back to article Lancashire plodcopters in laser dazzle outrage outbreak

It now appears that laser-pointer pilot dazzle attacks have joined the hilarious satnav-inspired motoring blunder as a staple of news kibble, with the global presentational-aid-related airborne blinding epidemic now devastating the skies above Lancashire. The BBC reports that the latest ocular outrage occurred last night above …

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Black Helicopters

Deadly weapon?

I don't see how a laser pen with the power of what, a few mW, can dazzle a pilot so much he "couldn't see", "had to take evasive action", "could have crashed". With the typical emotive language being used I imagined this laser being the size of car not some piddly little pen effort. These laser weap...er pens don't even focus very accurately anyway so the dispersal at distance is hardly likely to make anyone blind.

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Rob
Boffin

Goggles and Bombs

Looks like the plod will have to start wearing laser goggles, failing that equip the copper choppers with laser guided missiles!

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Anonymous Coward

If there were local plods...

...who knew where they were going, there would be no need for those damn helicopters. We have Bedfordshire police's chopper regularly causing noise as it practices chasing people along the A1. It's a bloody nuisance, and if you call HQ to ask why the damn thing has been buzzing around for 30 minutes, they tell you they cannot comment on operations. You point out that the person(s) they are chasing is probably in Peterborough or London by now, but it doesn't sink in!

One enterprising local got rid them one night: A "spare" rocket from Nov 5th soon got them to clear off!

Now where did I leave that heat-seeking missile?

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Black Helicopters

what?

excuse my apparent lack of knowledge but am i right in presuming that a man stood on the ground armed with a laser pen, shone a dot of light about the diameter of a matchhead into the eye of a copperchopper pilot flying in a helicopter chase? this guy with the pen needs to open some kind of special sniper school if he's got this kind of accuracy...or am i missing something?

it could only be this icon

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Coat

Amusing

An authoritative and artful attempt at alliteration and an absolutely amazing article

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Black Helicopters

Coppers revenge?

If I remember rightly, one smarter-than-average chop-copper pilot actually banked, and having evaded the laser turned his searchlight on the little pikey!!

Damned if i can find the link though - anyone help out?

Hardly an even contest though....

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Happy

Laser accuracy

Actually, those little lasers are very bright at distance and incredibly accurate. A decent one suffers minimal dispersal over several miles. We use them in mountain rescue for navigational purposes (in good weather!). You can pick out a small object on a mountainside several miles away.

Now, I'm not saying I can pick out the iris of a moving helicopter pilot but dispersal and power aren't a problem.

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@ Neil

Was thinking the same - and would the laser shoot direct through the chopper glass or would it be bent as it passed through?

Sounds fishy to me.. He probably just blinded himself in the sun and needed a good excuse.

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How

I don't understand how a guy on the groud can see the guy on the 'copter and shine the laser in his eye? There's no way he can do this in one "shot" unless he has a very steady hand, a pair binoculars, his target is static and he has a shitload of luck.

What he's most likely to be doing on a moving target is sweeping the beam in the general area of where he THINKS the pilots head/eyes may be and if if he does get lucky and the beam strike the pilts eye it's only going to be for the briefest of moments.

Besdies, as mentioned earlier, what of dispersion at distance of a narrow beam.

Unless you can tell me that the the guy on the ground has was in a Laser Lighthouse with a super wide, high powered beam, then sorry but I think this is horseshit.

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Stop

No news is good news

If this type of silliness didn't make the news, the perps wouldn't do it again, and their cousins wouldn't think of trying it either. Epidemic over.

But then again, we wouldn't have something to chuckle about on a boring Thursday afternoon.

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Deadly skunk cannons

Just wait until deadly skunk enters the plod/crim arms race.

Won't somebody please think of the *children*!

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Heh. Dangerous weapons

What about the laser sight used on weapons (held by the police)? The laser there is as deadly and if you add bullets to the mix!!!

