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back to article Feds crack down harder on 'lasing'. Yep, aircraft laser zapping... Really

The FBI has announced it is extending a trial campaign that offers a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone indulging in "lasing" – the increasingly popular sport of zapping aircraft with lasers. Back in February, the Bureau decided it had had enough of this "dangerous crime", which in 2013 …

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Meh

Unfortunately it's virtually impossible to legislate against stupidity.

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Anonymous Coward

Smart Bombs???

Laser guided.

Just sayin.............

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Unfortunately it's virtually impossible to legislate against stupidity.

Au contraire. It's enforcement that is a bitch.

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"Unfortunately it's virtually impossible to legislate against stupidity."

It is however, quite possible to punish the stupid once caught.

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Anonymous Coward

What about infra-red lasers, difficult to justify the impact on commercial aircraft (even though it's difficult to see how they can have the focus and angle of attack on an aircraft body other than say, a police helicopter anyway)

Highly likely to piss off military/police use of the frequency, a little harder to sell to the population. What is the maximum focus of a civilian laser through a scattering atmosphere

What about when lasers become more powerful, more threatening to the police/military in a civilian revolt, then they have a nice archaic law everybody as forgotten about to future proof and vastly out manoeuvre the right to bear arms, powered by new military lasers, microwave crowd dispersal units and so on

People are stupid and should be reprimanded for stupidity, but the current wave of authoritarianism sweeping the world is frankly chilling

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WTF?

14 years?

While I appreciate the potential risks & repercussions such actions invoke, there are probably people convicted of manslaughter with a shorter prison term. It does seem to be an excessive punishment for the actions...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 14 years?

All well and good, until some pleb brings a Jumbo down on the main terminal because the pilots were blinded by his stupid laser pen.

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Re: 14 years?

Wasn't just because of the laser attack. He was on probation already and had a history of bad behaviour. He got 14 years because of the combination of those things.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 14 years?

Consider the fact that airplanes now a days pretty much land on auto-pilot, specifically for safety reasons. So the laser doesn't really have much chance of crashing it then.

As for when they are in the air, if you crash because you were blinded for a few seconds, you shouldn't be flying in the first place.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 14 years?

Just blind the tosser with his own pen. An eye for an eye if you will.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 14 years? @Jumbo crash

All well and good, until some pleb brings a Jumbo down on the main terminal because the pilots were blinded by his stupid laser pen.

And the likelihood of an instantaneous exposure, lasting well short of a second, from a single laser pointer doing that is??

Near zero, I'd say.

Consider exhibit A, from the Egypt protests in 2013 when hundreds of people illuminated slow-moving passing helicopters for minutes at a time:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAfagq8PjpM

Can't remember any of those birds coming crashing down!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 14 years?

And when flying a helicopter?

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Re: 14 years? @Jumbo crash

Egyptian helicopters - IIRC the protestors were only illuminating the aircraft body, not targeting the pilot.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 14 years?

My dear fellow AC

> Consider the fact that airplanes [load of bollocks snipped]

Please consider the fact that you should not be talking so liberally about things you know absolutely nothing about. Every single statement that you have posted is incorrect.

Thank you.

/A former commercial pilot.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 14 years?

You know that the US makes alot of stuff in prisons which means they do not have to import stuff. Laws such as the 3 strikes law and stupid long prison terms like this mean a large slave workforce. Sorry I mean prison workforce.

You have to make sure you have lots of workers for people to make a profit off.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 14 years?

You know that the US makes alot of stuff in prisons which means they do not have to import stuff.

I have a hard time believing that it's cheaper to incarcerate individuals for the purposes of manufacturing license plates than it would be to hire a factory in china/taiwan/s.korea to stamp them out.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 14 years? @Jumbo crash

And the likelihood of an instantaneous exposure, lasting well short of a second, from a single laser pointer doing that is??

Frigging high. Lasers are a concentrated light source, and it can take several seconds to recover simply from secondary exposure. A direct hit in the eye (for instance, by reflecting off a scratch in the material) can result in permanent damage. If you think that isn't the case, prove it by torching your own eyeballs, which has as extra benefit that it will stop you from posting this sort of drivel.

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RPF

Re: 14 years?

