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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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 incident 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.

South Korea: Firefighter suggests how laser pointers can help in fighting fires

A South Korean firefighter won first prize from eBay Korea for proposing a laser pointer that projects a “net-shaped” grid onto surfaces, to determine in smoky settings if the surface is flat or has a bump. Seo Bethel of Busan developed the idea after fighting a fire where his “flashlight couldn’t show that what I thought was a wall was actually an empty elevator shaft.”

The net-like grid will make the surface contour visible.

eBay Korea hosts a contest for firefighters to find and then develop useful firefighting tools. Bethel also has submitted ideas for laser-projecting messages from the back of fire trucks onto streets. He said, “The laser pointers will display signs, such as ‘no entry’ or ‘this lane is occupied by a fire engine’. By doing so, it can help firefighters save time spent setting up a perimeter using traffic cones.”

From a July 16 2018 story in the Korea Times

China: "Laser AK-47" assault rifle said to be manufactured; experts skeptical

Chinese researchers developed a prototype laser assault rifle, said to have a non-visible beam that can set fire to skin and clothing up to 800 meters away. The ZKZM-500 weighs about the same as an AK-47 at 6.6 pounds, can fire more than 1,000 shots on a rechargeable lithium battery pack, and will cost around USD $15,000 each. The rifle, from ZKZM Laser in Xian, is allegedly ready for mass production, to be sold only to Chinese military and police units.

2018-07-14 Chinese ZKZM-500 laser AK-47 assault rifle 02

The July 1 2018 report appeared the In South China Morning Post. It quoted a “researcher who had [taken] part in the development and field testing of a prototype at the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shaanxi province. The source said “The pain will be beyond endurance.” Another researcher said that because the beam is invisible and noiseless, “nobody will know where the attack came from. It will look like an accident.”

A technical document stressed the “non-lethal” nature of the laser rifle, listing attacks such as burning the banners or clothing of “illegal protests”.

The laser capability claims were disputed, however, by numerous news outlets.

TechCrunch writer Devin Coldewey first noted that military laser systems capable of delivering damaging heat over hundreds of meters require “on the order of tens of kilowatts, and those have trouble causing serious damage.” He calculated that a Tesla Powerwall using lithium ion batteries produces a few kilowatts of power and weighs over 200 pounds. (The complete laser rifle weighs 6.6 pounds.) Coldewey said the problem was atmospheric attenuation of the laser beam which is “non-trivial at anything beyond, say, a few dozen meters. By the time you get out to 800 [meters, the laser’s claimed range] the air and water the beam has traveled through [are] enough to reduce it [to] a fraction of its original power.”

Click to read more...

Canada: Restrictions on high-powered handheld lasers in three cities

Canada is restricting battery-operated, handheld lasers over 1 milliwatt in public areas of greater Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver, as well as within a 10 km radius of any Canadian airport or heliport. The ban comes in the form of an interim ministerial order announced June 28 2018 by Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

Persons are banned from possessing such lasers outside of their home, without a legitimate purpose such as work, school, education or astronomy.

Police can question anyone with a laser in one of the prohibited zones if they had a reasonable reason to search them. Examples given included if a member of the public contacted police with a specific description of a person they saw holding a laser, or if police themselves saw the person holding a laser.

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

According to Transport Canada, “You don’t need to carry any documentation, but you should be prepared to demonstrate to the officer why you’re in possession of a hand-held laser. Law enforcement will be trained to know when and where people may possess a laser. They will exercise their discretion and judgement when determining whether or not to issue a fine.”

Transport Canada has a webpage with details of the laser prohibitions, a question-and-answer page about the new laser safety measure, and an online forum “Let’s Talk - Lasers” seeking feedback on laser safety issues. The “Let’s Talk - Lasers” consultation closes for comments on August 27 2018.

They also have an online interactive map detailing the prohibited zones. Here are two examples of map output:

Canada laser prohibited zones 2018-06-28 nationwide 600w
Laser-prohibited zones in the entire country

Canada laser prohibited zones 2018-06-28 Toronto 600w
Closeup of laser-prohibited zones in the Toronto area



The three metro areas of Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver were included since, according to Transport Canada, “The majority of reported laser attacks have occurred in these regions. Transport Canada will continue to monitor the number and location of reported incidents and may adjust the included municipalities as warranted.”

