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back to article Australia to restrict laser-pointers - Minister

Australia will move to restrict imports of powerful laser pointers which have recently been used in dazzling attacks against airline pilots coming in to land. The Aussie government may also regulate ownership of such lasers more heavily, in a manner similar to the way it treats firearms. "There are legitimate uses for devices …

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Good to hear

Personally i could do without teenagers sitting in the theatre using their laser to point at the screen ruining it for everyone else while they giggle away, and if it stops ravers from doing their silly dance whilst blinding fellow dancers with their laser, then its about time!

And quite frankly, if people are that immature and pathetic to be pointing it at planes when it potentially messes with the safety of hundreds of people, then they deserve to get thrown in jail.

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Good start

Restricting access to the pointers is a good start, but they could go much further to stomp this out. Per the US example where they've evidently managed to catch at least some of the people doing this, reading them the patriot act doesnt go far enough - Prosecute them with one count of reckless endangerment for every passenger and crew member on the plane, lock em up for a couple of decades, and do it all *very publicly*, and I bet you wont see many more teenagers pissing around with em at aircraft.

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Unhappy

If at first you don't succeed...

The previous government tackled this problem in August last year.

They introduced legislation that imposes a two year penalty for pointing a laser at an aircraft in flight

(http://www.casa.gov.au/media/2007/DOTARS07_136MV.htm).

Obviously that didn't work, so now the new government wants to ban the lasers.

I guess if that doesn't work, they might have to figure out how to catch the miscreants in the act.

In any case, expect this problem to spread to an airport near you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If at first you dont succeed

It's no surprise it didn't work, it's dealing with teenagers here, with no doubt an immortality complex, so they won't cease messing with peoples lives easily unless they are scared off from it in a big way.

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Coat

Why not fight fire with fire...

...fecking great lasers installed on a few of the planes that can target themselves on the source. Be a bit of a discouragement to see your laser pointer disappear in a puff of metal vapour...

Coat's the one with the surefire g2 and aluminium kubotan^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hpen in the pocket and the feeling lucky punk badge on the lapel.

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Coat

Only thing

that will work is the death penalty.

Hang a couple of them, that'll keep the rest on their toes.

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Sensationalised much?

Yep - bang a couple of them up for 20 years and it'll soon stop. Freebie MP3s seem to have become much harder to come by since their possession became punishable by the loss of one's testicles.

That said, one has to question how much this does actually threaten the safety of a plane. A simple flash of laser light, even from the more powerful 200mw lasers, would only affect one of the eyes of one of the two flight officers. Yes, these lasers can ignite paper. But only at <1m range, and also when the laser and paper are held rock steady. At 50 metres or more, a flash of laser would be less harmful than a second's worth of full sunlight in both eyes. And both the pilot and the laser operator would also have to remain pretty still/on target for a period of time for sight (in one eye) to be threatened...

It is of course, a stupid and abhorrent thing to do. What goal is the perpetrator trying to achieve? But it seems to me that these stories capture the imagination (Lasers - arrgh! Planes - yikes!). It all sounds terrible, horrifically dangerous and a huge risk to the public's safety. But I bet it isn't. I would be willing to bet that we will never, ever see an injury from a plane incident caused by a teenager with a laser -- or, indeed, by gangs of marauding terrorists all armed with green pointers. Will anyone take my bet?

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Flame

I like the Charlton Heston quote

There are instructions on YouTube to bring the power of these green laser up to 'ludicras power', they will burn paper and pop balloons. Nasty if you get one in the eye.

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Flame

Not a great start...

Now be sure to ban matches and lighters to prevent forest fires, and cars---you know how many people get hit by cars and how many crimes are committed using cars?

No need to ban common sense, as finding any there would be like the futile hunt for 'weapons of mass destruction' in Iraq...

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Coat

oooooppps

laser travels in a straight line - blind pilot on landing - catch plane in head that will do it

leaving now.............................

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Black Helicopters

Bomb the little barstewards

I suppose the ultimate solution to solving this problem would be to fit Laser Guided Bombs to civil airliners. Then they'd only do it once....

