser/aircraft illumination statistics page.

US: Cautions about outdoor holiday laser displays

Some helicopter users are cautioning homeowners about hazards to aviation caused by outdoor laser display devices.

In Norfolk, Virginia, a pilot for Sentara Norfolk General Hospital told a news crew that laser light displays can be hazardous: "Every little distraction or interruption can mess with your normal routine and cause you to make mistakes and miss something that might be important." He said "Those lasers carry a long way, particularly in this cold, clear winter weather that we're experiencing right now."

The news report noted that ironically, the pilot has a laser display but he hasn't yet plugged it in on the outside of his house. He said homeowners can use them but should not aim the lasers into the sky.

From 13 News Now

Columbus, Ohio police said they are concerned with consumer drones and holiday laser lights. The laser displays "could cause the same effect as a 'laser strike' as we call it and that could blink the crew and it can become a disaster," said a Columbus Police sergeant. He also asked users to double-check where they are being aimed.

From 10 TV WBNS

Japan: Laser searchlight proposed to use QR codes to rescue hikers and climbers

A research team at Kindai University is developing a system to search for victims of mountain accidents and disasters by scanning a Quick Response (QR) code printed on climbers' clothes using a laser beam from a helicopter.

The team, which is conducting the experiment at a campus in the western Japan city of Nara, has successfully scanned the two-dimensional code from a distance of about 300 meters and aims to put the system into practical use in the near future.

The code for the system measures about 11 centimeters (4.3 inches) on each side and is made from a retroreflective material. The print employs the same principle as that for reflecting road signs and can be scanned by a powerful laser searchlight.


A laser searchlight lights up a QR code on professor Yoshinobu Maeda's shirt at a Kindai University campus in the city of Nara. (Mainichi/Yasuhiro Okawa)


In responding to an actual situation, the team works on the assumption that a large laser emitter will be loaded on a helicopter to scan the mountain surface. The machine can spot a QR code from the light reflected from the ground. It's possible to identify a disaster or accident victim if their personal information, such as name and sex, has been registered with the code.

The system is being developed by a team consisting of scientists at the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and the Faculty of Architecture at the university.

Team leader Yoshinobu Maeda, a professor with the Faculty of Science and Engineering, said, "The system is technically advanced to a level where it can be introduced. The problem is how we spread its use. It's necessary for many people who enter mountain areas to wear clothes with QR codes and for helicopters to be equipped with laser searchlights."

From The Mainichi

New Zealand: Government report on regulatory effectiveness in controlling laser pointers

A June 2019 report by the New Zealand Ministry of Health takes a look at regulatory controls on laser pointers over 1 milliwatt, during the fifth yearly period (March 2018 - February 2019) since the controls were enacted in March 2014.

The following is from the Conclusions section of the report:

"The Ministry’s implementation of the Health (High-power laser pointer) Regulations 2013 and the associated Customs Import Prohibition Order has continued smoothly. The work has not created a large burden for health officials and others involved.

Advertising of HPLPs on auction websites is increasing slowly. Advertising of HPLPs of a power far greater than that on the label continues to be a problem.

In the coming year, the Ministry will continue its surveillance of Trade Me and other websites, and will conduct further discussions with Trade Me on possible additional controls, especially for overseas sellers.

It is of continuing concern that numbers of laser strikes on aircraft continue to increase.
[From 173 reported laser strikes in 2017, to 238 in 2018]

Countries vary in their approaches to managing the risks from HPLPs, from raising public awareness to calling for voluntary improvements in labelling. However, there is consistency in terms of the strong controls countries apply to address aircraft laser strikes, including bans and high penalties.

The Ministry will arrange to meet with other agencies, including the Ministries of Transport and Justice, the Civil Aviation Authority, New Zealand Customs and the New Zealand Police, to discuss potential additional controls in response to the increasing laser strike reports."


Use the "Click to read more…" link below to view selected text and statistics from the report, which is available online in Microsoft Word format and in PDF format. A summary is available from a news article at Stuff.co.nz, "Rising laser pointer sales spied on as health bosses are unhappy at aircraft attacks".
Click to read more...

Switzerland: Laser pointers above Class 1 banned as of June 1 2019

Switzerland has banned selling, distributing, importing, or giving away laser pointers above Class 1, as of June 1 2019.

As of June 2019, this is the most restrictive laser pointer law of any major country; Class 2 pointers (up to 1 milliwatt) are legal in most countries, and Class 3R pointers (up to 5 milliwatts) are legal in the U.S.

Travelers should note that laser pointers and "hybrid devices" above Class 1 that are being transported into or through Switzerland can be confiscated before entering Swiss borders. For example, a wireless mouse used for PowerPoint presentations, such as the one shown below could be confiscated if it contains a laser above Class 1.



The Swiss ban applies to all laser classes above Class 1 (1M, 1C, 2, II, 2M, 3a, IIIa, 3R, 3B, IIIb, 4 and IV) as well as pointers with no labels or markings. These are all defined as "dangerous pointers" by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.

Persons in Switzerland who currently possess "dangerous pointers" except for Class 2 must cease to use them beginning on June 1 2019, and must dispose of them as electrical waste before June 1 2020.