The agency discussed how the fines were determined, and how law enforcement will decide on the exact fine amount: “These fines, called administrative monetary penalties, come from the Aeronautics Act and the Canadian Aviation Regulations. Law enforcement uses discretion on how much to fine an individual. The amount may depend on previous infractions and circumstances surrounding this infraction.”

When concluding his announcement, Garneau stated “we have the tools that law enforcement agencies need, including Transport Canada inspectors and police forces, in order to put an end to these careless and reckless actions — actions that could have tragic results.”

From the Canadian Press, the CBC, iPolitics, a video of Marc Garneau’s announcement on GlobalNews.ca, and the Transport Canada informational webpage and Q&A webpage.

For much more information and commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com:

Click to read more...

Israel: Laser-equipped drones to fight incendiary kites and balloons

The Israeli Defense Force has developed a laser-equipped drone to shoot down incendiary kites and balloons lofted by Palestinians to set fires in the Gaza Strip.

From late March to mid-June 2018, 450 fires caused by the aerial attacks burned about 7,500 acres of farmland and national parks, including 1,400 acres of wheat.

In response, the IDF has developed systems to locate the kites and balloons, either intercepting them or sending fire fighters to the landing locations. One interception technique uses a laser on a drone that in tests “has been successful in incinerating the incoming trajectory, neutralizing it and bringing it down.” It is expected to be deployed “soon” according to news stories in late June 2018.

From the JewishPress.com, L.A. Times, and The Times of Israel

US: Indiana medical groups working on resolution about laser pointers

According to an Indianapolis ophthalmologist quoted in a June 26 2018 news story, Dr. Ramana Moorthy says that the Indiana Academy of Ophthalmology and the Indiana State Medical Association are working on a resolution to deal with the laser pointer issue. They hope to release their findings by the end of September 2018.

The information was at the end of a story about an Indianapolis boy who injured his eye when playing with a laser pointer five years ago, when he was 12 years old. The story is summarized here.

From RTV6 The Indy Channel

UK: Average of 50 laser illuminations of military aircraft per year in UK

From 2013 through 2017, there were about 250 “laser-related” air safety occurrence incidents involving military aircraft (planes and helicopters) in UK. airspace.

It is not clear if these military incidents are included in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) statistics about laser illuminations of aircraft.

The Ministry of Defence figures, made public June 11 2018, were rounded to the nearest 10. The list below shows the reported military-related laser incidents in the UK, along with the CAA numbers for the UK and for overseas UK operators

2013 - 40 military, 1396 CAA UK home, 329 CAA UK overseas operators
2014 - 70 military, 1447 CAA UK home, 317 CAA UK overseas operators
2015 - 70 military, 1440 CAA UK home, 355 CAA UK overseas operators
2016 - 30 military, 1258 CAA UK home, 274 CAA UK overseas operators
2017 - 40 military, 989 CAA UK home, 243 CAA UK overseas operators

The information was released in response to a written parliamentary question submitted by former defence minister Kevan Jones, who said “New laws to deter those stupid enough to carry out these attacks might not be enough, and the Government should give police operating around air bases the resources needed to catch offenders.”

From the Mirror. We have additional statistics and stories about the UK, plus a page with statistics about the UK and other countries.

World: Wicked Lasers sells white-light flashlights (non-laser) capable of burning objects

It is not just handheld lasers than can burn objects. Wicked Lasers sells the handheld FlashTorch and FlashTorch Mini, white-light flashlights advertised with the slogan “Why illuminate when you can incinerate.” This is from a June 7 2018 email advertisement:

Wicked Lasers Flash Torch Mini ad

A YouTube video demo shows the flashlight burning a swath of black plastic:

Wicked Lasers Flash Torch Mini video screenshot

Both the original FlashTorch and the Mini version have a regular price of USD $199.

Wicked Lasers is known for being the first widespread supplier of Class 4 handheld lasers, with a nominal 1 watt blue laser introduced in mid-2010. Since that time, Wicked has taken laser safety actions such as requiring a buyer to take a short safety test before allowing an order, voluntarily putting a label on the laser warning not to aim at aircraft, supplying safety information with the laser, and supporting laser safety efforts.

