back to article Aussie laser-pointer dazzle attacks on airliners: Bad

Australian politicians are demanding restrictions on the ownership of laser pointers in the land down under. The banning calls follow a series of widely-reported incidents in which individuals on the ground have attempted to dazzle pilots of commercial aircraft making approaches to landing. A particularly troublesome dazzling …

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  1. 4a$$Monkey
    Thumb Down

    WTF?

    Seriously who the fuck thinks blinding airline pilots on approach to landing is funny! Hanging’s too good for em!!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Preventing the Impossible

    Oh dear. Another piece of mindless government intervention. Do they really think it is possible to shine a handheld laser into someone's eyes over a distance of about a mile??

    Why are stupid people allowed to make the rules?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Debt of Honour

    Tom Clancy used just this scenario - green lasers used by Spec Ops to dazzle pilots on landing to cause crashes in his book Debt of Honour. The book is 14 years old but I wonder how many of these people took inspiration from it?

  4. Ian

    It's amazing

    That the public might prefer lethal force to non-lethal...

  5. Jay
    Happy

    NIghtclub.

    Didn't something like this happen at a US airport and turn out to be the lights from a local nightclub?

  6. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Debt of Honour

    Ban it. It's the only way. And just to make sure, get rid of all the Dan Browns too.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    I asked him if he wanted a vegemite sandwich...

    I believe 'Land down under' is in fact the correct nomenclature for Australia

    Now can't get men at work out of my head...

  8. Iain Purdie

    @AC

    The story says that these things have been reported, so someone must have reported them. I'd assume, therefore, that it's the airlines and pilots who are having the issues otherwise who'd know that some retarded fuckwit on the ground is doing this? Flight landings *have* been aborted as a result of it.

    Therefore, it *must* be possible.

    Policing it, however... nightmare. When you consider there must be thousands of the things out there already.

  9. Jamie
    Linux

    Enviro-terrorists

    Who do you think would be behind this type of activity?

    Green-peace, IFAW, and other such groups that believe they have the right to force others to believe what they believe. They would do this to stop plane and thus decrease the amount of flights, who cares who dies in the process. They are willing to throw acid at boats, and illegally cross borders then state they had thier human rights violated by people protecting themselves.

    Save the world, kill all enviro-terrorists. (SARCASM)

  10. Pete Silver badge

    How unlucky can you get?

    This sounds to me like the sort of thing you see in hollywood movies. One group of people armed to the teeth with high-powered automatic weapons up against the "good guy" with a hand-gun. During a pause in the action where the baddies have shot off hundreds of rounds - all to no avail, our hero rolls out from behind cover and while moving fires off three or four rounds. Each one hits a different target and instantly kills him, while the star ('cos it's always the star) brushes off the dirt and walks away without a scratch on him. We accept the absurdity of the scene because we know it's fiction - no-one beleives it could actually happen like that.

    Now, let's think about dazzling an airline pilot with a hand-held laser. First of all, the plane is travelling at a couple of hundred MPH, descending or ascending (if it's not near an airport it'd be too small to "hit") and subject to, hopefully only, small amounts of turbulence: bumping the plane in all three dimensions at once. Into that you have someone at least a mile away with a hand held device that he or she is apparently able to aim accurately enough to hit the pilot's pupil - which would be at best 7mm across, even at night. (Though at night you couldn't even see the cockpit window, even if you could make out where the front of the plane was.)

    Now I don't doubt the pilots do, occasioanlly, get a stray reflection - given all the lights we surround ourselves with. There may even be a microsecond here or there where some fool with a laser does manage to randomly wave it across a plane's window. (Hint: how many passengers have witnessed this? Considering there are hundreds of passengers sitting by windows and only a couple of pilots, you'd expect some sort of corroberation - let's hear it). But to say there are pilots out there who have actually been dazzled by a concerted effort from malevolent individuals? Bruce Willis would be proud of their aim.

  11. Nick Stallman
    Unhappy

    @AC

    AC you have to be a idiot to think that this article is about your every day laser pointers.

    They are using high powered ones which are extremely dangerous in this situation.

    Hundreds of milliwatts instead of your toy 5 or 10 mW laser.

    This also occurs with worrying frequency.

    I'm a Aussie and its on the news far too often.

    Banning the high powered ones, while not ideal, is the best way to help curb the problem.

    There is a actual problem and its very difficult to deal with it as the idiots can be anywhere near the airport.

  12. David Cornes
    Paris Hilton

    For real?

    Wasn't all this hokum about dazzling pilots with laser pointers blown out the water a while back? Given the low power of the things, plus the dispersion effect over any distance, PLUS the practical problem of hitting a window less than a meter square from half a mile away travelling at 200mph... well you'd need to be Luke using the Force to bullseye that one surely??

    Paris, 'cos I dunno I bet she flies a helluva lot!

  13. Daniel Wilkie

    @Pete, not to be picky but...

    Over a distance of a mile, a laser would lose some of its coherency and its focal point (not sure of the technical word) would expand. I see it with laser sights all the time, the dot which is 5mm across at 20m is gets much larger the further away you are aiming it. It's focussed at a certain distance from the projector don't forget. Therefore it's going to cover quite an area at that distance and so not need the same kind of precision aiming.

    Not only that, passengers wouldn't see it - they sit at the SIDE of an aircraft, looking out SIDE windows - the pilots sit in the FRONT and look out the FRONT windows...

    There was a phase not that long ago of people doing it to trains and buses (buses are not obviously quite as fast...) and I've SEEN it with my own eyes being done to a bus driver.