Persons possessing Class 2 pointers can use them indoors only for presentations until June 1 2021, by which time they must be disposed of as electrical waste.

"Laser pointer" is defined as "a hand-held laser that can be used to point to things, for amusement (as a toy or in hobbies), to scare off animals or drive away other people."

More information appears below.

Click to read more...

South Africa: 70+ laser incidents reported in 2018

According to a May 14 2019 story in the New Age Online, "More than 70 incidents of lasers aimed at the cockpits of aircraft on final approach were reported to Air Traffic and Navigation Services last year [2018]. The majority were in Cape Town, with incidents also reported at OR Tambo International, Pretoria’s Wonderboom and Lanseria International."

In one case at at O.R. Tambo, Africa's busiest airport, "a commercial airliner on final approach to touchdown had to perform a go-around after a laser was directed at the eyes of the flight crew."

Two men in Bloemfontein were recently arrested for aiming lasers at helicopters. According to the story, "[a]s far as can be ascertained only one arrest has previously been made for shining a laser," which happened during the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup in Durban.

The New Age Online reported "Both the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Airline Pilots Association of SA (ALPA) have spoken out strongly against the practice, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in jail…. ALPA general manager Sonia Ferreira said members were increasingly reporting incidents of 'sudden and intense bursts of light, deliberately shone at aircraft in and around airports'."

From the New Age. The article first appeared online May 14 2019.

Canada: Laser used to help Parkinson's patients walk more steadily now available

A shoe-mounted laser line projector, said to help persons with Parkinson's disease, has been launched in Canada from April 30 2019. The device, called Path Finder, was already available in the European Economic Area, Switzerland, Turkey and Hong Kong as a CE-marked Class 1 medical device. It is not yet officially available in the United States or other areas.



According to the manufacturer, "Path Finder is a shoe attachment that provides visual laser cues for patients suffering from Freezing of Gait (FoG), a symptom of Parkinson’s (PD) and other neurological disorders, severely impacting gait and quality of life. These visual laser cues are in the form of horizontal lines, prompting the individual to take steady steps with both feet, one after another. This hands-free device is meant for individuals with unsteady gait, and can be used to gain confidence, regain mobility, prevent falling and improve quality of life."

It uses a green Class 2 laser, meaning the light is considered safe for normal operation. According to LaserSafetyFacts.com's page on Class 2 lasers, "It normally would not harm an eye unless a person deliberately stared into the beam."

The idea for Path Finder came to inventor Lise Pape in 2014, after watching her father struggle with Parkinson's. She became aware that visual cues such as lighted canes had been used with some success to help trigger a normal step response. She started work on a prototype in 2014, and the product came to market in 2017.

It has won more than fifteen awards, including the AXA Health Tech and You Award in the UK in 2016 and Vodafone TechStarter in the UK in 2019.

Story from Digital Health with information from the Path Finder website and news blog.

UK: Animal lovers protest using lasers to scare away geese

A Grade I listed mansion has come under fire for using a handheld laser to deter geese from the property. Hall Place, a Tudor home listed for its "exceptional interest" in spring 2019 had a greater-than-usual number of Canada geese, which led to visitor complaints about geese droppings.

The manager of Hall Place, the Bexley council, introduced the laser to reduce the number of geese.

According to a May 17 2019 news story, "The geese are said not to be hurt by the laser and perceive the approaching beam as a physical danger or predator-like presence and so disperse."

But members of the public and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raised concerns. Some of these were about the safety of aiming laser light towards the animals. An RSPCA spokeswoman said: “As with humans, we would not support shining a laser directly into an animal’s eye."

Other concerns were about forcing the geese to leave their "home." One person who started a petition said "The laser shoots out this green light that gives a shock that tells them it is not safe… If we keep pushing them away, there will be nowhere for them to go."

From the Evening Standard

US: FAA data shows lower numbers for 2015 and other years

The number of laser illuminations of aircraft reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2015 dropped from the 7,703 initially reported at the end of 2015, to 7,346 based on new information from FAA. This decline of 4.6% appears to be due to FAA recalculating or reanalyzing the 2015 data.

The original, higher figure came from the December 31 2015 FAA Laser Report. This spreadsheet of laser incidents had 7,703 rows with each row listing one laser illumination report.

In January 2016, researcher Dr. Todd Curtis cleaned up the list and found 7,676 valid reports. (The clean-up criteria is not known.)

The FAA's new, lower number of 7,346 reports was first noticed by LaserPointerSafety.com in an April 10 2019 fact sheet released by FAA. The agency has a separate page with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets listing reported laser incidents for 2010 through 2018. The spreadsheet now online for 2015 has only 7,346 reports — not the 7,703 reports of the original December 31 2015 FAA spreadsheet.

LaserPointerSafety.com has analyzed some of the dropped reports. A few may be duplicates, but many appear to be valid reports dropped for an unknown reason.

LaserPointerSafety.com believes that the original 7,703 figure is closer to the actual number of laser illumination reports submitted by pilots in 2015. However, for consistency, as of May 5 2019, LaserPointerSafety.com is using the new April 2019 FAA numbers on various pages such as the Laser/aircraft illumination statistics page.