From a email sent June 7 2018. The FlashTorch webpage is here. Previous LaserPointerSafety.com stories about Wicked Lasers are here.

US: Advisory committee recommends pilot procedures, training and glare protection

An aviation safety advisory committee on June 2 2018 published recommendations about how pilots can recognize and recover from laser glare incidents. The document, Aerospace Recommended Practice 6378, is entitled “Guidance on Mitigation Strategies Against Laser Illumination Effects.”

ARP6378™ has three main parts:
  • A description of how lasers can interfere with pilots’ vision and operational performance, and how pilots can reduce adverse effects.
  • A recommendation for pilot training, including exposure to safe, simulated laser light in a simulator or other realistic flying environment
  • A description of Laser Glare Protection eyewear and windscreen film, with recommendations for whether and how to use these.

The document was developed by the SAE G10OL “Operational Laser” committee over a two-year period. It is available for purchase from SAE for $78. A three-page preview, which includes most of the Table of Contents except the appendices, is here.

From SAE ARP6378™, “Guidance on Mitigation Strategies Against Laser Illumination Effects”, published June 2 2018. Available from SAE.org.
Click to read more...

US: Marines to buy 1,653 eye-safe laser dazzlers

B.E. Meyers & Co. on May 29 2018 announced that the U.S. Marine Corps will be buying 1,653 “Glare Recoil” LA-22/U laser dazzlers. It contains a 250 mW 532nm green laser, with variable divergence from 4 to 70 milliradians. It uses three technologies to ensure the beam is eye-safe at any distance:

  • An infrared (1535nm) laser rangefinder determines the distance to a person or object. The closer the distance, the lower the laser power output.
  • Near-field detection shuts off laser emission if a person or object is too close to the laser output aperture.
  • A 3-axis gyroscope detects motion. If the Glare Recoil is suddenly moved, the laser shuts off until stability is resumed and an accurate determination of the distance to a person or object can be re-established: “This prevents hazardous irradiance in situations where Glare Recoil is moving faster than the laser rangefinder can detect objects and dose power output. This results in the prevention of eye hazard danger caused by rapid movement of the device (example: flagging) or improper situational awareness of the operator.”

With these technologies, the laser detects objects or people in the proximity of the beam and then self-adjusts the power output to maintain eye safety. The Nominal Ocular Hazard Distance is said to be 0 meters; the range is 10 feet to 10 miles.

Suggested uses include urban patrolling, cordon and search, crowd control, clearing facilities and security checkpoints.

BE Meyers Glare Recoil laser dazzler
The Glare Recoil is about the size of a Walkman tape player at 5.5” x 3” x 2”. It can mount on a rifle or be handheld.


Meyers also sells a Class 1M “Glare Helios” which has an FDA variance allowing sales to U.S. local, state and federal law enforcement, and U.S. flagged vessels.

From Marine Corps Times, Soldier Systems, and B.E. Meyers. A video produced by the company goes into detail about the specifications and how the person/object detection works.

US: Low-cost malaria detector uses a laser pointer and a magnet

Researchers at the University of Southern California have developed a low-cost, easy-to-use method of detecting malaria in blood samples. Light from a laser pointer is directed towards a blood sample. As a magnet is brought towards the sample, the light intensity will increase if the blood has been infected with malaria.

The portable device is about the size of a toaster. It “has been made simple enough to be used by everyone and is also compact and rugged so that it can be shipped worldwide.”

One of the principal researchers is working on making this commercially available.

Popular press account at CrazyEngineers.com. Scientific paper published May 21 2018: Rapid Diagnostic for Point-of-Care Malaria Screening, Samantha E. McBirney, Dongyu Chen, Alexis Scholtz, Hossein Ameri, and Andrea M. Armani, ACS Sensors Article ASAP, DOI: 10.1021/acssensors.8b00269

UK: New UK law provides stronger penalties, easier prosecution for aiming a laser at a vehicle

On May 10 2018, the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Act gained Royal Assent. The new law makes it an an offense to shine or direct a laser beam towards a vehicle which dazzles or distracts, or is likely to dazzle or distract the person with control of the vehicle. The law applies to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The penalties for violations are up to five years imprisonment and an unlimited fine; these penalties take effect starting July 10 2018.