    Final point - approach speed is normally around 150-160mph.

  14. Sam
    Flame

    @ac preventing the impossible

    Which part of; "Six passenger flights were affected, with air-traffic controllers having to re-route the planes" don't you understand?

    It was a; "coordinated attack", and where does it say the lasers were ordinary hand-helds?

    RTFA!

  15. Edwin

    @David Cornes

    I think the beam dispersion on all but the most expensive lasers is bad enough that it's possible. Bear in mind also that you don't have to 'stay on target' - just flashing someone's eyes off and on briefly (e.g. by 'panning' the pointer) could do the trick.

    Anyway, clearly an excellent idea to ban them. Much easier than trying to catch the twits responsible (who have them already). Ohh... wait...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Extremely unlikely, but....

    Why do we want these stupid laser pointer thingies anyway?

    My physics teacher always said never to look at the dot of a laser, because even when reflected, monochromatic coherent light (as is generated by a laser and nothing else in the solar system) is bad for the retina.

    What great benefit do we get from that unpleasant red or green dot? Is a little pointy stick not easier and clearer?

    Just ban the bloody things and be done with it. It won't save any pilots, but there'll be fewer blind cats.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cobblers!

    We've been here a while back, and someone in the comments section then used the word "Bollocks" in the title. Too true.

    I don't care how strong the laser is, there is no way anyone is going to target a window at the distance required. Go on, do it with your 10-15mw on a window a mile away. No, tell you what, make it 100 meters.

    A lucky swipe I hear you say?

    So what!

    At the distance we are talking about a laser on any glass that is slightly curved is going to do, eh, bugger all.

    As for a whole bunch of pilots reporting it. I am sure a whole bunch of others have reported black helicopters etc.

    Rubbish!

    Paris. I bet she is reporting an incident right now!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: How unlucky can you get?

    Couple of points. The passengers are not facing windows and the windows they have are a tad smaller than the ones INFRONT of thye pilots.

    Secondly, I have a 100mw green laser and I and very careful with it. However a few times I have managed to get a partial reflection reflected back into my own eye. Unlike the red lasers your eye doesn't have enough time to react to these green lasers and the effect can be quite a large chunk of forward sight missing for up to 10 minutes from this very small relection. Can you imaginge trying to land a plane like this?

  19. JimC Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    @Pete

    Its just a question of power and aiming angle...

    Laser light does spread like anything else, just not as much. If you get an ordinary red laser level or something and point it at the trees a quarter of a mile away on a clear night you'll see the beam has spread quite nicely.

    And provided you are on the flightpath and more or less head on to the aircraft then aiming really isn't going to be much of a challenge. The planes are travelling at constant speed and rate of descent - pretty much a sitting duck.

    Here's a link to a supplier's info page:-

    "These are not toy's! The light can burst balloon's, melt plastic, light matches and have a range of up to 100 miles!... Our green laser's are so powerful, you not only see the dot but can clearly see the entire beam stretching through the sky. "

    Still think its impossible to aim one of these at an airliner? And yes, the company should be ordered to cease trading at once - or at least until they know what an apostrophe is for...

    http://www.spymodex.com/laser002.htm

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: How unlucky can you get?

    "Hint: how many passengers have witnessed this? Considering there are hundreds of passengers sitting by windows and only a couple of pilots, you'd expect some sort of corroberation - let's hear it)"

    No you wouldn't. All your suppositions are based on a side view scenario which is highly unlikely. Now stand yourself in front of the aircraft on it's glide path coming in to land and your couple of hundred mph reduces to virtually nil. As for the 7mm target, the refraction from the windshield, which is a larger area, will be more than enough to distract a pilot, possibly enough to prevent them seeing outside.

    If only all these idiots who try this were like you.

  21. steogede
    Black Helicopters

    idiots

    >> "The use of these laser pointers against aeroplanes is unbelievably stupid and cannot be tolerated,"

    It is certainly stupid, in fact probably more stupid than trying to take out an airliner with a pea shooter. What will the try next, attacking trains by throwing individual grains of sand off railway bridges.

    If these scoundrels want to cause mayhem by temporarily blinding people, they need to take a leaf out of the Department of Transport/Police book. What they need to do is find an already dangerous accident black spot, install an incredibly powerful flash bulb, aim it at the oncoming traffic and set it to be triggered when ever a vehicle exceeds a certain speed.

  22. Rik Ryall
    Thumb Down

    @Pete and David Cornes

    Not that I condone such idiocy, but it'd be pretty easy to rig up a spotting scope mounted on a tripod making it a breeze to target.

    Scopes are relatively inexpensive, too; a 60x60 scope could be yours for ~£40, new, probably a shedload less on fleaBay.

    Oh, and check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRvdsPyAytw&NR=1

    125mw green laser pointer.

    Dragon also do a 500mw job o.O

    And, as has been commented here already, it's something that's been reported on multiple occasions, this isn't just a one-off.

    Want to reassess your comments?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: For real

    I don't know whether this is real or not but, if the idiots are near the end of the runway then as the plane is on the glide slope the relative motion to the laser is reduced, plus if they are using a high power laser you'd only need to tag the pilot for a split second to cause problems.

  24. Tim

    @Pete

    The beam spreads quite wide in the atmosphere (air molecules, dust and the like). There is a proper formula to describe how much, but I remember a Tomorrow's World a few years back where a laser shone at the BT Tower in London from a building a half-mile or so away had a diameter of over a metre.

    Clearly this is bigger than the pilot's pupil and you'd only have to hit the nose of the plane to be sure of flooding the cockpit with dazzlingly bright, coherent light.