So will we see these ridiculous weapons removed and just ordinary plain sights used (because if you're far enough away from a perp to need any more than that, you're too far away)?

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Black Helicopters

More questioning required...

This guy must be one of our secret robot masters.

Think about it... He's holding a laser pointed in his hand, and tracking a moving helicopter accurately enough to dazzle the pilot...

There can be no other explanation!

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Paris Hilton

@Matthew Anderson

"He probably just blinded himself in the sun"

I know it's "oop North" and all that, but we are talking about Nelson not, for example, Finland...

Paris, 'cause she's as thick as a whale omelette, too.

ttfn

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Silver badge

@Deadly weapon? @Campbell

It's possible to get green lasers at 100mW (try eBay), as opposed to the small red pointers at under 10mW. I bet the green ones are really effective even a mile away, given that they can be used to cut paper when close up. Even the red ones are pretty good, I remember many years ago seeing a church steeple illuminated from over half a mile away one night. The beam diverges just enough that you get to aim it relatively easily but not enough to reduce the dazzling effect. It *is* a serious issue for pilots, especially when on final approach with lots to do.

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Coat

Load of crap!

I used to be the Lightjockey in a nightclub and used to operate a large, powerful green laser (which I'd hazard a guess was far, far more powerful than those laser pointers) which faced straight towards me from the opposite side of the dancefloor (roughly no more than 15 metres away). Not once was I ever 'blinded' when a beam just happened to pass directly by my eyes... NOT ONCE!

I also had a red laser pointer (built into the projectors remote control) that I used to get the attention of the security staff which, even when shone directly at the face of said security staff, was pointless once their eyes were transfixed on some particularly large breasted lady.

From my experience, a laser beam, especially from a weak source such as a pointer wouldn't actually dazzle/blind you unless you were relatively close to it and actually looking directly at the source... As someone already said if the miscreants have that level of accuracy and can hit a pilot, in a usually very dark cockpit (or whatever you'd call it in a helicopter) directly in the eye while its moving they should be given a job as a sniper!

Mines the one stuffed in a cupboard in the DJ booth!

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Happy

Whirly-plods

Congratulations on coming up with the best new word I've heard for ages - "whirly-plods". Genius!

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Pirate

Lasers are cheap and very dangerous

For about £25 you can buy a 200mW red laser capable of cutting black plastic bin liners a few inches away.

Or a 30mW green model for £12 that has lower power, but green is more 'visible' to the human eye and actually appears to have a greater beam distance when shone up into the sky.

These aren't huge jeep mounted lasers that neeed monster power, they run off a couple of small batteries and fit in a pocket.

You probably don't need to aim accurately, you can just point it in the right direction and wave it around a bit, they aren't just a single flash, they do a continuous beam for many minutes. (I haven't tried to blind anyone yet, but accidental reflections off white objects are quite dazzling).

Look at the dealextreme website for more details. (sorry for the advert)

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Black Helicopters

Here's a theory

Most of us seem to be "doubtful" of the ability to hit a moving aircraft, let alone through the windows, which don't face downwards anyway, let alone into the pilots eyes, but...

Are we aware of that very neat lighting effect where a light it shone onto the edge of a piece of perspex / plexiglass, creates a dull glow that's used in Fire Exit signs.

I'm guessing that aircraft windshields are made of multiple thin sheets bonded together for extra strength. Maybe the beams are hitting the windows, and the internal reflections / refractions are creating some kind of Fire Exit / Lens Flare / "Red wall" glow that effectively renders the windows opaque or hard to see through.

Not quite the same as blinding (meaning unable to physically see anything), but I'd be hard pushed to think of a better word to describe being unable to see through a window.

Perhaps a pilot amongst El-Reg's readers could try shining a laser at a grounded airplane with a friend inside and see if this could generate the effect described.

Black Helicopter flying straight down, for obvious reasons.