Note that there may be some website pages and some articles, scientific papers, etc. outside of the website which reference the original, pre-April 2019 numbers.

Changed numbers also for 2007, 2008, 2016 and 2017

The number of laser incidents reported in other years has also changed:

  • 2007 was originally listed as having 639 reports; in April 2019 FAA said there were 590 reports.
  • 2008 was originally listed as having 949 reports; in April 2019 FAA said there were 913 reports.
  • 2016 was originally listed as having 7,442 reports; in April 2019 FAA said there were 7,398 reports.
  • 2017 was originally listed as having 6,753 reports; in April 2019 FAA said there were 6,754 reports.
   

US: Bakersfield (Ca.) paper advocates restrictions on purchasing laser pointers

An April 13 2019 editorial in the Bakersfield Californian about laser pointers says that "It's time to get serious about this serious danger."

The paper suggests requiring retailers to restrict access, putting them in a cage or behind a counter in order to "take away the 'anonymous' nature of the purchase and drive home the serious concerns about their use.

From the Bakersfield Californian. The paper also ran a news story April 11 2019 about the hazards of laser pointer misuse against aircraft.

US: FAA credits "heightened public awareness" for lowering laser incident numbers in 2017 and 2018

An April 11 2019 news item from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says that "Heightened public awareness of the serious safety risk posed by lasers reduced the total number of laser strikes for the second consecutive year…."

Incidents reported to FAA have declined from 7,398 reports in 2016, to 6,754 reports in 2017, and 5,663 reports in 2018, the last full year for which statistics are available.

According to FAA, "the agency and law enforcement agencies are working hard to increase public awareness of the dangers posed by lasers."

The news item linked to a page entitled "Laser Incidents and Legal Interpretation of the Law", a new video published April 10 2019 on YouTube, entitled "Laser Strikes on Aircraft Pilots", and an April 10 2019 Fact Sheet on lasers.

One paragraph of the fact sheet says that "The FAA’s guidance for agency investigators and attorneys stresses that laser violations should not be addressed through warning notices or counseling. The agency seeks moderately high civil penalties for inadvertent violations, but maximum penalties for deliberate violations. Violators who are pilots or mechanics face revocation of their FAA certificate, as well as civil penalties."

From FAA news item "Outreach Helps Bring Laser Strike Numbers Down"

COMMENTARY FROM LASERPOINTERSAFETY.COM:

We are not aware of any recent (2015-2018) campaign by FAA to increase public awareness.

In 2014, there was a publicity campaign by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 12 U.S. cities between February 11 and April 11 2014, which offered a $10,000 reward for information about anyone pointing a laser at an aircraft. This was expanded nationwide between June 3 and September 1 2014. During 2014 there was a 12.8% decline in laser incidents compared to 2013. It is not known how much the FBI publicity campaign contributed to the decline.

In our view, there may be other reasons for the decline. For example, pilots may be tiring of reporting laser illuminations with no apparent follow-up or effect. This would lead to a decline in reported incidents.

We are not aware of any studies done to determine the reasons for declines in reported laser incidents.

To summarize, it seems incorrect to attribute the lower number of laser incidents to "heightened public awareness." In fact, there is some anecdotal evidence that publicity actually leads to copycat laser incidents.

US: New technique for scattering laser light on aircraft windscreens

Researchers at Lewis University, near Chicago, are investigating the use of liquid crystals embedded between glass to block or scatter up to 95 percent of laser light. The goal is to have a windscreen that will turn opaque only where laser light is illuminating the glass; the remainder of the windscreen will remain transparent.

The research was presented by Jason Keleher, Ph.D. and research assistant Daniel Maurer on March 31 2019 at an American Chemical Society meeting in Orlando, Florida. Here is a summary:

"To develop their new approach, the researchers took advantage of liquid crystals -- materials with properties between those of liquids and solid crystals that make them useful in electronic displays. The team placed a solution of liquid crystals called N-(4-methoxybenzylidene)-4-butylaniline (MBBA) between two 1-inch-square panes of glass. MBBA has a transparent liquid phase and an opaque crystalline phase that scatters light. By applying a voltage to the apparatus, the researchers caused the crystals to align with the electrical field and undergo a phase change to the more solid crystalline state.


Liquid crystals sandwiched between two1-inch squares of glass (left images) scatter green and blue light on a wall when the cells are triggered by laser illumination (right images). Image credit: Daniel Maurer, Lewis University


"The aligned crystals blocked up to 95 percent of red, blue and green beams, through a combination of light scattering, absorption of the laser's energy and cross-polarization. The liquid crystals could block lasers of different powers, simulating various distances of illumination, as well as light shone at different angles onto the glass.

"In addition, the system was fully automatic: A photoresistor detected laser light and then triggered the power system to apply the voltage. When the beam was removed, the system turned off the power, and the liquid crystals returned to their transparent, liquid state. "We only want to block the spot where the laser is hitting the windshield and then have it quickly go back to normal after the laser is gone," Keleher notes. The rest of the windshield, which was not hit by the laser, would remain transparent at all times.