The law applies to laser beams aimed at aircraft, motor vehicles, trains, ships, hovercraft and other vehicles. A vehicle does not have to be moving at the time of offense; if the engine or motor is running then the law applies. Another provision makes it an offense to shine or direct a laser beam towards an air traffic facility, or a person providing air traffic services, under the condition where the beam dazzles or distracts, or is likely to dazzle or distract a person providing air traffic services.

The offense is a strict liability offense, meaning that prosecutors do not need to prove that the person shining the laser intended to endanger the vehicle or air traffic facility/controller. There are two defenses allowed: 1) the person had a reasonable excuse for shining the laser beam, or 2) the person did not intend to shine a laser at the vehicle/ATF/controller and exercised all due diligence to avoid doing so.

Click to read more...

US: Air Force wants 38,000 more laser eye protection glasses and visors

The U.S. Air Force on May 2 2018 issued a revised draft request for proposal (RFP), for 38,000 laser eye protection glasses and visors for aircrews.

While the original draft RFP was published for comments on March 27 2018, the revised request takes on additional urgency after the Pentagon on May 3 2018 accused China of aiming lasers at aircraft flying from a U.S. airbase in Djibouti. According to the Pentagon, two pilots had minor, short-term injuries as a result. The next day, China denied using lasers against aircraft in Dijibouti, calling them “groundless accusations.”

The current provider of the Air Force’s laser protection is Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, which was awarded a $30.1 million contract in July 2016 for 11.805 Aircrew Laser Eye Protection (ALEP) Block 2 glasses. The May 2 2018 RFP is for Block 3 glasses and visors. and will provide protection both during the day and at night from laser light.

The RFP’s Requirements Matrix does not specify the exact wavelengths to be blocked. It does say that the night version must have at least 50% visibility (Photopic Luminous Transmittance) and at least 14% for day versions. The document also states:

The ALEP Block 3 will not impair visual performance to the extent that it interferes with safety of flight or mission completion. The device will be visually compatible with the following devices/activities:
  • All USAF aircraft
  • Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS); Night Vision Goggles (NVG); Panoramic Night Vision Goggles (PNVG), Helmet Mounted Integrated Targeting (HMIT/HoBiT), and fielded/post- Milestone B visors and aircrew chemical warfare masks
  • Canopies/windscreens, HUD, and color cockpit displays
  • Detection, recognition, identification, and tracking of targets
  • Ability to distinguish terrain colors and geographical features
  • Cockpit interior lighting, external aircraft lights, and airfield lights
  • Ability to read charts, maps, and other printed materials in the cockpit
  • Ability to perform normal aircraft duties in cockpit

From Jane’s 360 and the Air Force Aircrew Laser Eye Protection Block 3 IDIQ Draft RFP. When navigating the FRP webpage, note that there is the Original Synopsis dated March 27 2018 and the “Changed” version dated May 2 2018. There may be subsequent versions as well. The Statement of Work and the Requirements Matrix are the primary documents in the RFP.

Ukraine: Developing countermeasures after 4 cases of laser eye injury

The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine will find countermeasures against Russian laser weapons, Interior Minister of Ukraine Arsen Avakov said, according to a May 5 2018 Interfax-Ukraine report.

“We already had several such cases (a laser injury of the eye retina) in the State Border Guard Service and in the National Guard. We are now developing countermeasures. We do not fully understand what they use, but we are already working on the instructions what it could be. We will install the appropriate filters, devices, use appropriate glasses,” Avakov said.

He reported on four cases of the laser injury of border guards and national guardsmen.

“The use of such weapons is a barbarous situation. We will discuss it at the international level,” Avakov emphasized.

From Kyiv Post

Canada: CDN $3M loan to MTI to manufacture laser eye protection glasses

The Canadian federal government has provided a CDN $3M loan to Metamaterial Technologies Inc. of Halifax, to manufacture laser protection eyewear in large quantities.

The company’s metaAIR eyewear uses holographic technology to reflect unwanted wavelengths of light while passing others. According to MTI founder and CEO George Palikaras, the clear glasses do not affect vision like current solutions that can be too dark or affect colors.