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Sad news for the Daily Mail

We can't blame these "weapon" attacks on gaming.

AFAIK, there is no "laser pointer weapon" in GTA IV.

Although, there are laser sights available in FPS's. Although, I'd assume that the 'bullets' would finish you before the faint red dot would.

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RW
Unhappy

And the reason for the high speed copter chase?

Someone threw a toffee wrapper out the window.

Funny, isn't it, that when British coppers had nothing but nightsticks the place was generally peaceful and placid, but now that they've been thoroughly militarized along US lines, the UK is a criminal's paradise and an ordinary citizen's nightmare.

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Black Helicopters

been there. done that...

when i was a teenager growing up in belfast in the eighties, it was standard practice [while staggering drunkenly home at night] to hold your lighter in the air and flick sparks from it when a brit army helicopter was snooping in the vicinity. word on the street was that from the air it looked like gunfire, so the helicopter would take evasive action.

probably a load of bollox, but when we were kids it made us feel like we were socking it to man!

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Anonymous Coward

@AC

Whether or not the pilot *was* actually blinded, you're over-looking the intent of the crim on the ground to attempt to dazzle/blind/confuse the pilot of an aircraft.

The slag didn't care what the outcome was - he deserves to have his laser pointer inserted somewhere that doesn't normally see the light....

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A steady hand...

...in the extreme would be needed to keep these beams focussed on a helicopter long enough to cause the pilot any issues. Don't forget, even the tiniest wobble of the laser pen at the hand would translate into dozens of yards of movement of the beam at a mile distance. In order to stay on a helicopter you would need to have the laser pen clamped in a solidly mounted rig, shielded from the wind, and the helicopter would need to be stationary. If the chopper was moving, you would need electronic tracking equipment to keep the beam on the "target". The hand/eye combination simply couldn't do it - a helicopter one mile away occupies less than a hundredth of a degree of the sky - and the average hand/eye combo couldn't hold something pointing in the same direction to even a one degree accuracy.

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Stop

Laser colours

IIRC green lasers are less harmful on the eye - something to do with wavelengths. As a former lightjockey myself, the bar staff were given these smirnoff-branded laser pattern projectors. We contemplated rigging one to the yoke of a MAC250, but couldnt be arsed to rip it apart to point of being able to remotely turn it on/off + fitting motor to it to change the pattern.

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Paris Hilton

Simple solution

Best way to protect his eye would be for the policeman to put his chopper back in his pants.

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Here's how it would look for all those wondering...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lasers_and_aviation_safety

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jim

Poor little pilot

Why did you look at the beam you idiot if you thought it would blind you?

You should have your pesky flying licence revoked immediately and never revalidated for putting the lives of your colleagues on the heliocpter with you at risk.

Shame on you Pig Flyer.

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Anonymous Coward

@Here's a theory

I think you've got a line one it. I've seen weird scattering effects with people playing with green lasers and windows and such. Not exactly a complete blinding effect but having a Laser Floyd on you're windscreen could certainly be an extreme distraction.

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Thermal imaging?

Plod won't apprehend them half as quick once these n'er-do-wells cotton onto the Afghan Mujahadeen counter-measure - a blanket carried on the outside of their packs. Black helicopter? Sit down, cover with blanket, yawn, and praise al-Lah for all good things sent for the deliverance of true believers and the damnation of the Great Stan.

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Jay
Go

Not just up north

http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/templates/news/detail.cfm?newsid=9168

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Flame

@ naysayers

Clearly, you all have no idea what you're talking about. Get a friend with a laser pointer to shine it in your eyes for a bit. Not blinding as in 'completely unable to see', but a bright light (comparable to direct sunlight) + your entire vision flashing red makes for a lot of visual interference. This is not appreciated when trying to do something that requires concentration, such as piloting aircraft. Also keep in mind that green lasers have a visible beam, which makes them more distracting and easier to aim.

(By the way, they dazzle cameras wonderfully, as well as human eyes.)