  25. Evil Graham
    Coat

    Military tech to the rescue

    I'm no expert, but don't we have missiles that can fly down the path of a laser beam? If so, job done I reckon.

    Mine's the one with the old-fashioned blackboard pointer that looks like a car aerial and doesn't need batteries and can't be used to blind a pilot unless he's standing close to you and you poke him in the eye with it.

  26. Joe
    Black Helicopters

    obvious answer

    Bring Boeing's 747-mounted lazer in to land at Sydney and fire it back at anyone who shines a lazer at the pilot. Brings a whole new meaning to shedding some light on the situation...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @Pete

    Back in WWII the Germans seemed to have little trouble following many a Lancaster bomber with multiple searchlights, despite evasive manouevers.

    The fact that one can see the path of the beam is what makes it easy to stay on target. Classic feedback loop.

    Black helicopter coz it reminds me of the laser warning sign at work.

  28. Colin Mountford
    Boffin

    Powerpoint - literally

    I thought these guys wore mirrored shades (I know - I've seen Topgun). They just need to polish them a bit more before landing.

  29. ImaGnuber

    Speed of light

    Several references have been made regarding the difficulty of hitting a plane moving at several hundred mph. Aircraft speed is irrelevant. It's not as if you have to try to calculate the lead time necessary because of the length of time it takes the projectile - in this case light- to reach the target.

    As to distance - I don't know about the situation there but where I am aircraft frequently make long low approaches. It's not as if they are little dots in the sky one minute and directly off the end of the runway the next.

    A friend lives in an area where landing aircraft regularly bring conversations to a halt. You can practically count the rivets on the things.

    This is an entirely plausible concern.

  30. Shakje

    @steogede

    So how many times have accidents been proven to have resulted from speed camera flashes? Stop whining and do the speed limit.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Ban Everything!!!

    Whilst opinion is split on here, most of the 'it can be done!!' people are falling back to the argument that you would need a high power green laser.

    So why ban low power red pointers then??

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm going to apply the laser defence mentality

    So when we've had reports about the US' laser defence weapons shooting down mortar rounds, shells and rockets the uneducated came up with this brilliant idea of "OMG JUST STICK MIRRORS ON THE ROUNDS TO REFLECT THE LASERS AWAY"

    So here's my idea-

    Just stick mirrors on the planes and replace the cockpit window with a mirror reflecting outwards!

    Oh wait...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    surely it would have taken 2 frenchmen?

    everyone seems to be assuming these are the 1mw laser pointers you get at tech conferences etc., but the simple truth is that you can get anything up to a 300mw laser pointer on ebay for less than 100 quid.

    affixed to a powerful monocular on a tripod and properly calibrated against a stationary object you could easily have something that could do a lot of damage if you lined yourself a mile or so from the airport on the flightpath of incoming planes.

    you wouldn't even have to aim directly at the pupils of the pilot as the beam would spread out enough that just pointing roughly at the cockpit itself would fill it with blinding green light and make it more than a tad awkward to fly the plane.

    now find 2 or 3 like minded idiots and have them spaced apart and all doing the same thing.

    of course, it could just be aliens.

  34. Bob_Hunk
    Boffin

    A relatively cheap solution.

    As a laser technician, a cheap(ish) and quick solution has popped into my head. Issue the pilots with laser safety goggles. Let's see, goggles that block green wavelength ranges *flips through catalogue* Hmmm, ~£100 a pair. Not fantastically cheap, but probably the easiest solution to impliment.

    Of course, I know nothing about landing a plane, so if there are some critical green lights that the pilots need to see (either on the ground, or on their control panels), then it's back to the drawing board.

  35. Schoofs
    Boffin

    For the skeptics

    A little research can do wonders, can't it.

    Perhaps the skeptics should read this first:

    http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/RS22033.pdf

    and this:

    http://www.faa.gov/library/reports/medical/oamtechreports/2000s/media/0409.pdf

    For the laser wielding idiots, a quote from Frank Zappa: "There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life."

  36. This post has been deleted by its author

  37. D Griffin

    There are lasors specifically designed to get pilots attention in this way

    All those of you who are saying targeting a pilot in this way is impossible should perhaps take a look at http://www.sea-me.co.uk/laser_flare.htm . The products produce a line rather than a spot and can easily cross a pilots line of sight - I've legitimately used one in this way.

  38. Spleen

    Ban laser pointers

    As 10:32 says, what's wrong with pointy sticks? Ooh, I know, you can beat people over the head with them or sharpen them at one end and stick them in people. Ban those too so people have to use their fingers. Wait, those can be curled into a ball and used to hit people, get rid of them. People can always jerk their heads in the direction of the diagram... or into people's faces... shit, I'm a walking bag of criminality, wait while I fetch my hacksaw and perform some surgery on myself.

    Distracting pilots with a laser pointer is already illegal, so... why not use the existing laws and actually try to catch the people doing it? It's funny how people think Minority Report is some kind of dystopic nightmare society when banning something because it *might* lead to someone committing a genuine crime is no different from predicting someone committing a crime and arresting them before they do it. In fact, much worse, since less than 1% of laser pointer owners or illegal drug users actually go out and commit theft, rape or assault, whereas the bald triplets in the swimming pool were 100% accurate if I remember correctly. (Did Tom Cruise actually shoot the guy in the end? If he didn't it's still >99% accuracy.)

    To actually answer the question, some screens are very large and if you're in a large auditorium with an audience looking down at you from different angles, you might as well indicate with your finger..

  39. Pete Silver badge

    @Pete - Pete replies

    OK team, I've read the responses - not convinced. Here's why.