I'll get me coat.

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Boffin

Miniscule exposure time

I can't get my head round this.

Yes, as the laser is a parallel beam of coherent light, it's not going to be attenuated by distance. So if it's not attenuated, the beam is still only a couple of millimetres in diameter. So, if you *do* manage to actually find an aircraft with this beam, and if you *do* manage to actually get it onto a pilot's face, the exposure time on any area is surely only going to be milliseconds? Even if it wasn't a moving aircraft, you would need an incredibly sturdy mount to keep the exposure on the same point.

So while these lasers have higher power, the miniscule exposure will surely mean that any point will only get a minute amount of energy. Is there any rigorous analysis which shows that this threat is real, or are we back into liquid peroxide bomb territory?

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Unhappy

Small Suggestion

Okay, so obviously either common sense or common decency has failed when someone has pointed a laser in the hopes of crashing an airliner. To help reduce the number of these incidents, I'd like to appeal to the common sense or common decency of the human next to the miscreants. If your mate is pointing a laser at an airplane and giggling like a moron...please for the love of all that is sweet and fuzzy kick that little twerp right in the gonads.

When civility fails, count on the person next to you responding in an uncivil way.

And seriously...come on...restricting the import of LASER pointers? Playing with LASER pointers is geeky enough, but providing rules by which you must obtain the geeky artifact makes yourself one step geekier. What's next? You'll take away rubber bands because a kid might snap one into your eye?

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Happy

Cold dead hands

Love the topical heston reference in the subtitle :-D

I wonder how long before an ornate hunting rifle, one careful DEAD celebrity owner, turns up on eBay??

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@ Anonymous Coward "Sensationalised much?"

What the...?

" A simple flash of laser light, even from the more powerful 200mw lasers, would only affect one of the eyes of one of the two flight officers"

- Why is that OK? Is it ok for me to come to your workplace, poke YOU in the eye with something painful and sight-affecting, and say "oops sorry I only did it for a laugh"

" It all sounds terrible, horrifically dangerous and a huge risk to the public's safety. But I bet it isn't."

- So you're going to bet that an out of control airliner, in the last stages of final approach which might be under manual control (don't argue with me here, I'm qualified on this subject) is no threat to a housing estate under the approach path and the (up to) 400 passengers on the plane?

Are one of those people who would pick up the laser and point it just once to feel the thrill of doing something you know is "a stupid and abhorrent thing to do".

The problem here is that by reporting this (even in a non-sensationalist manner), it puts ideas in people's heads. Parents will sit and discuss stories like this which appear in papers that their (idiot) kids would never read but who are within earshot.. next thing you know they've gone out and bought a £3 pointer and are stood at the airport perimeter egging each other on. The first plane doesn't crash, so they try another and another until something bad happens. The best thing to do about this is not to talk about.

Next time you're on that holiday airliner, just think that you - or your mother, your child, or some other loved one, might be unlucky and be on the sharp end of a plane running off the side of a runway. Then stop trivialising.

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Stop

I think some people are missing the point

It's not about the damage done to the pilot's eyes that's the problem. It's the fact that the pilot gets dazzled on final approach that might be the problem. Think about it: for a kid to be able to see the window of the plane to do this in the first place, the aircraft must be pretty low...

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Coat

Guns don't kill people

Apes with LASER beams kill people.

Rest in Peace, Heston.

Lemme get me coat.

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Boffin

@Dunstan

The beam *will* have significant divergence and would probably be on the order of a metre across after travelling a mile or two. The hazard isn't from any kind of permanent eye damage, its from a badly timed distraction and loss of night vision at a critical time - during landing. Basically its equivalent to creeping into the cockpit, shining a torch in the pilot's eyes and going 'boo!'.

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Flame

Tug ye not on Superman's cape, moron!

"angry feds to read the Patriot Act at photon-squirting miscreants there"

Whether you agree with the feds or not (lots do, lots don't), the one thing everyone agrees on is that you do not want to make them mad at you. Ever.