“What is innovative in our eyewear is that it does not affect the pilot’s vision. So when you put them on you can still see that green is green, blue is blue and red is red,” Palikaras said at a May 4 2018 press conference. In the photo below, Palikaras is wearing the glasses, which reflect some wavelengths but otherwise appear clear to the wearer.

MTI Palikaras glasses 01

The glasses’ ability to reflect unwanted wavelengths were demonstrated by blocking 99.9% of the green light from a handheld Class 4 (> 500 milliwatts) 532 nanometer laser:

MTI laser glasses 01

Palikaras said that besides pilots, MTI has had inquiries from the navy and from train operators. He cited incidents involving trains in Germany and Switzerland.

He said the glasses will be sold through MTI’s partner companies and directly to industry buyers.

As of May 2018, MTI has 27 employees, and is looking to hire 15 new full-time employees in production, marketing, research and development. MTI’s holographic technology is also used in developing aircraft windscreens with laser glare protection.

The $3M loan was provided by the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency.

From the Chronicle Herald

Scotland: Scientists develop way to shoot laser light from eyes

Researchers have developed a membrane-thin laser emitter, widely reported in the press with headlines such as “Scientists Create Superman-like Eye Lasers.” When pumped by outside light, the membrane re-emits spectrally pure laser light.

The team from the University of St. Andrews demonstrated the new technology by putting a membrane laser onto a standard contact lens (photo a below), then placing this on a cow’s eye (photos b and c). A cow’s eye is similar to human eyes and is widely available as a byproduct of meat processing. The researchers then illuminated the eye with safe pulsed blue light (“Pump” in photo d) and “observed a well-defined green laser beam emerging from the eye” (“Far field emission” in photo d).

Pic 2018-05-04 at 10.18.16 AM

The diagram below shows the narrow wavelength of the emitted light (emission power on the left-hand scale is in “arbitrary units”).

Pic 2018-05-04 at 10.22.27 AM


The pump light minimum fluence to cause lasing was 58,800 W/cm², which is about one order of magnitude less than the maximum power density permitted by the ANSI 2000 standard for intentional and repeated ocular exposure. The researchers state that “a membrane laser on a contact lens could thus—under appropriate pumping conditions—be safely operated while being worn in the eye.”

Applications of the membrane laser include use as a security device affixed to banknotes or the human body (researchers also put a laser on a fingernail). A pumping beam is shone onto the substrate (banknote, eye, fingernail) to see if laser light of the expected wavelength is emitted. In the future, “[f]urther optimization of the DFB grating will likely allow lower lasing thresholds and facilitate LED pumping of membrane lasers. By combining recently developed roll-to-roll nanoimprint and organic ink jet printing technology, membrane lasers could be mass-produced with high reproducibility and at low cost.”

The researchers’ paper received widespread publicity, often with photos such as the one below. However, one of the authors, Prof. Malte Gather told the Express, “When we thought about this idea of making the laser membrane, someone suggested it was the first step towards making Superman real. It was meant as a joke but I thought it could be serious after all in certain applications. What is important for a normal human – not being Superman – is that our lasers are extremely efficient and hence can emit laser light that is not very bright. That excludes it from being used as a weapon but means that you could put it on to your eye without blinding yourself.”

Superman lasers eyes 2


From Nature Communications, volume 9, Article number: 1525 (2018), doi:10.1038/s41467-018-03874-w, available online here. Press release from University of St. Andrews. Typical popular press stories from U.S. News, USA Today, and the Express. A more detailed, science-oriented summary and discussion is from Optics and Photonics.

UK: Terror suspect said to tell ISIS sympathizers how to use lasers to bring down an aircraft

A man was charged with five counts of terrorist-related crimes, including sending links to a person which included information on how to shoot down an aircraft with a laser.

Rashid was also alleged to have encouraged ISIS supporters to commit terrorism against 4-year-old Prince George (son of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge), against a New York City halloween parade, and against the Burmese ambassador to the U.K.

Husnain Rashid, 32, of Nelson, Lancashire, pleaded not guilty to the charges on April 30 2018. Trial was set for May 14 2018.