    As was pointed out, laser beams spread. It's only a few milli-radians but the wider the beam, the lower the brilliance and the less dazzling effect. The further away the wider the beam and the lower the light intensity again. Inverse square - the effect falls off rapidly.

    Next, passengers not seeing the effect: The size of the window is irrelevant. Provided you are close enough - e.g. in the window seat your field of view is as good as a forward-looking pilot's. There should be some reports from passengers

    Third, to actually illuminate a pilot, as has been pointed out you have to be virtually on the flight path. Someone under the aircraft or to the side can't see the pilot and (more to the point) the pilot can't see them, even out of the corner of their eyes WW2 spotlights? They illuminated the side/bottom of the planse. Even when caught in the spotlights, virtually NONE were hit by AAA. It was more a morale thing than a defence thing.

    Almost last. Sorry to be the bringer of bad news, but the power of lasers sold inthe shops is more a work of fiction than fact. The ones advertised at 20mW, 50mW 100mW etc. are generally nowhere near that - it's only advertising. Yes a few can pop a balloon, but move the balloon a mile away and you won't even light it, let alone burst it. One thing that people don't realise is that the power of these pointers falls off as the batteries get low and as the laser ages.

    Nearly there.... I still don't buy the ability of a person to hand-aim a laser onto a moving target over a mile away for any significant time. It's simply not possible and I defy anyone to prove otherwise. As a benchmark, the moon subtends an angle of 0.5 degree - you can't hand-aim a laser at that for any time, let alone the front of a plane - let alone the pilot's window - let alone the pilot's eye - even for a millisecond, even if they weren't moving.

    Finally (phew) any terrorist worth their salt would use an IR laser - that leaves no visual trace and can therefore be placed at any location with impunity. In case you're wondering, a green laser is in reality an IR laser diode with a frequency doubler (or trebler) integrated.

  40. Ross

    ILS?

    Don't pilots land using ILS? What are they looking out of the window for?

    Still ridiculous to be pointing lasers at people intentionally mind. Although to be honest the only thing that really surprises me about this story is the fact it happened in Aus first and not Blighty. I can only surmise that our brand of tossers are slower on the uptake and didn't think of it first.

  41. Silentmaster101
    Coat

    who cares?

    who cares about the pilots? i think we all know by now that planes pretty much, takeoff, navigate, fly, land and taxi themselves these days by computer, the pilot only being a safety device. just tell them to keep their heads down or something. now its a shame that Australia doesn't have a patriot act like we yanks do, or they could just have some misguided air marshall with a sniper rifle abuse it and take out the laser-wielding problem child.

    mines the one with the remnants of the constitution in the pocket...

  42. Dave

    @Cobblers

    It's quite easy at night to illuminate a target the size of an aircraft at a range of a couple of miles. I remember many years ago when laser pointers were much bigger and much newer, we were up on a hill one night and could see the light on the local church spire at that sort of distance. It is a concern to pilots, so even if your little 1mW job won't do it, there are plenty of higher power ones that can.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dazzling lights...

    My driveway has a short steep uphill section that results in my headlines being aimed up into a part of the sky where airplanes on approach may sometimes be found. In short, my fairly bright headlights sometimes are aimed directly into the cockpit of approaching airliners that aren't much more than a kilometer away. Not much I can do about it.

    One question: on a day with too many lasers on approach, why not simply switch to IFR procedures (stop looking out the window) while the police attempt to track down the culprits? This assumes that the culprits are not able to get in a position to dazzle the pilots in the final moments just before touch-down.

  44. Schoofs
    Thumb Down

    Stop the nonsense or go-around!

    @Ross

    Most landings have an ILS guided approach but end with a visual landing. Fully automated landings are certainly not the norm since they require very expensive ground and airborne components. Most airports do not have the necessary equipment supporting the precision required for autolanding.

    @Pete

    How difficult is it for you to Google for "laser pilot ntsb"????

    Johan (PPL(A))

  45. Tom
    Stop

    Angle of approach

    When a plane lands, It has it's nose up, quite simply, from the ground you wouldn't have the required clean tradgectory, unless you knew the exact angle of approach, and the angle the windshield is set, and the relative height of the pilot in relation to all this, to plan a correct refraction. To pull this of, as they are suggesting, would required a targeting system and a computer.

    To have any chance of overloading someones rods and cones, you would have to be above the hight of the cockpit at time of interception, seen as Australia isn't exactly abundant with natural undulations, I find all of this very hard to swallow, unless it's traffic controll having a laugh, even then, the plane would be so close to touch down the effect would be neglegent.

    If this really was happening, they would be able to work out from all the varibales required to create the scenario, where the laser was stationed.

  46. John Chadwick

    @ a relatively cheap solution

    I seem to remember that aircraft have green landing gear down indicators, and that three greens means that the landing gear is down and locked.

    But nice try.

    Why do we need these lasers anyway, surly you only need one that goes 25m. Mind you they are cheap enough for kids to buy, and it's probably kids doing it. Just think of the kudos you could get by showing little Johnny that you can tag a jumbo. My what fun!

  47. brian
    Unhappy

    Zero in

    As a weekend pilot myself, I wonder why the pilots can't guide police to the approximate area where the beam is. They've got the best view and I doubt that whoever is doing this is in the middle of a big crowd.

    Regular surveillance by ground cops should catch these fools and then charge them with attempted murder - for a Jumbo that could be 500 counts......