"Now that the researchers have shown that their approach works, they plan to scale it up from 1-inch squares to the size of an entire aircraft windshield. Initial results have shown that a sensor grid pattern on 2-inch squares of glass will respond only to the section of glass that is illuminated. The team is also testing different types of liquid crystals to find even more efficient and versatile ones that return to the transparent state more quickly once the laser is removed."
  

Click to read more...

Australia: Airshow biplane shoots fireworks and laser beams

A biplane flying at night on March 1 2019 at at the "Avalon Airshow" in Geelong, Victoria featured fireworks and green laser beams shooting off the aircraft's body.



The lasers start at about 0:27 and last until about 0:55 in the video, which is 3 minutes 12 seconds long. A few times, the lasers appeared to go directly into the crowd — or at least towards the camera that captured the show.



As the biplane lands, starting at about 2:29 the laser projector can be seen as a square black box mounted above the top wing.



The show was created by Scandinavian Airshow. The company says "The Catwalk is the ultimate air show aircraft and can in the evening transform into a pyrotechnic platform and perform its amazing night pyrotechnic display." There is no mention of lasers on their Catwalk webpage as of March 12 2019, so this may be a relatively new addition.

As one YouTube commenter wrote, "That's hella ironic if a plane is shooting lasers at you 😂"

From YouTube, via BGR

US: Video shows tattoo removal laser damaging $2200 consumer camera

[Note: Although this does not involve laser pointers, or the types of lasers that consumers would buy or use themselves, the story received a lot of press and it does highlight a different type of laser; the pulsed laser. The text below includes commentary by LaserPointerSafety.com.]

In March 2019, a YouTube video showed laser tattoo removal damaging a high-end digital camera sensor just by taking a video of the laser pulses on the skin.

The laser beam did NOT directly enter the Sony A7SII lens. And yet with every tattoo removal pulse of the green laser, the camera sensor was obviously damaged. According to the person posting the video, "The repair cost was about as much as a new camera [about $2200] so try to avoid this."

If a laser is powerful enough, just looking at the dot of the laser on a wall can be a "diffuse reflectance hazard." In this case, the reflected laser light was powerful enough to damage the sensor.

This is not a flaw in the laser or the camera. As described elsewhere, camera sensors are generally more sensitive than the eye.

Also as noted, different cameras may have different sensitivities depending on many factors. For example, this page includes four YouTube videos showing laser tattoo removal, without any apparent damage to the video sensor.

Laser pointers and handheld lasers are almost always emit continuous wave light. CW lasers can damage the retina by heating it up, while pulsed lasers create an "acoustic shockwave" which instantly causes a popcorn-like explosion in the retina.

According to this page, a typical tattoo removal laser has a maximum pulse energy of about 1-2 Joules and a pulse width of about 5-10 nanoseconds. It is not known how powerful the laser was in the video.

Everyone in the room should have been wearing laser safety glasses or goggles that reduce the laser light to safe levels. If the camera had been shooting through the safety glasses' lens, the damage likely would not have occurred.

From various sources including Reddit, Digital Photography Review, Petapixel, and SlashGear
    

UK: 200+ laser pen injuries illustrate the risk to children, especially with behavioral problems

A paper published online in March 2019 by the journal "Eye" found that children with behavioral, learning or mental health problems are at special risk from misuse of laser pointers. Such children may not understand the eye injury hazard, and may not be able to follow label or parental instructions for keeping the laser pen from their eyes.

The study looked at 77 case reports of laser eye injuries in children. In four of the cases there were reported psychological or behavioral issues.

In addition, the authors had experience with four children with laser eye injuries; in three of these cases there were psychological or behavioral issues.

One of the authors sent a survey to 990 consulting ophthalmologists in the U.K. This found 159 cases of macular injury due to "misuse of a handheld laser device," with 80% of those injured being children or teenagers. In 35% of the cases, the injury was self-inflicted; in 36% it was caused by a third-party. (The remaining 29% seem to be uncategorized although the paper notes that "there were no cases of assault reported." In 67% of the cases where the laser power was known, it was under 50 milliwatts.

The paper cautions that the actual number of laser injuries seen by the ophthalmologists may be higher: "A limitation was the poor response rate and thus data so obtained do not provide the true incidence and clinical features of such cases."
  Click to read more...

Canada: New pilot laser glare protection eyewear using holographic optical filter

Metamaterial Technologies Inc. is introducing metaAIR eyewear to reduce hazards from laser light being aimed at pilots. MTI claims "the world's best transparency, laser protection and color balance."

The most common laser color reported by pilots is green, representing approximately 90% of reports made to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. As of 2019, the most common green is 532 nanometers, produced by low-cost, high-power diode-pumped solid state laser pointers and handhelds.

metaAIR's first offering protects against 532nm green laser light, using holographic "nano-pattern layers". These can precisely reflect 532nm light while allowing high visibility for other wavelengths — crucial for pilots' night vision and for correct color discrimination of cockpit instruments and airport lighting. MTI adds an additional layer to improve color balance and discrimination, as well.



