A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

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?


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