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Angle of approach

    "When a plane lands, It has it's nose up"

    Which has sod all to do with the angle of approach. In a simplified world during the approach the pitch of the plane (which is what I think you mean) is used to control altitude and keep it on the glideslope, it can be positive or negative. The extreme nose up is just for touchdown.

  49. ImaGnuber

    Stupidity

    There has been frequent mention of the difficulty of aiming a 'hand-held' laser. Well, I have a camera intended to be used as a hand-held device. I guess it must be impossible for anyone to use it with a long lens (which magnifies the effect of an unsteady hand) because obviously no one would ever think of attaching it to a tripod to hold it steady.

    And it is so difficult to use a telescope to find a particular star because no one has thought to invent a spotting scope. Oh, wait a minute...

    Obviously no one would think of applying these methods to the problem under discussion... thank god all the malicious folks in the world are stupid.

    Hmm... I guess I have to assume all these reports of security problems on the internet are bogus because they would require a level of intelligence that many writers seem to think is beyond the capability of malicious people!

    Assuming that moral stupidity is a certain indication of general stupidity is... stupidity. Underestimating the intelligence of your opponent is always a stupid move.

  50. Sam

    Oh, FFS....

    To all the gizmoids on here spouting crap on a variation of "it can't happen / it never happened"

    Please read this sentence from the original article slowly, you can move your lips if you like;

    "SIX PASSENGER FLIGHTS WERE AFFECTED, WITH AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS HAVING TO RE-ROUTE THE PLANES"

    Now go away and write what you are on your forehead, with a marker pen.

    No, don't use a mirror, it will come out as "tnuc a ma I".

  51. Angus Wood

    I sympathise. Landing is HARD!

    If you get hit in the eye by a bright light on approach then you will be uncomfortable and/or spooked. Your concentration will be shot and you've probably missed your place in the checklists. You should do a go-around and retry the approach.

    Yes, the machine could probably land itself but the human pilot is there in case it does not. One flight in thousands they'll earn their money for the year by doing so.

  52. Ian
    Alert

    @ Tom (12:07)

    "When a plane lands, It has it's nose up, quite simply, from the ground you wouldn't have the required clean tradgectory,"

    Unfortunately that's not true.

    1) It depends on the aircraft. A B757 approaches nose low, a B747 approaches nose high. They LAND nose high, for obvious reasons, but approach is a different matter.

    2) By necessity (unless you are flying a Spitfire or a P-51 Mustang, for example), the pilots have to see the runway. That is ALL of the runway, including the undershoot, so you know how you are positioned in relation to it. If you look at all ILS equipped runways, they have an array of lights on the approach to the runway which are used for visual tracking / confirming / positioning on a precision approach. These light arrays are visible by the pilots until short final approach, as the aircraft goes over them. They are also almost always outside the aircraft perimiter fence and thus usually in publicly accessable areas. There's no problem at all getting line of sight at the flight deck windows.

    Ian P.

    CAA PPL/IMC (although admittedly lapsed)

  53. david wilson

    Underpowered

    If a laser beam indeed spreads out to a metre or so across, there's no way a 300mW laser could fill the inside of a cockpit "with blinding green light".

    300mW spread over a square metre is bugger-all in terms of energy. Sunlight gives something like 1kW/square metre.

    To approach sunlight intensity, you'd need a real (not just claimed) 300mW concentrated into a spot about 2cm diameter.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe it was a surveyor's laser?

    My bosses have given up the lease on our current office, and a new prospective tennant recently had the surveyors in. I was walking down the corridor and was suddenly hit in the eye by a red laser.

    Whatever sort of machine it was, it scanned its laser in a little square and flickered over my right eye very rapidly, dazzling me quite badly. Cue shut eye and pointing my remaining open eye at the wall.

    Stick a green laser in one of those machines and targetting a plane would be dead easy.

  55. Remy Redert

    @David

    That would be true, where we talking polychromatic white light. Unfortunately, we're talking not just about green light here, we're talking about a laser with a single frequency somewhere in the green spectrum. This means it focuses all that energy into a relatively small part of your eye's ability to see colours, unlike sunlight which spreads it out nicely.

    Try this little experiment for fun. Take a halfway decent mirror. Place it 50 meters away. Point a 50 milliwatt green or red laser at it and look at the dot.

    Come back when you've regained your vision a few minutes later and post a sane reply.

  56. Daniel Wilkie

    But WHY

    Why do we need laser pointers that can reach a mile away? Seriously, the little one I had on my key ring years ago could reach about 30m, how big a screen do you think you're going to be pointing to?

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Possible solutions

    I am always amazed at how people are answering to some articles.

    One solution to reduce problems with laser is the use of polarizer filter on the windows. That's relatively low tech and should handle most cases.

    If you want to go deeper in terms of technology, you could then consider more advanced polarizer filters using LCD crystals that would be rotating with some frequency.

    It won't stop the laser to go through depending on the angle, but in most case it would seriously reduce the intensity of what is going through.

    Of course, the most advanced system would be a virtual reality display with multiple cameras to handle the situation. The only inherent problem with this is that you end up depending on an advanced mechanism to see what is going on. But again, it is already the case in a plane in the first place.

  58. Barrie Shepherd

    Banning Lasers

    Yes it’s stupid to beam lasers at aircraft or any other object where people may be dazzled. As far as I can remember there have been less than 20 reports in the New South Wales press over the last 4/5 years (the period green lasers have been readily available).

    I was amused by one report recently which said the pilot reported being flashed by an “infra red laser”, I’m wondering if they have fitted civil aircraft with IR laser detectors (and anti rocket flares) lest the many terrorists who roam the world get hold of some laser guided missile!! I still have no idea how he knew he was beamed by infra red.