The eyewear is said to have an Optical Density between 2 and 5, meaning that it will attenuate the amount of 532nm light reaching eyes by 100 to 100,000 times. The primary goal is to reduce or eliminate visual interference effects such as flashblindness, glare and distraction. A secondary benefit is that attenuating 532nm light will also help protect against any potential eye injury. (Note that as of February 2019, no documented pilot eye injuries have occurred according to the U.S. FAA, U.K. CAA and Transport Canada after almost 75,000 reports of aircraft illumination. Laser/aviation safety experts consider visual interference to be a more significant safety concern than pilot eye injuries.)

The frame is wider at top, sides and bottom, to block light coming from directions other than the front.

MTI originally developed the holographic laser-reflecting technology for use in windscreens. The goal was to protect pilots without the need for eyewear. However, windscreen modifications require a slow, multi-year process of obtaining governmental and airline approval. In addition, the cost to modify windscreens is much higher than the cost of one or two pairs of eyewear. So eyewear was a natural choice for the first commercially available laser protection product from MTI. According to its metaAIR website, the company may also produce glare shields using the same technology.

MTI is taking pre-orders for its eyewear, distributed by Satair, which will be available "spring 2019."

From MTI's metaAIR website, accessed February 25 2019.

US: MIT develops laser to deliver secret audio messages

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) described a way to use a laser beam to deliver a message that could be heard only by the person to whom the beam was directed.

Their paper describing this, "Photoacoustic communications: delivering audible signals via absorption of light by atmospheric H₂O", was published in January 2019. The abstract is as follows:

We describe a means of communication in which a user with no external receiver hears an audible audio message directed only at him/her. A laser transmits the message, which is encoded upon a modulated laser beam and sent directly to the receiver’s ear via the photoacoustic effect. A 1.9 μm thulium laser matched to an atmospheric water vapor absorption line is chosen to maximize sound pressure while maintaining eye-safe power densities. We examine the photoacoustic transfer function describing this generation of audible sound and the important operational parameters, such as laser spot size, and their impact on a working system.

The laser is said to be eye- and skin-safe. The system can currently send a sound up to 60 dB across a distance of 2.5 meters (8 feet). In the future they are hoping for a range of 100-500 meters (328-1,640 feet). It is useful for applications as diverse as notifying one person in a crowd, and for headphone-free listening. MIT is patenting the technology.

From R. Sullenberger, S. Kaushik, and C. Wynn, "Photoacoustic communications: delivering audible signals via absorption of light by atmospheric H₂O," Opt. Lett. 44, 622-625 (2019). A PDF of the article is here. News stories about this appeared in numerous publications including Digital Trends, Photonics.com and The Sun.

US: Autonomous car lidar said to damage camera sensor

Autonomous cars often use laser lidar (light detection and ranging) systems as one of the vision inputs. One or more lidar systems, often on the roof, scan the car's surroundings to determine distance to the road and roadside objects. The lidar laser is in the infrared part of the spectrum, so it is not visible to human eyes.

In early January 2019, a man attending the CES technology show in Las Vegas claimed his Sony A7RII camera's sensor was damaged by the lidar from a company called AEye. Jit Ray Chowdhury said all photos taken after he snapped pictures of the AEye functioning lidar had two purple spots with lines emanating from them:



AEye said that "cameras are up to 1000x more sensitive to lasers than eyeballs. Occasionally, this can cause thermal damage to a camera's focal plane array."

The company offered to replace Chowdhury's camera. Curiously, Chowdhury said he could not find the camera. As laser expert Jeff Hecht wrote, "without the camera it remains unknown what the nature of the damage was, when it occurred, and what caused it."

Companies using lidar for autonomous vehicles choose systems which are safe for human eyes. However, as the AEye incident indicates, some types of lidar may not be safe for camera sensors. These tend to be systems using pulses of laser light, rather than continuous laser light.

From Ars Technica (initial report) and IEEE Spectrum (additional information on lidar characteristics for eye and sensor safety).

New Zealand: Pilots, legislator want total ban on handheld lasers over 1 mW

A bill has been introduced in New Zealand to make it illegal to possess a high-power laser pointer (battery operated, handheld, above 1 milliwatt power) "without reasonable excuse." Currently it is legal to have such a laser pointer as long as it is not in a public place.

The bill would double penalties for violations from the current 3 months imprisonment or $2000 fine, to 6 months or $4000. And it amends the Crimes Act 1961 to make explicit that interference with a transport facility includes using a high-power laser pointer to reduce the ability of aircraft crew to perform their duties.

The High-power Laser Pointer Offences and Penalties Bill was introduced September 6 2018 by Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker.

The president of the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association said "We are asking for a prohibition primarily because the risk outweighs markedly, any utility they are having in society. We don't believe they need to be in the country there is plenty of other alternatives as we are calling for a complete prohibition."

In Wellington in August 2018, a $20 million control tower was opened. On its first day of operation, several staffers reported a laser being aimed in their eyes. Some had to lie down after experiencing nausea.

A police database of incidents found 311 reports in 2018 using the keyword "laser."

From the High-power Laser Pointer Offences and Penalties Bill and NewstalkNB.

Canada: Study first to show prevalence of laser use, injuries among general public

A 2014 health survey by Statistics Canada, reported in January 2019, is the first study to show the prevalence of laser usage and of laser injuries among a large sample of the general public in any country or region. 19,765 individuals were surveyed in the study.