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Gav
Alert

Strafing, not Aiming

I don't know what you're all waffling about the aiming being impossible. If you must compare the pointers to a gun; they are not like a sniper rifle, they're more like a machine gun jammed on with a few billion bullets in the clip. They do not aim and fire off one single photon that would be lucky to hit anything. They fire in a constant stream that you can strafe about the sky indiscriminatingly until it strikes something.

All the muppet on the ground has to do is point in the direction of the helicopter and wiggle it a bit for a couple of minutes; the chances of the beam hitting the pilot in the eye at some point may be unlikely, but still a possibility.

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Hrmmm...

Max Allen: "For about £25 you can buy a 200mW red laser capable of cutting black plastic bin liners a few inches away."

But that's if you can keep the power going to cut more than an inch of flimsy plastic. If I remember correctly, there's a limit on power consumption for 300w (Class 3) lasers. The ones from Big Sky Lasers that I've handled before can only be set to fire for milliseconds so that it doesn't attempt to burn a hole in the mica ceramic that it's fired at. (And have you seen the size of its controller system? It actually needs to be watercooled with a built-in pump and a pair of hoses connecting to the core.)

Still, makes me wonder if I can't play Evil Genius Inventor with a moterized universal joint, an X/Y layout setup, and some thin stiff plastic...

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It actually hurts...

Its not something you should go sensational over but some little tyke got me with one while driving though a residential area one night and it wasn't nice. It hurt, it was like getting a shot of capsicum (pepper) in the eye.

If I had been able to catch it then the result would have probably required surgery to remove the laser pointer from whereever I had jammed it.

But its not a big deal. If a pilot is going to react to this such that "they might crash the plane" then they shouldn't be flying. Lots of things happen when flying, you've got to keep your wits about you. Now the little sods realize that those helicopters are full of sensors and can see and track you they might leave them alone.

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Actually a serious problem.

Firstly, let me preface this with a qualifier. I hold a Private Pilot's Licence so I've got some idea of the workload involved in flying an aircraft at low-level. The people who fly Police / Medevac / Rescue helicopters have my unending admiration. It's an extremely demanding job, and one I'd love to do.

Regarding laser pens, they're nowhere near as collimated as other lasers. The laser cavity is of the order of millimetres in length instead of, say ~30cm for a HeNe or >1m for a CO2 laser. Since beam collimation (and therefore divergence) is a function of cavity length, this means that the beam from a diode laser diverges far more than your classic metrology / machining laser. A divergence of up to 1mm per metre would seem to be a reasonable guess. This isn't a problem with a pointer pen as they're only *supposed* to be used for distances of up to 10m. Scaling this up to the sort of distances we're looking at in aviation we get a beam width of ~1m at a range of 1km. At any reasonable distance this means that they're acting more like searchlights than pointer pens.

The second important thing to note about lasers is that, due to the monochromatic light, when they're reflected by a rough surface you get a speckle pattern. (I invite all those above with laser pens to aim them at the wall now, spreading the beam by aiming it almost parallel with the wall will illustrate this best). This is highly distracting as the reflection does not appear to be steady but "moves" as your hand shakes the beam.

So we have a bright and highly distracting torch shining into our helicopter.

Anyone who's seen a cockpit picture of any reasonably complex helicopter will know it is full of glass displays and shiny metal switches. I expect you could find a decent pic on Airliners.net if you don't believe me. The point being that you don't need to hit the pilot in the eyes to cause him problems. Simply getting the light into the cockpit will ensure that, far from the darkened cockpit he was in a second ago, he is now sitting in a wonderland of flashing fairy lights.

This would be all well and good, but at night the pilot needs to be able to see his instruments in order to safely fly. A helicopter is not like a fixed-wing aircraft, you cannot just let go of the controls for a second while you fetch the map you stupidly left in the bag behind your seat. It needs constant corrections in order to keep it aloft. My flying books state that the average pilot will get himself into a fatal spin within a minute of flying into cloud without reference to his instruments, in a helicopter that will be on the order of seconds.