From the Express

India: Laser show attacked as "insult to Lord Shiva"

A “laser” show projected onto a Hindu temple has raised the ire of the “Congress” party which opposes the government of Uttarakhand state in India. The show depicts the story of Shiva, one of the main deities of Hinduism.

In an April 28 2018 news story, a Congress party leader said the April 29 - May 4 show on Kedarnath Temple is an insult to Lord Shiva and his devotees.

The 25-minute show is privately funded by the Akshar Travels group of companies, in part to attract visitors and pilgrims to the temple, which is so old its builders and date of construction are not known.

From a YouTube video of the show, it appears there are no lasers used. Instead, the show consists of video projected onto the temple plus narrow lights similar to spotlights or the Clay Paky “Sharpy” moving beam light. The video projector’s light source could possibly be from lasers but even then it is not a “laser show” by the conventional definition of a show using laser beams and/or cartoon-like simple outline graphics.

Kedarnath Laser Light Show,, Char Dham Yatra - Adi Anant Shiv

From The Statesman and the Pioneer

New Zealand: Pilots want high-powered laser pointers banned

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA) is calling for a total ban on high-powered laser pointers after recent laser attacks which pilots described as "the most terrifying thing they've ever gone through".

The April 18 2018 call for prohibition follows two recent reported incidents:

  • On April 12 an Air New Zealand plane was hit by a laser strike near Kerikeri Airport at about 6:10 am, just after taking off
  • On April 15 there was a laser illumination of a Mount Cook Airline plane flying over the Canterbury town of Rolleston

There were approximately 169 laser/aircraft incidents in 2017, according to the Civil Aviation Authority.

NZALPA news from the New Zealand Herald, details on Kerikeri incident from Stuff Travel, details on Rolleston incident from The Press. Click the “read more” link for additional details in the NZALPA April 18 2018 press release.

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UK: NPAS says only 1.4% of laser perpetrators were prosecuted

From 2014 to March 2018, there were 279 incidents where lasers illuminated National Police Air Service helicopters. Of those, only three or four were prosecuted, according to the NPAS head of safety.

James Cunningham told Police Oracle in a March 21 2018 article that there were a number of reasons for the low prosecution rate, including being not being able to follow the laser perpetrator due to being focused on another job (e.g., completing the original mission).

Also, when lasers are pointed from a tower block area, the helicopter crew may not be able to locate the source.

In 2017 there were 67 incidents [not clear if this is NPAS only], compared with 70 in 2016 and 103 in 2015. Cunningham said the reduction is because NPAS is trying to locate and pursue laser perpetrators, and report the incidents as crime. He said the Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill being considered in Parliament is a “step in the right” direction that could lead to more prosecutions.

In December 2017, NPAS purchased laser-reducing glasses which can enable pilots to continue even when illuminated by laser light.

From Police Oracle

US: $8 billion space telescope aligned for shipping with $70 hardware store lasers

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is a $8.8 billion dollar satellite weighing 7 tons. When it came time to transport the telescope, a special 165,000 shipping container was built to be airlifted by a modified Air Force C-5C airplane.

The container was 100 feet long and had to fit with a clearance of about six inches on each side.

In testing the container’s fit in the C-5C, engineers originally used cameras to line up the container within 1/2 inch of the aircraft centerline. However, the camera method did not work in practice.

So lead project engineer John Andersen suggested using laser guides from a local home repair store. One laser would shine along the centerline of the floor, the other would mark the centerline of the back of the shipping container. As Anderson explained, “So, for about $70, we bought the laser guides, set them up, and we were able to load the container perfectly by following the laser lines.”

He added, “I’m glad we came up with a cheap solution to load the container on the aircraft using the lasers. It didn’t cost thousands of dollars to do it or a lot of time.”

The space telescope is scheduled to be launched from French Guiana in 2019.

From the Dayton Daily News

US: Coast Guard evaluating laser strike protection for cockpit use

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center (RDC) is nearing completion of a market research project “to identify viable laser eye protection solutions for integration into Coast Guard aircraft.”