It showed that 48 percent of Canadians over the age of 12 either used or were exposed to lasers, annually.

Of those who reported using a laser product, 1.1% reported discomfort or injury.

[LaserPointerSafety.com analysis: Based on 2016 Canadian census data, there were 29,312,165 Canadians age 15 or older — data was not available on age 12+. If 48% of these 29 million Canadians used or were exposed to lasers, that would be just over 14 million people. If 1.1% of them experienced discomfort or injury, that would be about 155,000 Canadians with laser discomfort or injury.]

Returning to the Statistics Canada study, of the discomfort/injury cases:

  • 41% were for skin injuries "such as rash, itch or pain," while 59% were for eye injuries "such as itchiness, pain, visible floating objects, blurred vision, burn, flash blindness, excessive watering or loss of sight."
  • In 64% of cases, the discomfort or injury lasted less than two days; in 34%, it lasted more than two days.
  • The discomfort/injury was caused by the person's own use of the laser in 25% of cases, and by someone else's use in 75% of cases.
  • 39% of the discomfort/injury cases were caused by cosmetic treatments, 26% were caused due to laser pointers, and 34% were caused by "other" which included surveying tools, entertainment lasers, materials processing, and scanners.

The study analyzed published eye injury case reports since 1999, and concluded:

"…the majority involved the misuse of a handheld battery-operated laser product by an adult or a child. Most of these injuries were the result of irresponsible use or deliberate staring at a laser by a child, or the result of the inappropriate use of a high-powered laser device (Class 3B or 4) in an 'uncontrolled environment'....In the cases reported in 2014 that included long-term follow-up injury reporting, about one-half of the ocular injuries resolved within one to two weeks, with the other 50% of patients sustaining longer-term visual impairments."
Click to read more...

Japan: Laser pointer safety symposium held

On January 15 2019, the first "International Symposium on Laser Pointer Safety" was held in Tokyo.

There were two main goals: 1) Raise awareness of problems caused by laser pointers and consumer lasers such as home cosmetic lasers, and 2) Try to find ways to mitigate and regulate these lasers, both for Japan and hopefully for other countries as well.

The symposium was sponsored by the Optoelectronics Industry and Technology Development Association. OITDA is a standardizing body developing the optoelectronics related standards which concern Japanese domestic standards such as JIS and the international standards such as ISO or IEC. OITDA also founds its own OITDA standards system that complements the domestic and the international standards.

The symposium was presented in the Roppongi Hills Auditorium, on the 49th floor overlooking the city and Mt. Fuji. There were approximately 40 attendees. Simultaneous translation from Japanese to English, and English to Japanese, was provided. There were four invited speakers:

  • Professor Yuichi Hashishin of Kindai University spoke on "The current situation of the safety of laser pointers in Japan." He presented various cases and statistics about laser eye injuries and laser illumination of aircraft. For example, from 2012 through 2015 there were less than 40 pilot reports of laser illuminations in Japan, though this number did jump to 194 reports in 2016. He also was concerned about lasers being pointed at cars, trucks, buses, trains and other vehicles, feeling that perhaps a number of fatal automobile accidents were due to lasers but of course the victims could not confirm this.

  • Next to speak was Patrick Murphy of LaserPointerSafety.com. He briefly reviewed current laser eye injury and pilot illumination concerns. He then presented suggestions for action, based on this page at his website.

  • Dr. Martin Lindgren of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) discussed Swedish regulations concerning handheld lasers. He presented information on current problems, including that laser illuminations of pilots had risen from five in 2008, to around 140-150 from 2011 to 2015, with a decline to 62 in 2018. He described an ongoing 4-year research project to determine the probability of eye injury from handheld lasers at a distance; results may be available in 2020. Finally, he discussed Swedish law which includes a requirement for a license to own a handheld laser over 1 milliwatt.

  • The final speaker was Atsutomo Hama of Nichia Corp., who presented "History of management of high-power laser diodes." Nichia sells high-powered multi-watt blue diodes used in projectors, lamps and other applications. Nichia wants to avoid these diodes being stolen or being removed from products so they can be put into hazardous handheld lasers. He described some of the methods Nichia uses, including a 2D code (similar to a QR code) put onto each diode to help track its manufacturing and sale.

There were a few questions for each speaker, but no additional discussion among the attendees. OITDA's Kenji Murata, who helped organize the symposium, indicated that there was additional funding for two more years.

Report by Patrick Murphy who attended the symposium as a guest of OITDA.

US: FAA warns against aiming holiday lasers into the sky

The following is from a December 12 2018 news release by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration:

With the holiday season upon us, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wants to make sure your laser-light displays are aimed at your house and not into the sky.

Each year we receive reports from pilots who are distracted or temporarily blinded by residential laser-light displays. You might not realize this, but a well-meaning attempt to spread holiday cheer has the potential to create a serious safety risk to pilots and their passengers flying overhead.

So please make sure all laser lights are directed at your house and not into the sky. The extremely concentrated beams of laser lights reach much farther than you might realize.

If we become aware that your laser-light display affects pilots, we’ll ask you to adjust them or turn them off. If your laser-light display continues to affect pilots, despite our warnings, you could face a civil penalty.