I was a witness in a money-laundering case in Federal court once - they found the guy guilty (he wasn't - he was in the wrong place at the wrong time) and took him off to the Federal Pen right out of the courtroom - got ten years. Didn't even get to say goodbye to his wife and kids - pfft - gone. This was pre-9/11, and they weren't even particularly angry with him, this was mostly procedural errors on his part, yet he still got slammed with the full force of the law - splat - like a bug on the windshield of a B-52.

And now a word for those people who do not consider shining laser pointers into the eyes of pilots of landing 747s as a problem. If you are not a pilot or are not involved with aviation, your opinion is worthless and utterly irrelevant - you are ignorant of the subject. This is exactly like listening to your doctor tell you that doing X is dangerous to your health and then doing it anyway because "it doesn't make sense to me". You are not the expert, the doctor is. You are not the expert, the pilot is. All the logic in the world is useless unless it is based in reality. Saying "it can't do that" or "it won't work" displays your ignorance and disregard for safety.

Let me ask you this - do you prefer to err on the side of caution, or is it your preference to let these morons continue their games until one manages to cause the crash of a 747 or an A-380 on landing, and then you say, "Gee it really WAS true"? It isn't necessary to stick your hand into the fire to know that you'll get burned. YOUR LIFE is being wantonly and maliciously placed at risk here, still think it is just kids having fun?

These are the same people that throw tacks on the road, put logs on railroad tracks, etc, and now they are endangering entire planeloads of people. I say slam them, and slam them hard. A few decades of playing Bubba's Love Toy might give them time to adequately "reflect" on their actions.

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Anonymous Coward

Think of the Cats

No mention of what people will do now instead of laughing hysterically as they exercise their cats with laser pointers, then.

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Boffin

Bring back stout sticks

"Debus is believed to be referring to green laser pointers, some of which give out a more powerful beam than ordinary red ones"

Its not just the power that one should be wary of. Green light is inherently more damaging to your eyes than red.

Personally i prefer a stout stick of goodly proportions to a crappy little laser pointer when giving talks. I find it imbues me with the necessary power and might to tackle the ordeal before me, point to the relevant diagram with precision accuracy and, if needs be, dispense with anyone who disputes my authority in the time-honoured fashion. I wouldn't want to accidently blind the wrong miscreant with a stray beam (of light rather than the wooden sort).

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pointing laser at aircraft is a good idea

Or you could just buy one of these http://equipped.com/rescuelaser.htm

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Re: 13:54

Buy some string? Or is that banned in Australia because they strangle each other with it?

Anyway, the light from a torch beam works just as well.

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Silly People

"six airliners approaching Sydney were compelled to alter their landing plans"

Too bad the Reg experts weren't there to assure them that there was no problem. Silly pilots and ground controllers don't know what they're doing - isn't that right, experts?

Check your brains - you'll probably find a little label saying something along the lines of 'should not operate heavy machinery'.

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Coat

I agree with "Miami Mike"

I agree with "Miami Mike". He is 100% correct.

Mine's the one with the Pilot's wings sewn on.

»Tony

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"Straw man" arguments again

"So you're going to bet that an out of control airliner, in the last stages of final approach which might be under manual control (don't argue with me here, I'm qualified on this subject) is no threat to a housing estate under the approach path and the (up to) 400 passengers on the plane?"

That wasn't what I said, Drama Queen Boy.

I said "I bet that we never, ever witness an injury related to any kind of attack (organised or otherwise) on planes by people with laser pointers."

I didn't say that I would want it to happen to a plane that I was on. I am as subjective and poor at risk assessment when my life is involved as the next man.

No, I just said that I believe it will never happen, because the risks are overstated. That's the bet I offer. Say over the next 20 years -- to have some closure point.

Do I see your hand coming out to accept my wager?

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"Your opinion is worthless"

"And now a word for those people who do not consider shining laser pointers into the eyes of pilots of landing 747s as a problem. If you are not a pilot or are not involved with aviation, your opinion is worthless and utterly irrelevant - you are ignorant of the subject."

You pompous arse! I am not associated with aviation, yet I can understand that a dazzled pilot is a BAD THING, as is a dazzled driver, or a dazzled motorcyclist. More lives at stake in a plane, yet still potential death is involved in all cases.