The Coast Guard cannot use standard laser eye protection, such as is used in laboratories and industry, because it blocks too much light. One of the options the RDC is looking at is “a flexible optical filter that is reflective of lasers only and has just a slight tint, so it doesn’t interfere with the pilot’s visibility. The material can be applied to any transparent surface, such as the cockpit windshield, to deflect harmful laser beams and prevent them from reaching the inside of the cockpit.”

The chief of the Coast Guard’s Safety Program Management Division indicated eyewear or visors would be short-term solutions, and laser protective coatings for the aircraft would be a long-term solution.

According to Coast Guard information, “[o]nce finalized, the RDC findings will be integrated into an ongoing laser eye protection project the Office of Safety and Environmental Health is conducting in partnership with the Naval Aeromedical Research University in Dayton, Ohio, and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.”

From a February 21 2018 blog post from the U.S. Coast Guard. Click the “Read more” link for the full blog text. Thanks to George Palikaras for bringing this to our attention.
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Canada: Looking at "all possible options" to fight laser incidents; perhaps a ban and mandatory labels

Minister Marc Garneau announced February 15 2018 that Transport Canada will explore “all possible options” to reduce the number of laser pointer/aircraft incidents, and will announce measures “in the coming weeks.”

The statement came after six laser incidents over two days earlier in the month, at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport. Garneau said these made him “very, very mad.”

A Transport official said the options include a ban on importation of powerful lasers, mandatory warning labels, and stronger penalties for those who are caught.

Garneau noted that it is hard to catch a laser perpetrator, making prosecutions “few and far between”. He believes that some people are not aware of the bright-light danger of laser light, but that others “know darn well what they’re doing” and are trying to “provoke something.”

Transport Canada currently has a program called “Not-a-Bright-Idea,” trying to educate the general public about the risks and legal consequences of aiming lasers at aircraft. Since implementing the program in May 2016, laser incident numbers have dropped. There were 590 reported incidents in 2015, 527 in 2016, and 379 in 2017.

Garneau said that despite the 28 percent drop, Transport Canada must do more, and that is why they are exploring other options.

From 660 News and AVweb

Note: In response to a LaserPointerSafety.com request, an email address for interested persons was provided: “Transport Canada is exploring options to reduce laser strikes. Canadians and industry members can provide information to the Civil Aviation Communications Centre by emailing: services@tc.gc.ca

Germany: Scientific study of laser pointer eye injuries finds 111 cases

The following abstract is from “Retinal Injury Following Laser Pointer Exposure: A Systematic Review and Case Series”, by Birtel et. al., in Deutsches Aerzteblatt International 2017; 114(49). The entire paper is worth reading for anyone interested in laser pointer injury numbers, causes, severity and treatment.


Background: Recent years have seen a marked increase in laser-pointer-related injuries, which sometimes involve severe retinal damage and irreversible visual impairment. These injuries are often caused by untested or incorrectly classified devices that are freely available over the Internet.

Methods: We reviewed pertinent publications retrieved by a systematic search in the PubMed and Web of Science databases and present our own series of clinical cases.

Results: We identified 48 publications describing a total of 111 patients in whom both acute and permanent damage due to laser pointers was documented. The spectrum of damage ranged from focal photoreceptor defects to macular foramina and retinal hemorrhages associated with loss of visual acuity and central scotoma. On initial presentation, the best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) was less than 20/40 (Snellen equivalent) in 55% of the affected eyes and 20/20 or better in 9% of the affected eyes. Treatment options after laser-pointer-induced ocular trauma are limited. Macular foramina and extensive hemorrhages can be treated surgically. In our series of 7 cases, we documented impaired visual acuity, central visual field defects, circumscribed and sometimes complex changes of retinal reflectivity, and intraretinal fluid. Over time, visual acuity tended to improve, and scotoma subjectively decreased in size.

Conclusion: Laser pointers can cause persistent retinal damage and visual impairment. In view of the practically unimpeded access to laser pointers (even high-performance ones) over the Internet, society at large now needs to be more aware of the danger posed by these devices, particularly to children and adolescents.

From Birtel J, Harmening WM, Krohne TU, Holz FG, Charbel Issa P, Herrmann P. Retinal injury following laser pointer exposure—a systematic review and case series. Dtsch Arztebl Int, 2017 DOI: 10.3238/arztebl.2017.0831. Original in German, translation in English.