Laser strikes against aircraft continue to increase each year. Last year we received 6,754 reports of laser strikes against aircraft, a 250 percent increase since we started tracking laser strikes in 2010.

Intentionally aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety risk and violates federal law. Many high-powered lasers can completely incapacitate pilots who are trying to fly safely to their destinations and may be carrying hundreds of passengers.

We work with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to pursue civil and criminal penalties against individuals who purposely aim a laser at an aircraft. We may impose civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. Civil penalties of up to $30,800 have been imposed by the FAA against individuals for multiple laser incidents.

US: 2 Watt "laser bongs" for sale

A San Francisco startup called "Silicon Cali" is selling a bong that uses a 2 Watt blue laser beam to vaporize the smoking material. The company currently has 45 "limited editions" for sale, at a list price of $2,400 each. The entire production run will be 420 units.

The laser beam is so intense it is a diffuse reflection hazard. The bong comes with 2 pairs of protective eyewear.



The founder of the company said in a November 2018 email to Mashable that the laser is not dangerous but can sting if you get your hand in it "kind of like a magnifying glass."

In addition to the 445 nm blue laser and protective glasses, the app-controlled bong also has a rotating bowl and color-changing LEDs.

The product has been in the works for some time. According to Gizmodo, a January 11 2018 Instagram video from Silicon Cali's founder demonstrated a prototype laser bong available for pre-order. On January 23 2018, he wrote on Instagram about shipping time: "It’s just dealing with the FDA regulation and all the other requirements for manufacturing and selling a high powered class4 laser product in the USA that take the time."

It is not known when the late fall 2018 version officially went on sale.

At the company's website, as of November 5 2018 there is no mention of FDA certification nor any picture of FDA-required warning labels, though there is a description of "turn key ignition." In the photo above, a small key can be seen inserted into the bottom of the bong. Federal law requires a key or similar lock-out device to prevent laser devices from being turned on by unauthorized users.

Laser bongs are a relatively old idea among persons interested in high tech and recreational drugs. A web search turns up a July 30 2009 post to Grasscity Forums, linking to a YouTube video of a prototype LaserBong (different product) made by the chief engineer of Wicked Lasers. The video is now unavailable at YouTube. Other YouTube videos still online show, for example, a June 4 2013 video of a person using a handheld blue laser to ignite bong material.

From Silicon Cali with additional reporting by Mashable and Gizmodo.

UK: BAE Systems can filter 3 laser wavelengths with 70% normal transmission

BAE Systems executive scientist and photonics expert Dr. Mark Bray says the company can filter three wavelengths of light while providing over 70% transmission of visible light. Bray said the interference filter's off-axis performance has been enhanced: "The filter is designed to operate at different angles by curving the filter…."

According to an October 31 2018 story about BAE's anti-laser efforts, "Bray says a lot of work has gone in to developing products that protect pilots from this form of attack; now much of the challenge is about developing the frames to house the filters."

The story also discussed the number of reported laser incidents in the U.S. and U.K. in recent years, concerns about laser use against military aircraft in the East China Sea and East Africa, and Chinese development of dazzling and blinding laser weapons.

It concludes with Bray's discussion of challenges for laser eye protection: "Among them are achieving performance for off axis incidence of laser, a high absorption at the wavelength of interest whilst keeping the transmission high elsewhere, and ensuing they work, something not easily done given the risk to individuals if they don’t work.”

From Air Force Technology

Canada: Satair, Metamaterials sign anti-laser glare protection distribution deal

Satair, a global distributor of aircraft components and services, has become the exclusive distributor of Metamaterial Technologies Inc. (MTI) metaAIR® laser glare protection eyewear and visors to aviation and military markets.

Customers will include commercial and military pilots, both fixed-wing and rotary, in markets including commercial aviation, business aviation, search and rescue, police, medevac and military.

Satair is a part of the Airbus Customer Services unit. In 2014 Airbus brought Nova Scotia-based MTI into an innovation start-up program, working to commercialize aircraft windscreen film to protect pilots from laser glare and flashblindness. In June 2017 Satair and MTI signed a memorandum of understanding focused on the civil aviation market.

According to MTI, "Detailed market research and discussions with potential customers since then has confirmed that the overwhelming preference is for this innovative new product to be introduced to the market through individual eyewear and visor products which incorporate MTI’s laser glare protection technology."


MTI's George Palikaras, founder and CEO (l), and Satair CEO Bart Reijnen (r) sign a distribution agreement at the October 2018
MRO Europe trade show for maintenance, repair and overhaul operations.

The October 2018 agreement widens the market and covers "eyewear and visor products that are developed or manufactured by MTI. These include, without limitation, all sub-components, sub-assemblies, piece parts, software and hardware."

MTI says their technology "is superior to other products currently on the market due to a unique and patented dielectric (non-metallic) optical metamaterial filter, which has been scientifically engineered to ensure that the pilots’ vision and interpretation of the surrounding environment is not disturbed during critical phases of flight."