    If the interfering politicians do ban them perhaps they can also ban the HID car headlights which temporarily blind me and many other motorists every night on the pot hole ridden roads of inner Sydney. Not that bans stop idiots anyway.

  59. Miami Mike

    Yes, it is a danger

    I'm a pilot, an Advanced Ground School Instructor, and an FAA Aviation Safety Counselor.

    Pilot work load is highest at landing. The final approach, flare, touchdown and rollout are done visually, not by instruments. On an IFR flight (most airline operations are IFR), the instruments get you to a few hundred feet short of and above the end of the runway, after that, it is entirely up to the pilot who has to look out the window.

    An aircraft stabilized on final approach is on a very smooth, very predictable path. It doesn't take any great feat of marksmanship to shine a laser pointer into the cockpit, just when the pilot is looking directly out the front of the airplane, eyes intently focused in a specific direction, paying complete attention to the runway, which is going to be directly in front of him (or her).

    The majority of aircraft accidents happen during the takeoff and landing phases of flight, predictably, most of them are on landing.

    I suggest anyone who doesn't think this kind of crap is dangerous go for a drive on a motorcycle with their eyes shut. These morons are going to kill someone, or a lot of someones, and the longer it goes on the better chance there will be a disaster.

    In the US, interfering with the duties of the flight crew is already a felony. These are the same people who throw cement blocks off overpasses onto cars below - ha ha funny funny, and people are dead.

    Personally, I think the 747 ray-gun special shooting back is an excellent idea, incidentally, there is also a C-130 model ray-gun gunship which may very shortly be operational, that's another option. In the meantime, there needs to be some prompt and concentrated action in catching and punishing - severely - these clowns.

    Possibly even more sinister - these are not random clowns and morons, but terrorists refining their techniques, and "the plan" is to cause a few hundred simultaneous crashes around the world - perfect use of asymmetric force, for the price of a few laser pointers off eBay, they can cause thousands of deaths, and probably get away clean.

    Sleep well tonight, just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

  60. Mike Fortey

    !Duh!

    What's more idiotic: People doing it, or well paid IT staff disbelieving actual 'plane diversions because they 'think' it can't happen?

  61. Gianni Straniero
    Boffin

    Astronomy

    Amateur astronomers sometimes use green lasers as a coarse aiming device for their 'scopes, and to point out areas of interest. They're particularly good because, for a given power, green is perceived as brighter than any other colour: the human eye is most sensitive to 550nm wavelength radiation.

    UK law and HSE guidance should prevent the sale of all but <1mW Class 2 lasers for general-purpose applications, including amateur astronomy. Perhaps the Australians should look to issue similar guidance before sending a volley of Hellfire missiles down on some unsuspecting stargazers.

  62. J
    Dead Vulture

    Hm...

    First: word of the week goes for "tradgectory". For those who are not in possession of an up-to-date, world-class dictionary, that means: the trajectory of a tragedy-causing element.

    Now, I wonder how many of these incidents have been caused by El Reg readers out there with their mates betting: I'll show you idiots it can't be done, the angle, the power, the speed, look! Oh, the landing has been aborted... Run!

    And last but not least, can Mythbusters do an episode on this, pretty please? (maybe they have already, but I'm too lazy to look it up)

    Vulture has looked into green laser while landing.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    A couple of minor points

    My first point is that anyone sat near the end of the runway with a piece of equipment on a tripod, lining it up through a scope may well find themselves getting grabbed pretty quickly on general grounds of security.

    Another point would be that the cheap, easy to find and difficult to prevent sale of source for lasers is a DVD burner; extract the laser diode, and integrate it into a standard laser pointer body and you've got a nasty bit of hardware. So banning laser pointers of any type isn't really going to work.

    A DVD burner based laser point would be particularly hazardous given the combination of high output (100s of mW) and being an IR laser - there isn't any blink response to IR so you wouldn't even know you were targeted until the world went dark.

    As for using it - goggles would be a must (to prevent accidentally blinding yourself), but actual targeting would be easily achieved with a standard video or digital stills camera, as this will clearly display the reflected IR.

    Whether there is an actual threat to aircraft is another matter, given the range and motion of the target it wouldn't be hard to paint the target but it would be difficult to get any meaningful amount of energy through a window into someone's eyes - diffraction, absorption, scattering & movement of the target just make it too difficult. Look at the camera video from a tripod mounted laser speed camera and you'll see how hard it it to track a target, let alone a specific point on it.

    So I'm not sure there's a particular problem - and if there is it can be dealt with by security/police patrols as those playing this kind of game are going to have to be in a particular location at the time, and should therefore be easily caught.

  64. Herby Silver badge

    At times these devices are EVIL

    A couple of points:

    If the pilot can see the ground (airport/runway), then the idiot with the laser pointer can "see" him.

    The pointers do spread out a bit, but not that much. The "aimer" (idiot on ground) usually uses a reflection on the windscreen to aim.

    While driving on the freeway a couple of years ago (at night!) I had one of these pointed at me. It was VERY distracting, especially since you really don't know what it is, and it is very unexpected).

    Everyone should try to drive into the blinding setting sun to have a similar effect. You end up lowering visors, putting up hands, moving papers, anything to get it out of the way. Now do that while landing a plane. Oh wait you weren't told about it in advance.

    Counter measures (zapping back) might cure the problem (permanently!).

    Oh, another thing, the wavelength (green) is where the eye is most sensitive (so we can tell different vegetation apart from the tasty animals we used to hunt).