No they don't; the vast majority are hand-flown for at least the last few miles.

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Re: 14 years?

If you lase the cockpit of a transport aircraft carrying up to 400 people whilst on finals, 14 years is the low end of what you should be getting.

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Re: 14 years? @Jumbo crash

"A direct hit in the eye (for instance, by reflecting off a scratch in the material) can result in permanent damage."

Moreover in the dark, a hit in the eye from a decent powered laser fucking hurts, even if it's only a brief flash from half a mile away.

That's personal experience from some twat lasing cars along a stretch of road I drive - and several drivers who were hit swerved into adjacent lanes, which is a good warning about what might happen eventually.

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Re: 14 years? @Jumbo crash

"Egyptian helicopters - IIRC the protesters were only illuminating the aircraft body, not targeting the pilot."

Are you claiming that at half a mile distance, you can hold a laser pointer steady enough to only illuminate a specific part of a moving aircraft?!

The light was dancing all over the place!

I think the whole claims of causing a commercial airline crash are dubious at best.

1) Commercial aircraft windows are generally on the top, not the bottom, so you're not going to get a "direct shot".

2) You can't target a pilot with a hand held laser, you might whizz past him a few times.

3) Pressurised windows are rather thick, so the tiny laser point will be defused. Add a bit of dirt/moisture and it's reduced even more

4) Comparing a laser to a camera flash is just laughable... If the laser lit up the entire cabin then you are admitting it's defused enormously. A few milliwatts from a laser defused to that extent would vanish. A flash gun dumps a huge amount of power to produce its illumination for 1/1000th second. You can't have both "blinding" and "huge coverage" from a low power source.

5) You are assuming the pilot is actually doing something important during landing... Got news for you... Most of the time they're not. Pilots are there for the occasions when the autopilot can't handle a situation. 99% of the time the plane will land itself.

I'm sure I'll collect a load of anonymous down votes, which is incredibly brave of you, but please, if you have something to add/correct, let's have a discussion!

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Re: 14 years? @Jumbo crash

I've had the experience of some stupid bastard trying this on me, whilst I was driving a car. In my case, it was a low-powered red laser, the moron was a good few hundred yards away and had really crap aim and was to one side of me, so he only got one eye very briefly.

However, it is blindingly bright. You literally cannot see a bloody thing except the laser, and had it not been a nice straight section of the A56 near Accrington on a quiet evening, the temptation would have been to jump on the brakes simply to slow down to a safe speed.

In an aircraft, with dark-adapted eyes, with a green laser (a colour to which human eyes are much more sensitive) probably of illegally-high power, the effect must be devastating.

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Re: 14 years?

Not necessarily excessive for deliberately doing something that could have caused two helicopters to crash - i.e., multiple people to die.

Part of a sentence involves premeditation and intent, as well as potential for grievous harm. A shorter sentence for some cases of manslaughter is based obviously partly on lack of premeditation, and other extenuating circumstances, judged on a case-by-case basis. Whereas, had the laser idiot succeeded in causing a crash, he could possibly have been charged with actual murder, and multiple counts thereof.

That said: it's also obvious a message is being sent (given the potential disastrous consequences). As well, this is the US prison system - meaning the guy is likely to be out in much less time. It's quite unlikely he'll serve the entire 14 years.

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Re: 14 years?

"prison terms like this mean a large slave workforce."

So I'd deprive the exploitative bastards of a cheap source of labor by not shining lasers at aircraft. That ought to tech them a lesson.

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IT Angle

Re: 14 years?

> I have a hard time believing that it's cheaper to incarcerate individuals for the purposes of manufacturing license plates than it would be to hire a factory in china/taiwan/s.korea to stamp them out.

Cheaper for whom? Unkie Sam and his unlimited credit? The towns who petition to have prisons opened in or near them for employment purposes? The private corporations who are paid by the government and get their own private work forces out of it? Law enforcement/the courts, who get to keep that cheddar wagon rolling with a constant stream of non-violent drug offenders who get put away again and again?

The prison industry in the US is so far off the reservation that it doesn't remember what it looks like. At least it's consistent with every other aspect of the modern day US economy.