From an October 17 2018 Metamaterial Technologies Inc. press release

UPDATED: In a February 19 2019 press release, Satair's customer solutions director says initial product applications will appear in the first quarter of 2019. He also said "The technology is highly scalable so it can be customised for a wide variety of platforms and other applications. In commercial aviation the green laser poses the biggest threat because the human eye is more susceptible to the green wavelength. For military markets the red laser may be the largest threat. The advantage of the MTI product compared to other products in the market is that it can be customised to the wavelengths the customer wants to be protected against. As we have exclusive distribution rights across civil aviation, military and defence, we are open to do business with leading OEMs of products such as night vision goggles, head-up displays, helicopter and fighter pilot helmets and aircraft flight deck visors. Other products in the market do not have the same quality, the same level of protection and colour balance that we have.

Thanks to Peter Smith and Leon McLin for bringing the February 2019 press release to our attention.

US: DoD awards nearly $250 million in contracts for pilot laser eye protection

The U.S. Department of Defense on September 28 2018 announced two contracts, each worth $98.3 million, for the development, manufacture and delivery of visors and other devices to protect pilots from blinding lasers.

The contracts went to Gentex and to Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, and will be completed by September 2024.

Earlier, on August 10 2018, DoD announced a $49 million contract for the Flash and Laser Airborne Protection System, which provides for research, development and manufacturing of photonic resistant material to protect air crews from flash blindness. Photonic shielding is used on high-value military aircraft such as Air Force One, but is not in widespread use.

The contract went to UES Inc. of Dayton Ohio, and will be completed by November 2024.

According to an October 1 UPI story, "the Pentagon started moving on improved eye protection for pilots after the Chinese military reportedly used lasers against pilots from a base in Djibouti, as well as in the South China Sea."

From UPI (Oct 1 story about Gentex and Teledyne) and UPI (Aug 13 story about UES)

Germany: Laser/aircraft incidents decline 12.4% compared to last year

There were 113 laser illuminations of aircraft reported in Germany during the first half of 2018, compared with 129 reports in the first half of 2017, according to Deutsche Flugsicherung, the German air traffic control company on September 22 2018. This is a decrease of 12.4%.

This decrease is despite a doubling of incidents at Frankfurt International Airport. In the first half of 2018 there were 22 laser illuminations versus only 11 during the same period in 2017.

Declines were reported at Munich, Hamburg and Stuttgart airports.

A spokesperson for the German pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit seemed to indicate that increasing prosecutions were a cause of the drop from 2017 to 2018: "A few years ago, the laser attack was a hip prank for some young people. The perpetrators must now be aware that they are consistently prosecuted."

From DW.com reporting on a story from public broadcast service ARD. Thanks to Greg Makhov for bringing this to our attention.

New Zealand: Bill proposes to double jail term, fines for laser illuminations of aircraft

Penalties for persons aiming a laser beam at an aircraft could double, under the "High Power Laser Pointers Offences and Penalties Bill", introduced into Parliament on September 6 2018.

For possession of a high power laser, the maximum fine would be doubled to NZD $4000, and the maximum prison time would be doubled to six months.

Penalties would also be increased for selling laser pointers.

The president of the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association (NZALPA) supported the bill, saying "This is a constant source of frustration for ourselves and law enforcement agencies."

From Stuff.co.nz. As of September 8 2018, the text of the bill was not available on the bill's page at the New Zealand Parliament website.

UK: Home Secretary wants more power for police to search for laser pointers

The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, is planning to give police additional power to search persons suspected of carrying laser pointers or drones. The changes are said to expand powers that Theresa May sought to restrict before she became prime minister.

Javid will open a public consultation to extend the power of "reasonable grounds" (to search suspects). Proposed changes will go before Parliament.

From September 4 2018 articles in The Times and The Sun

Switzerland: Class 1 limit (0.39 mW) on sale, possession of laser pointers is proposed

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health on August 6 2018 issued a Draft Ordinance to the Federal Act on Protection Against Hazards Arising from Non-Ionising Radiation and Sound (O-NIRSA). This will prohibit the import, transit, supply and possession of laser pointers above Class 1 (0.39 milliwatt). The prohibition includes laser pointers of Class 1M, 2, 2M, 3R, 3B or 4.

According to FOPH, “An increasing number of laser pointers has been placed on the market that pose a danger to human health and to pilots or locomotive drivers. In order to avoid both dangerous glare and direct eye damage in the future, only class 1 lasers pointers will be allowed to be placed on the market.”

Comments are requested by October 5 2018. The proposed date of adoption is March 1 2019, and the proposed date of entry into force is January 1 2020.

The O-NIRSA draft ordinance is available in German, French and Italian. The current Federal Act on Protection Against Hazards Arising from Non-Ionising Radiation and Sound (NIRSA) is available in German, French (no link), Italian (no link) and English.

We were not able to find a link for the submission of comments; you may want to check with the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and/or the Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV).

From an item in the August 2018 ESTA Standards Watch

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: If adopted, a Class 1 limit would be the strictest in the world. There are many countries that have a Class 2 (1 milliwatt) limit on laser pointers, and some that have a slightly higher Class 3R limit (5 milliwatts).

For red laser pointers, Class 1 would make them barely visible under normal classroom or presentation scenarios. Because green light appears brighter to the human eye, a Class 1 laser pointer may be acceptable. However, LaserPointerSafety.com has never seen a Class 1 laser pointer.