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Training drill

    Instead of banning the lasers

    Wouldnt this be a good opportunity to practice arresting a terrorist with a missile launcher. If these guys can get into position to hit with a laser and have no trouble getting away the what about people with real weapons

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    DVD burner lasers

    ...wouldn't do anything - in a DVD burner they are focussed through a lens at a target a few mm away so they don't need to have accurate collimation. Take them out of the burner and remove the lens and they will be all over the place.

  67. Charles Manning

    Time for the rat brains

    Didn't we have an article some time back that a rat brain can fly a plane (except for doing that "This is the captain speaking...." blurb before takeoff).

    Those rat brains won't worry about shiny lights.

    While I'm sure a laser is annoying for pilots, this really comes down to fear mongering. 9/11 hijackers use $2 box cutters! Grannies can't take knitting needles on planes! Terrorists use everyday articles! Ban everything!

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    By the surplus of recent 'down under' stupidity...

    ...I've come to conclude that Australia is the new America.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Is see that school holidays are on.

    "My physics teacher always said never to look at the dot of a laser, because even when reflected, monochromatic coherent light (as is generated by a laser and nothing else in the solar system) is bad for the retina."

    ... probably the same physics teacher whose head was recently blown off by GSM radiation?

    I would think that "bad for the retina" is a function of watt/m^2, not of frequency distribution, but that's just me. Of course, you get different damage effects depending on the frequency used but that's another problem.

    ... come to think of it this would explain why lots of pointy-haired bosses spending their time in conferences staring at waving red dots seem fracking blind.

  70. David

    Pilots need lasers

    Pilots need lasers to shine back at the perpetrators. That way they at least get them back before the plane goes down.

  71. david wilson

    @Remy

    It's still the case that *if* the spot had indeed grown to anything *like* a metre across, the energy density would be low, whatever the spectral characteristics.

    The receptive pigments in the eye have a fairly wide sensitivity to different wavelengths. When it comes to bleaching those pigments, there's nothing magical about monochromatic light compared to wider-spectrum light which is still in the relevant range.

    If you lit up a room with X lumens of wide-spectrum light, and then switched to X lumens of very narrowband light (as from a colour LED), the narrowband version wouldn't be obviously more dazzling merely by dint of its narrowband nature.

    The idea of 300mW of light (of any frequency or combination thereof) lighting up an entire cockpit to dazzling intensity is simply nonsense.

    300mW of even the most sensitively-received wavelength of green is still only ~200 lumens, and you can get that much light out of a decent LED torch there days.

    Now, it's certainly the case that, compared to sunlight, laser light would appear to be coming from a near-point-source, so could be focussed onto a much smaller area of the retina than if someone were, for example, staring at the sun. The flipside of that is that any temporary blind spot is going to be very small, and some cockpit-based observer would need to keep their gaze steady on the bright spot, and you'd still have the issues of windscreens, sunglasses, etc all combining to reduce the energy.

    Remember, we're not talking laser pointers 50/100m away, but more like kilometres. Beam dispersal is going to give an inverse-square effect, so being 10x the distance away is going to drop the intensity by a factor of 100.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @Pete

    Well, I certainly haven't tried it, but it seems to me that "hitting" a plane with a high-powered laser pointer isn't like firing a bullet. For one thing, the green lasers put out a visible beam, which would greatly aid in aiming. Plus the laser can be left on continually, so really all you'd have to do is anticipate with some degree of accuracy where the plane will be crossing and leave the laser trained on that spot. Finally, you're not "popping a balloon" with it, you're 'dazzling' the pilot. I imagine with the stress of trying to land, especially at night, a green flash in your eye, even for a split-second, would be most disconcerting. The cockpit windshield would scatter the beam somewhat, so a direct hit wouldn't even be necessary to project reflections all over the cockpit. And some of these are powerful enough that if an accurate enough 'hit' was scored, it could at least temporarily leave a bright spot on the pilot's retina, making a visual final approach difficult. Not to mention the nervewracking aspect of wondering if it's going to happen again, or if you're being targeted with the laser sight of some kind of weapon.

    So all in all, I'd say this could be more of a problem than a simple easily-discountable myth. Anyone that's played with even a >8 mW laser pointer knows how disturbing it is when you accidentally get a reflection in your eye.

    And yes, these people are criminals. Although banning the devices isn't the solution any more than trying to prevent forest fires by banning matches.

  73. Mike Moyle Silver badge
    Boffin

    @ Pete

    "As was pointed out, laser beams spread. It's only a few milli-radians but the wider the beam, the lower the brilliance and the less dazzling effect. The further away the wider the beam and the lower the light intensity again. Inverse square - the effect falls off rapidly."

    If I'm reading you correctrly, you believe that there could be no momentary dazzle at all from a laser passing across the pilot's eyes at distance? Because, as I see it (sorry) having spots in one's eyes, suddenly, in the final five or ten seconds before touching a 250-ton aircraft to the ground could be... disconcerting, at best.

    You only need enough power to disorient or distract the pilots, not completely blind them.

    Also, I don't recall any mention of the timing of these events but, if they took place at night, with the pilots' pupils somewhat dilated from looking at dimly-illuminated controls in a dimly-lit cockpit so as to not affect their night vision, the dazzle-effect from a laser COULD be significantly increased.