Hopefully this explanation will serve to show that a moment's idiocy by an unthinking idiot poses a very real threat to the life of all on board the aircraft, and also to anyone hapless enough to be underneath when it crashes.

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Black Helicopters

Literary freedom

I was piloting the copter over the badlands, straining my eyes to make out the pothead terrorists in the darkness. The million druggies, crazed and schizophrenic as they were, had learned to avoid the security cameras and it was my job to find them, track them down, chase them from above. Sparks flickering from the ground, couldn't tell if from lighters of handguns, triggering memories from the war. A white ford, same model as in that fateful airport attack racing away from my searchlight. This time they would smarten up, just a pinch of C4 on those propane cylinders and a million nail would find their targets. I lowered the nose of my bird, the turbine howled in protest, but this one wouldn't get away. Then it hit me out of nowhere, a strafing beam of high energy photons searching my unprotected eyes. Near blind I started evasive action, had to gain height before they unleashed the big guns, but couldn't see, the elevation alarm going off, a light, streetlamp, right ahead and closing in, ...

If it didn't happen that way, it's still better than a boring traffic flight.

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Dead Vulture

If you really want to damage someone

I know where you can buy comparatively portable 700mW infrared lasers - about the size of a pizza box, only require a 50 volt power source and will run continuously for years, so long as the power holds out.

IR has the advantage that your victim can't see it, so they don't even bother to blink when you shine it in their eyes.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Actually a serious problem

Richard - It doesn't matter how much practical experience you have you will never convince the Instant Experts of the OTB (Oh That's Bullshit) crowd. I sometimes suspect that most of their knowledge came from arguing about the powers of the imaginary weapons used by obscure comic book characters.

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Paris Hilton

Twats on the ground, Twats in the air

If said pilot were walking on the ground, in his local patch, sonny Jim with the handy dandy laser wotsit would probably have been staying at home teasing the local moggy or two. The more Plot has wrapped himself up in shiny fast metal, tooled up with the latest laser taser, CS gas and rubber bullets the more crim activity there has been. And do we masses feel any safer? Like heck we do!

One has to wonder - having turned his attention away from whomever he was chasing/looking for in the first place, what happened to the original perp? To have called out a chopper in the first place suggests a crime much more heinous than waving a laser pointer at the bird - yes, yes, I've read all the above, visited the Wikipedia link etc, but I really am not convinced that the justification to call off the original chase was merited. Plod does rather have a tendency these days to beat up the general civilian (as distinct from para-military force which the old bill are these days) just to keep the rest of us lot in line. And if they can do it with whirlybirdchopperthings then all the more better for them!

Expect to see another over-reaction coming your way soon.

Paris, because the UK Police suck these days too.

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Pirate

So perhaps a sensible defeat or not ?

Filter UV and IR out, and then train pilots to ignore visual disturbances...........except it might be another flight ........

For plod in a chopper : use brain and turn helicopter so it is facing away ! The fact that the camera still shows the B@$t@rd$ is a bonus, aided by their lightshow. I know this is hard as plod IQ is <10. Plants have more intelligence, and respond faster. Maybe triffids should fly plod choppers due to this fact ? Plants also follow light, so maybe the basis of a laser homing missile ?

On a serious note, this has huge safety implications. As has been said, level of focus varies. Consider a car headlight of 40W at 100m. That light is dissipated over a say 10m x 10m area, so 0.4W/m2.

Now a laser, as discussed of 10mW that is focused into say a 10cm x 10cm area (pretty crap laser for this !) at distance gives 1W/m2, so brighter than car headlights.

Car headlights can be distracting, at times painful, so a laser could potentially be more so. It will almost certainly be much brighter if in the visible spectrum. If it stops the pilot from seeing his/her visual references (i.e. instruments at night) then it can be deadly. Also consider that it might be mistaken as a 'sun' by the pilot, and they roll inverted to keep it above them (as in daylight). I've heard of this at night with no other visual references.