The point here is whether or not shining a laser at a pilot can causes him -- ever -- to lose total control of his aircraft. Or whether or not he tips his head to one side, after a dazzling flash in one eye, then blinks, and all normality is restored.

The question of relevance of expert opinion is not one for an aviation expert to answer -- it's for an ophthalmologist to answer.

And notice that stating that the risks are overstated is NOT to be confused with stating that there is no risk at all.

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@Miami Mike

Well said, MM, well said!

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short finals

Blimey, I couldn't think of a worse time to be trying to waggle my head about trying to avoid some stupid cretin trying to dazzle me than the last few hundred feet AGL. And it must be the final few hundred feet AGL or the pilot's eyes or even just the cockpit window would be damn hard to find with any laser pointer.

The reason why all these drama queen pilots are 'overstating the risk' is that contrary to opinion, landing a plane isn't as easy as it is on MS Flight Simulator, you're dealing with keeping a controlled sand safe angle of descent, possibly contending with a crosswind, talking to the ground, trying to get down and off the runway quickly so the plane 90 seconds behind you can get down, landing on a marker so you have enough runway in front of you to stop, etc. Any complication now you are probably safest to go around as if you've lost the centreline of the runway you just cannot make sudden turns to find it again as you can't afford the altitude (as some of the lift is now turning you instead of keeping you up) or power variations, etc, and then you burn a heap more fuel and scare everyone on board. Sissies! They should be more cavalier with our lives!

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PH

But Australian's love prohibiting things...

As someone who is resident in the country, this proposed ban doesn't surprise me at all. Australians LOVE creating prohibitions. Here you can't drink in public, you can't cross the street ('jaywalk'), you can't mod your games console, you can't bicycle without a helmet, you can't travel between states with an apple in your pocket, and you can't exit most supermarkets without showing staff the contents of any bag or parcel you may have with you. A kid with a laser pointer and the opportunity to legislate is enough to give your average Aussie lawmaker a wet dream - so to speak.

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Scu
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The best thing to do about this is not to talk about???

"The problem here is that by reporting this (even in a non-sensationalist manner), it puts ideas in people's heads. Parents will sit and discuss stories like this which appear in papers that their (idiot) kids would never read but who are within earshot.. next thing you know they've gone out and bought a £3 pointer and are stood at the airport perimeter egging each other on. The first plane doesn't crash, so they try another and another until something bad happens. The best thing to do about this is not to talk about."

Ah, what kind of parenting advice is this? Don't talk to your kids about [sex|drugs|gun safety|laser pointers]. That will keep them from dabbling with the <pick your favorite>. Better yet, have a discussion with your young ones. It's your responsibility to raise them, teach them. Ignore them, and they'll have a higher likelihood of participating in this sort of behavio[u]r.

Parent UP!

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I wonder?

Is this the reason why flashing is banned on the London Underground railway system?

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Black Helicopters

Danger

>> The question of relevance of expert opinion is not one for an aviation expert to

>> answer -- it's for an ophthalmologist to answer.

Any ophthalmologists in the house?

>> And notice that stating that the risks are overstated is NOT to be confused with

>> stating that there is no risk at all.

I have to agree with this, you don't need to be an ophthalmologist or a pilot to know that risk is a function of severity and likelihood - and that the likelihood of being able to accurately aim a handheld laser pointer pilot travelling at over 100 miles a hour (even when landing) from the sort of distance that a member of public should allowed from a runway is extremely slim.

RE: @Dunstan

>> @Dunstan

>> The beam *will* have significant divergence and would probably be on the

>> order of a metre across after travelling a mile or two. The hazard isn't from any

>> kind of permanent eye damage, its from a badly timed distraction and loss of

>> night vision at a critical time - during landing. Basically its equivalent to

>> creeping into the cockpit, shining a torch in the pilot's eyes and going 'boo!'.