Mind, shooting a laser at a commercial airliner with 100s of people on it is a right arse thing to do, definitely worthy of some stern treatment. I think it's time for someone to develop a laser-guided anvil.

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Pint

A solution is at hand.

Lamda Guard Inc., has *just* (like, as in, yesterday) announced nano-tech, meta-materials (plenty of nifty keywords) light filter films that would protect aircraft flight crews from laser light attacks. The films would presumably be applied to the cockpit windows in much the same way that tinting films are applied to car windows, except with much more Airworthiness paperwork. The technology allows the film to be designed (at the nano scale) to block green and blue wavelengths as used with common lasers.

http://thechronicleherald.ca/business/1211766-dartmouth-firm-lamda-guard-to-announce-deal-with-airbus

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Re: A solution is at hand.

That sounds impressive - if it can block all commercially available laser wavelengths, without blocking an unacceptable level of the rest of the spectrum (it's still nice for pilots to be able to tell what colour of lights they're seeing outside the windows) then the problem is solved.

I'd even want glasses with this in; it scares me to think what a nutter with one of the higher powered pointers could do if they were to intentionally shine it in people's eyes, just walking down the street for instance.

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Re: A solution is at hand.

If that doesn't work out, another solution would be covering the front windows with removable monitors that display images collected by cameras on the outside. If the cameras get damaged/dirty or a monitor malfunctions, it can be removed and set aside and they're no worse off than they are today.

Or the pilots could wear HUD helmets like in the F35, and they wouldn't need windows at all.

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Re: A solution is at hand. @ S4qFBxkFFg

"... it scares me to think what a nutter with one of the higher powered pointers could do if they were to intentionally shine it in people's eyes ..."

I had this happen some years ago, admittedly when laser pointers were a lot less powerful and only came in red (thankfully). A bunch of kids were standing on the edge of a traffic roundabout, and one of them had a laser pointer s/he was shining into drivers' eyes. (I had typed more, but I don't want to risk giving stupid people ideas)

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Re: A solution is at hand.

Pilots could also affix a strip of retro-reflective material in an unobtrusive location inside the cockpit window. Give the b*stards a taste of their own medicine.

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Pint

Re: A solution is at hand.

I don't think that the approach that you've described would have the devastating counter-measures effect on the miscreants that you envision it would. At best, it might provide the miscreants some useful visual feedback (a wee little glowing dot of slightly brighter reflection) for more-accurate aiming.

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Re: Empathy Test

quote: "Picture this, you're flying a passenger jet. At least once every day you get dazzled, you don't know when or if its going to happen on any given approach or after take off.

Suddenly you can only see green light. What are you feeling having just been dazzled?

Its just me but I'd probably snap and find a machete.

Dazzle the perps at random intervals for 14 years I say."

Really? To play devils advocate, I would suggest that drivers who fail (or refuse) to switch their headlights to dipped from full beam (aka high-beams) when faced with oncoming vehicles endanger far more people each year than anyone shining lasers at aircraft.

People are always happy to suggest draconian punishments for something they don't think they'll ever be guilty of. The real test is whether they are still comfortable with such punishment if it is something they could easily become guilty of. So in that vein: are you are willing to extend your cruel-and-unusual punishment suggestion to all people who are endangering those travelling in a vehicle by dazzling them needlessly? Do you think a 2+ year custodial sentence, or random blinding over a 14 year period, is appropriate for anyone who dazzles people in charge of a passenger vehicle, regardless of whether it is an aeroplane or Ford Fiesta, and regardless of whether the cause was simply them "forgetting" to switch to dipped beam in their own vehicle?

Might be worth remembering that aeroplanes have autopilots that can now handle takeoff and landing hands free, so pilots rarely have to use manual controls. Cars have no such mitigation mechanism for an incapacitated driver (currently) ;)

(Yes, I regularly get blinded by oncoming traffic, and yes, it does piss me off, and furthermore yes, I do believe that blinding oncoming vehicles is just as dangerous and life-endangering as blinding pilots in planes, if not more so. One thoughtless driver can easily dazzle 10 or more vehicles in a single journey, which would be 10-40 potential victims)

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Re: Empathy Test

@ NumptyScrub putting 500 people at risk for amusement is worse than putting 2 people at risk accidentally, hence the difference in punishment.