I say this is a *VERY* real threat, and should be treated with complete intolerance for the reasons given above. It is also not too hard to see this used against motorists, especially as the distance is likely to be lower and the intensity higher.

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Boffin

It's not a risk. Really!

If it actually was a danger to aircraft then every al-quada operative in the country would be standing outside airports flashing lasers at aircraft. It's a lot cheaper and easier than mixing TATP in the bathtub.

The reality is that it is a very low risk of causing an aircraft crash and a quite high risk of getting caught.

I base this comment not on just a couple of incidents in UK and Australia, but many years of commercial release of 'high' power lasers all over the world, including trouble spots like Chechnya, Pakistan, and so on.

On a purely statistical basis, before any fatal crash occurred you'd expect multiple incidents of pilots being incapacitated but the plane still being landed by the co-pilot.

This hasn't happened (or at least ever been reported).

The experience with high power lasers used for light shows hitting aircraft- which started this whole laser thing off years ago - is that the retinal energy exposure is too small to cause damage even with multiple watt lasers.

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Alert

Attention, attention, the laser has malfunctioned!

There was an identical (more or less) story to this on slashdot a year or so back. American pilots claiming to have been nearly blinded by cheeky young miscreants playing with "deadly laser weapons" (red beam classroom pointer).

It being slashdot the physics of the situation was quickly pointed out. The utter bullshitteriness of such claims ("hit me in the eye from over a mile away") were pointed out and sympathy for the lad/s in question, who'd received a visit from Officer NoBrains and his sidekick Patrolman ShitHead, were offered.

The level of shitty science that is paraded about as evidence for new law changes is staggering.

Almost as staggering as the largely absent response from men and women of intellect who know better.

Anything that emits a beam of light, especially a red or green beam of light, is obviously a scientific tool and as such should be taken off the proles as soon as possible. Let them have candles.

I remember the Glastonbury festival green laser from the 80's - filled the sky when they fired it at a mirrorball and no one, I mean NO ONE, got blinded. No planes crashed, the moon didn't explode and democracy, somehow, lived to see another day.

If they sold lasers capable of serious physical damage then A) THEY WOULDN'T BE ON SALE IN THE FIRST PLACE and B) we could all buy one, got to london, focus the beams on Westminster and be free of these whinnying cretins forever.

Answers on a postcard.

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Black Helicopters

Glad its not just me?

phew, at last I know I am not paranoid and they are out to get other people!

everytime I drive at night, cars driving in the opposite/on coming direction shine at least two big white lights in my eyes!

now I know their trying to blind me, next time i go out i will take a outrider with me to operate my soon to be installed lighthouse!?

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Pirate

England has gone soft

laser pens are dangerous! pssh!

The 2010 football cup is being held in South "Grand Theft Auto" Africa.

I think it doesn't matter what sort of team England fields on the pitch. Off the pitch the Engish hooligans won't know what hit them. The lads are going to be laughed at if they pull laser pointers out of their pockets.

South Africans pull off heists like marching into a shopping mall with automatic rifles and robbing everybody inside. They recently robbed the High Court in broad daylight with assault rifles. English hooligans point laser pens at helicopters.

You can pick up an AK-47 for under 100 quid in any shanty town. If you're intending to be a hooligan then don't bring a laser pointer to a gun fight hey England?

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@Pyros

The 200mW (Milliwatt not watt) power laser runs continuously up to 5 minutes and requires no special power supply. I have one. It all fits in a slightly overlarge pen.

If you don't believe me, see dealextreme. They sell lots of different power laser pointers and shipping is free. (sorry for the advert)

I can focus it from a pinhead (cutting power) to a 6 inch splodge (uncomfortable to look at on a white surface 6 or so feet away).