AC, you are right to counter dunstan's argument that the light doesn't diverge and attenuate (except maybe in a vacuum, but then the pilot would have more to worry about than a little light). Taking the inverse square law into account I find it hard to believe that a 200mw beam that had diverged to 1 metre in size would be significantly bright enough to be noticed, much less distracting to a pilot. I notice that none of the articles have point to any research papers evidencing this risk.

On the other hand, if the Australian government wanted to ban the devices because they are distracting to cinema goers, then I could see the rationale behind that and would be happy to support them.

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Pirate

Do not look into laser with remaining eye

It probably isn't all that dangerous to pilots however they are dangerous to idiots probably should be controlled just like explosives.

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For those folks...

Those wanting an experts opinion can look at http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=can-a-pocket-laser-damage&catID=3&pageNumber=1. Written by "a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for laser safety standards". Good enough for you?

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J
Dead Vulture

Re: Think of the Cats

Meh... My cat does not care for the cheap red laser I bought specifically to have him chaise. He just looks at the light and stays there. He must think I'm stupid. He's probably right.

He's more interested in the shiny, dangling chain that came with the laser...

Now, the string is *always* entertaining (mostly to him).

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The pilots are complaining. Listen.

They are the ones affected, and they know how much it affects them. If they say it's unsafe, I will not argue with them.

People have instinctive reactions to bright lights shining in their eyes when they are trying to concentrate on something. They may move to the side, they may close their eyes, they may block the light with their hands, whatever. The point is, that at best they are no longer concentrating on what they should be, they are concentrating on avoiding the light.

What if they shined a laser into your eyes while you were driving on a motorway? If a few drivers (but not all) complained, that should be enough for the practice to be banned and prosecuted.

And speaking of prosecution, the culprits should at least be forced to pay for the fuel used in a go-around, and the mainenance on the extra flight time. Then some kind of hourly wage for the passengers.

For second offenses, after they have paid up again, have them drive at speed on a racetrack and shine a laser into their eyes at every turn...

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Black Helicopters

Finally, we are living up to the 21st Century...

"...According to Aussie civil-aviation spokesmen, five or six laser attacks are reported every week...."

I have lived my whole life to see that phase uttered in a news report.

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you want stupidity

laser pointers got banned in California because idiots were pointing them at cops.

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Anonymous Coward

There's an easier solution...

...just mount a few 10cm corner reflectors in the noses of the aircraft., where they would be head-on to the idiots with the pointers.

For those of you not conversant with optical equipment, corner reflectors have the interesting characteristic of reflecting any light entering them directly back at the source--so the idiots would have a nice bright beam shining back in their faces. This provides the side benefit of giving the police a nice pointer to where the troublemakers are.

Side note: I'd distantly related to Charleton Hestons' step father. Take that quote to heart regarding any right the government wants to infringe upon.

netgeek

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Ban laws dont work

Hmmm a guy with a gun goes and kills a pile of people.

Answer create a law to ban guns.

But wait, killing people is already illegal under murder and manslaughter laws - if the guy is willing to break taht law - not to mention the taboo and social progamming against killing, what makes you think he will obey a law about not owning guns.

Same with laser pointers.

There are already laws here about pointing lasers at planes, and I'd guess there were more general laws that prohibited endangering aircraft in flight before the laser pointer specific laws.

More laws won;t help, they will just criminalize legitmate users and create a blackmarket.

Aircraft in landing and taking patterns are vulnerable.

Get over it.

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Typical Labor party

"The leader's out of the country... Quick... Let's announce as many things that will be unpopular as we can!"

Last week it was dropping the WiMax/ADSL2 rollout to rural Australia because the stats sound like it overlaps another project (realistically it doesn't).

This week we're going to ban useful technology because a few morons own devices. Given that we now know 5 or 6 incidents are reported per week, I think it's safe to say that it's less popular than dying in a car crash.

When's Rudd due back in Australia? I'm getting sick of this crap.

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Ian
IT Angle

Someone just got convicted...

A 23 year old just got 2yrs 3 months for a laser attack on a police helicopter. The guy pleaded guilty.

(hopefully I'm allowed to post links to other sites...!)

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23505696-2,00.html

IT angle? I uhhh.... read it online???!

