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Egypt: UPDATED - Dozens of laser pointers used in protests to simultaneously paint helicopters

Laser pointers have been used in Egypt by protesters demanding that President Mohamed Morsi step down from office. In the most visually striking instance, on June 30 2013 dozens of laser pointers were simultaneously aimed at one or more helicopters flying above the crowd. Many of the pointers terminated on the underside of the helicopter(s), as pictured here:

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An aerial view, as seen on Egyptian network Capital Broadcasting Center, gives an idea of what the lasers looked like approaching Tahrir Square. In this scene, there is one blue beam and roughly 30 green beams.

laser pointers from air in Egypt demonstrations 6-30-13
Animated GIF via
“Cyparagon”. The original video can be viewed here (the aerial laser segment starts about halfway into this video).

There have been no reports of injuries to the air crews, or of the laser light causing the pilots to lose control. [UPDATE, July 8 2013: A first-person account states that the pointers were friendly, intended to “greet” the army pilots who at this point were on the side of the protesters.]

The June 30 demonstration was said to involve around 500,000 Egyptians. At most, around 200,000 were in and around Tahir Square. Laser pointers have been used before by protesters and rioters in Egypt and elsewhere. But this appears to be the first time anywhere that so many laser pointers have simultaneously been aimed at aircraft.

In the image below, the beams of approximately 35 pointers are visible as they converge on a helicopter. An Associated Press story (quoted by Ryot.org) said the helicopter may be a Mi-8/17 Hip.

One site, Core77, commenting on the photo, said : “But the sight of so many beams scattered around a wide base and attempting to converge on a single point is hard to forget. One can't help but think of the shape of the pyramids the country is so well known for, and the act of one being instantaneously, dynamically constructed out of light, rather than impassive stone erected over centuries, will surely go down in the history books.”

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A YouTube video clip showed not only the lasers on the helicopters, but also laser pointers being aimed at an effigy of a person, likely Morsi, being hanged:

This is a close-up of the first image in this story. Green laser dots predominate, but there are numerous blue ones as well. The red dot may be a navigational light, as it appears much brighter than the other points of light.

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Here is another view. A rough estimate shows about 50-75 separate dots or lines, an indication that this many laser pointers were used.

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The photo above also appears in a version (below) with a dramatic “hit” showing bright laser rays and lens flare. As explained here, the hit was added using Photoshop-type techniques. LaserPointerSafety.com believes the doctored version below is therefore NOT what the camera originally captured.

egypt-laser-copter-analysis_with text

In this image, some pointers can be seen in the Tahrir Square crowd. According to Daily Bhaskar, “The laser pens were being sold in abundance in the square, throughout the protest's duration.”

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On July 2, a laser projector was used to beam the words “Morsi - Game Over - Out” on a building in Tahrir Square:

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Here is a YouTube video of the laser projector:

Here is another YouTube video view of a helicopter being illuminated by laser pointers:

Finally, here is a third YouTube video showing initially, laser pointer usage in the crowd (about 3-5 pointers can be seen), and then laser pointers being aimed at a helicopter that is dropping Egyptian flags on the protesters:

From the
BBC, Core77, the Verge, Ryot.org, and New York magazine. Daily Bhaskar has a gallery with 12 laser photos. Thanks to Capt. Daniel Hewett of the FDA/CDRH for bringing this to our attention.

UPDATE, July 5 2013:
BBC News’ Monitor magazine posted an article entitled “Why are Cairo protesters using laser pens?” They noted that aiming lasers at aircraft is potentially dangerous. However, the article stated that “…there is a much more positive interpretation of the craze…. the light show was a form of celebration…” BBC reporter Angy Ghannam was quoted as saying “They are sold like crazy at the square. Street vendors are all over the place. Anything at the square turns into a trend and a fashion in no time."

UPDATE 2, July 8 2013: LaserPointerSafety.com has published a first-person account of laser use in the Cairo protests, written by the man who created the anti-Morsi laser display on a building in Tahrir Square.