At the sort of height local police fly at, they would be easy to hit with the beam after a few seconds twiddling the focus. Not that I'm going to try.

NB Your evil genius skills will only work if James Bond is made of very thin black material!

My point is that even specular reflections from that sort of power output are dazzling. If someone was firing it directly at you even if you weren't looking at it and it didn't score a direct hit would be unpleasant. I have had a near miss of the beam after being reflected off 2-3 sheets of glass. Glass isn't very reflective, even if you guess at only 50% per reflection, we're down to 12-25% of original strength. That left me blinking (wasn't a direct hit on the eye).

If all the nay sayers would like to form a line about half a mile down my road, I'd be happy to dazzle/blind them if that's what it takes.

Anyone got any figures on how long you can maintain a helicopter (that was in a chase) in safe flight with your eyes dazzled? My guess is not very long.

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Anonymous Coward

Another good example of you ****wits who know nothing

As with many press statements they are written by people who know the square root of *all. It would also appear that most people who have posted here fall into the bracket as well.

Laser pens were brought by kids many years ago to play with on holiday, great if you 12 so why then do grown adults feel the need to go onto the internet and buy the most powerful they can find just to cause injury or danger.

When you are sat in a very dark environment with a piece of plastic infront of you, when a very bright green light is shone at it the effects are temp blindness and a sudden loss of surroundings. Which when trying to keep a helicopter straight and level is very dangerous.

For those of you who think its funny, will you find it as funny if the pilot suddendly looses bearings and crashes on your house killing your family.

Not so funny is it.

Another prefect example of chavs showing off to more chavs.

You should be deported

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To the Anonymous Coward

Why? Well, when you're an astronomer (with the advent of widespread and relatively inexpensive GOTO telescopes this IS a growth industry), you may want to point out to your friends things in the sky (called stars and formed into constellations). These don't show up well when you point with your finger unless you can swap heads.

So a strong laser pointer (which is VERY difficult to point accurately to hit an eyeball at more than 10 yards) will reflect off the ever-present crud in the air between you and space.

Pointing a dot in the sky at some distance (where the parallax effect of having two heads separated is mostly ineffectual).

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Paris Hilton

I'm confused

They located the guys shining the lasers... sent some footplods to arrest them... and (presumably) prosecuted them under existing laws..?

So we don't need an additional law to stop this behaviour, as the Australian government decided in their wisdom..?

Ouch, my brain hurts, I can't cope with the concept of not needing any more laws.

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Thumb Down

Time for my input

I own more than my fair share of lasers, pointers and otherwise. I even own a 200mW red laser pointer which burns through bin liners at distances of many meters. I’m also a bit of a geek and know a bit about the biology of the eye.

It is possible to hold a laser steady onto a target, use the same technique as holding a camera for a long exposure shot – rest it on something!!!

I know there is a safe minimum height for a stationary helicopter but I don’t know the value, but it won’t be miles high; hence the pilot needn't have been far away.

Lasers can be really powerful; for not much money can get you something photometrically blinding (ignoring the lack of IR filtering). Worse still is that this happened at night (10:30pm); therefore the pilot’s vision will be more sensitive. It takes hours to build up the sensitivity but only seconds undo it. Light of green and blue wavelengths will achieve this (that’s why proper sunglasses tend to look red/brown) – chances are the pointer was a green one. Therefore the pilot is indeed at risk of being properly blinded.

The comparison with disco lights is false because the beam scanner will keep the beam in one’s vision for the tiniest fraction of a second, way before a dangerous amount of energy has built up – that’s why laser speed cameras are safe even though they can pump out a peak power of over 30 WATTS (yes you read that correctly - I know because I own one and I am an authority on them).

And as someone already said, there was malicious intent, not to mention obstruction of an officer in the execution of his duty. Would you let a failed murderer go free simply because he failed in his attempt to kill? I hope that idiot gets what he deserves – clink!

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