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It was coordinated

There's a good series of comments from Aussies on http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/02/2205452.htm including this one

"Whilst I have not been targetted by this sort of rubbish myself, I have several collegues that have, and it is very serious.

Were not talking about the little toy lasers that the teacher uses in yr 10 english, these things are industrial type lasers. They are capable of brightly illuminating an aircraft cockpit at 6000ft, sufficient to seriously impede night vision (at the least). I am told that directly looking at these types of lasers can also temporarily blind and even cause long term sight problems.

Dont ban them with a knee-jerk reaction..... the boofheads will find a way to get hold of them regardless, and it will only end up hurting the legitimate users. Make that little bit of extra effort and catch them in the act."

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Coat

We have the same problem with rocks too .....

It seems that we haven't learned that by publishing stories like this in the news papers and on the internet that it's going to encourage other kids to do the same exact thing.

We've got a similar problem with kids throwing rocks off overpasses on freeways.

There has been heaps in the news about this, but it still keeps happening - why? because most kids are idiots and think that doing shit like that is cool.

Is it their fault? Unfortunately most of the time it isn't, they are products of a society that thinks publishing every single thing that happens (good or bad) is a great thing.

We now have extremely large wire mesh screens on the sides of most overpasses in Australia, does this stop them - NO!

They just learn how to throw things harder and higher to get over them.

The best way to deal with this shit is by punishing the idiots in the first place - not by telling everyone that it's happening and that they can't catch the culprits.

To me (if I was a kid) that would be a green light to go F*%K shit up, especially if it's so hard to get caught - the same thing is going to happen with green lasers (just wait and see how many get sold (and used innapropriately) in the next few weeks).

It is unfortunate that we cannot make kids see the errors of their ways until it's too late, but that's what being a kid is all about - learning from mistakes, sometimes BIG mistakes.

I don't know if it's because we came from convict backgrounds but as soon as anything becomes 'uncontrollable' in this country we think it's time to add further restrictions and lock it down more.

I don't know about the rest of the aussies but that just makes me want 'it' more, and time after time again I see this approach not working at all, in any way.

Bah, that's my two cents ...

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Flame

alas...

Then they should ban DVDRW drives too (search youtube for 'DVD laser light a match')

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Boffin

@Miami Mike

Your pomposity is such that it needs deflating with a laser pointer. Are you involved with physics? Or medicine? How can you possibly be considered an expert in how it affects you without a general medical qualification and appreciation of how coherent radiation is performed?

I happen to agree with you yet I'm not a commercial pilot so I guess you would consider my opinion incorrect. I did spend an awful lot of time working in a laser lab however and know the effects that even scattered radiation can have. Does that count? For the distance that you are at for an aircraft apporach the beam divergence is such that it will easily score a hit in both eyes, and quite possibly the co pilot and captain would get hit at the same time. Whilst the incident power is not high and won't cause long term problems, it is going to occur at night and will result in temporary bleaching of the retina and loss of sight for a second to tens of seconds - I'll leave you to comment on how unfortunate that could be in final approach.

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Joke

@David Cornes

I've got dibs on his Guns, he said I could have them, I've even got bolt cutters in case rig amortise has set in.......

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Sensationalised much?

As Ian above has provided a link to a story of someone in Australia been jailed for blinding a HELICOPTER pilot. ( still a flying contraption, does a lot of it's work close to the ground ). A crashing helicopter could cause enough of a disaster to warrant media attention.

From news report:-

The pilot noticed a bright green light flashing around the cockpit," Judge David Smith said in passing sentence on Baldetti.

"Then, after changing the heading of the helicopter, the pilot received two green flashes to the eyes.

"The flashes were approximately half a second apart and during the exposure he could see nothing but green.

"It took him a few seconds to regain normal vision in order to read his instruments.

"He said, in particular, in his victim impact statement, that he suffered temporary blindness for approximately five to 10 seconds."

The horse has spoken and it seems after all the opinions expressed here, pilots can be affected by lasers.

This clown will get to play "bubas love toy" for a year minimum. May he learn the errors of his ways the hard way.

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