I agree car headlights are dangerous, and even dipped beams can be uncomfortable for oncoming drivers. The difference is that a car can slow down or stop, an airliner can't. And as headlight dazzle is part and parcel of driving, drivers are used to dealing with it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Empathy Test

> Might be worth remembering that aeroplanes have autopilots that can now handle takeoff and landing hands free,

No they don't. There is no such thing as an automatic take-off, and autolands require both the aircraft and the airport to be equipped and certified, and cockpit crew must be trained, certified, and current, as well as special procedures have to be in place (LVP). This is only done when no other choice is left because of crap visibility, or to meet currency requirements by certified crew. Amongst other things, LVP reduce an airport's landing capacity so neither airport operators nor airlines nor passengers like it. The vast majority of airports, aircraft, and crew are NOT capable of performing autolands. I for one never did one--the only time I've experienced them was paxing on the back.

> so pilots rarely have to use manual controls

The hell we don't have to.

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Alert

They should just fit lasers to the aircraft that swivel around and point straight back at the guy on the ground. But they should be a couple of orders of magnitude brighter.

I mean, not really, but still...

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Terminator

Maybe just a high-res camera that takes pictures of the area where the flash came from for later identification of the perps?

And maybe a dart-gun (a variation of the type that vets use) for incapacitating the suspect until the men in blue can pick him up for questioning. A vet can revive him at the p'lice station.

Ok, maybe not the darting...

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Coat

If the perp managed to get out of the way fast enough, would he be (I'm SO ashamed!) a Dart Evader?

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Anonymous Coward

You'd be tempted too...

if you had to put up with low-flying plod buzzing the area for hours. I'm sure they do it sometimes for the hell of it.

Either that or a laser-guided missile.

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Joke

Re: You'd be tempted too...

Try to move to a more select part of town.

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Re: You'd be tempted too...

Must confess that it was only laziness that prevented me from spelling out 'fuck off' in Xmas lights on the roof.

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Alternatively

They could advise pilots to buy a pair of glasses.

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Happy

Re: Alternatively

> they could advise <insert here>

So I guess i'll be waiting to cross when i have a green light - it's a better solution than cracking down on running-red-lighters, right?

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Re: Alternatively

So I guess i'll be waiting to cross when i have a green light - it's a better solution than cracking down on running-red-lighters, right?

So, I assume you're also waiting for the police to remove all the bad drivers from the road, rather than wear a safety belt?

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not convinvced

I'm really not convinced how these can cause any real problems for a pilot.

Even assuming the pilot is on finals, the laser must be a mile away at least, and can only very passingly be pointed directly at the pilots eyes (behind inch thick angled glass).

I imagine we have all been unfortunate enough at having a laser pointer shone at us at one point in the past, and annoying as it was, I wasn't blinded and stumbling for minutes afterwards.

I'd like to see some actual proof that they DO affect cockpit visibility other than anecdotal reports from pilots, who frankly, are not the most reliable of people to tell you about things happening in flight

In fact, this seems a great thing for Mythbusters to look into...

stu (a pilot)

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Re: not convinvced

"In fact, this seems a great thing for Mythbusters to look into..."

And you're volunteering to be the guinea pig? Good man!

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Re: not convinvced

@ stu 4

Isnt the distance the problem? At a short distance you have a small dot. At a long distance through the cockpit window you have a complete green light effect? Also if it is done at night you have the great change from darkness who WTF my eyes.

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Re: not convinvced

@stu 4

It sounds like you already made up your mind ("i didn't get hurt, so why should others", right?).

Still, read this article: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/05/blinding-light-the-us-crackdown-on-not-so-harmless-laser-strikes/

A bit more background info on what pilots see and feel, and how it will impact their work.

And i'm sure with a little bit of googling, more info will show up.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: not convinvced

Stu, it's never happened to me but lots of my colleagues complained about this being a frequent occurrence in London. The actual blinding is not so much of a problem (in my opinion) as the loss of concentration at a time when you need it.

As you are a recreational pilot, I assume that you do not do a lot of night flying. However, if you get the chance you can test this yourself (carefully!) by having a friend on the ground briefly point a laser at you during a night approach (go up with an instructor if you are not night qualified).

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