    "Next, passengers not seeing the effect: The size of the window is irrelevant. Provided you are close enough - e.g. in the window seat your field of view is as good as a forward-looking pilot's. There should be some reports from passengers"

    If the idiot with the laser is on the glide path, with the plane coming towards him, then the passengers looking out the side windows - which by definition, are pretty much parallel to the direction of flight and, hence, the laser beam - would be looking PERPENDICULAR to the beam, as opposed to the pilot who is looking basically TOWARDS it. Big difference. As an experiment, if you have a generic laser pointer, hold it perpendicular to your line of sight and shine it at the wall. Can you actually see the beam as it goes through the air? Unless you are in a dusty/smoky room, probably not, because the light is all moving in one direction, and not bouncing out at every angle possible. You generally need to have a fog, smoke, or similar medium to see any "beam" effect, making it unlikely (not to say impossible, but highly unlikely) that the passengers would see anything at all from a laser aimed from the front.

    "Third, to actually illuminate a pilot, as has been pointed out you have to be virtually on the flight path. Someone under the aircraft or to the side can't see the pilot and (more to the point) the pilot can't see them, even out of the corner of their eyes."

    Pete, the pilots are LOOKING DOWN AT THE RUNWAY ON FINAL APPROACH. Therefore, they are also looking at anybody who is, say, near either END of the runway.

    As an example, I would suggest that you fire up Google Earth and look up LAX. The runways at Los Angeles International airport all run, basically, east-west since the prevailing winds come off the land during the day and off the ocean at night. At one end of the runways is the beach (with a parking area), at the other end is the San Diego Freeway, and then a residential area, with lots of windows for stupid people to sit in, looking straight down the runway at approaching aircraft, the flight-crews of which may be looking directly at them on approach.

    "Nearly there.... I still don't buy the ability of a person to hand-aim a laser onto a moving target over a mile away for any significant time. It's simply not possible and I defy anyone to prove otherwise. As a benchmark, the moon subtends an angle of 0.5 degree - you can't hand-aim a laser at that for any time, let alone the front of a plane - let alone the pilot's window - let alone the pilot's eye - even for a millisecond, even if they weren't moving."

    Again, you ignore the fact that, if the target is approaching the shooter then it is, for all practical purposes, stationary - making keeping the beam on target significantly easier.

    I carry a small 15-power telescope - pretty much the highest power scope that I can use hand-held - in my jacket pocket. If I am riding down the highway in a vehicle, I can keep signs over the highway directly in front of me centered quite easily, while looking out the side window at something as we pass it is much more difficult. In the first case the position of the target remains almost constant relative to me, while in the latter it is changing rapidly.

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Will Work ? Won't it Work ?

    Has anyone ever thought that the never ending bickering as to whether or not lasers can be shone in the eyes of pilots this way is precisely why people go out and try it ?

    I believe it used to be called "Experimental Scientific Method".

    Mine's the one with the laser catalogue and a parking permit for T5 in the pocket.

  75. Tim Hogard

    I've seen green laser from a plane

    On approach to Melbourne I noticed a green laser and it did cause the scratches in the window to light up. It was also very easy to tell where the beam was coming from. If they ban pointing lasers at airplanes, will they also ban pointing lasers at cars or are the revenues too high from the IR lasers the police like to use?

  76. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I have done this.

    I have gone out to my local airport, with a scope, and a tripod. I stood outside the fence, and looked through the scope, to see if I could spot the windshield of the cabin.

    4 planes landed, and four in a row, for at least a brief period, I was able to lock that scope on the windshield of the cabin. (There are legitmate, non-flashing things in people's eyes behind this, that had a lot to do with testing stabilisation technologies, and some auto-lock-on visualisation software.)

    I was able to get 4 out of 4 MANUALLY. The software was able to keep the cabin of these planes in sight almost 100% of the time during approach. (Landing, the screen moves out of range.)

    Don't bull**** me that it would be impossible, because if you strap 1, 2, 14, 25 whatever number laser pointers to that scope, you could cause a horrendous amount of light to flood the cabin, fairly coherantly.

    Given my software, and this lovely USB-powered scope and software I have been working on, it would be very simple to drive up to my local airport in a van, park outside the gate, and have the computer light up every single plane as it tries to land.

    That said, all of this gear, (including the laptop) cost me less than $1000. So I imagine doing it the old fashioned "manual" way, would cost a LOT less.

    Paris, because even she could understand that "impossible" is simply a word used by those without enough imagination.

  77. tony trolle

    funny thing is

    one of 'my fav' sellers on ebay is based in Oz and they sell hi-power lazers

  78. david

    not too terribly hard...

    give me one of those higher powered numbers, a camera tripod, a SLR with a big zoom lens, and some electrical tape. betcha i could paint a target from quite a few miles with a little practice. even a moving one.

    and after all, airliners aren't flipping all over the sky, they tend to follow nice, easy, stable flight paths. given the distances involved, the relative motion is actually quite low, seen from the perspective of the user. not too hard to follow that thing down, in truth, since it's only going to swing through a few inches of arc, when viewed from a distance.

    ever notice how airliners seem to crawl across the sky at altitude? same thing.

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Not all attacks are real attacks

    Firstly - the purpose of these powerful (actually only 5mW which have a range of about 5km - 7km tops) green lasers is for attaching to telescopes to help identify which area of the sky you are looking at when doing astronomy - perfectly legitimate.

    While I agree that it is possible and extremely dangerous to target lasers at the cockpit of planes on landing approach, there seems to be a lot of articles around laser attacks that are plain (no pun intended) unbelievable.

    For example there was another article here in Australia (Perth WA) only 2 weeks ago that claimed concerted attacks on the Police Rescue Helicopter which forced them to take "evasive maneuvers". In this case the Police heli used "sophisticated mapping software" to identify where the laser "attack" came from - arrests were made and the lasers confiscated.

    However the article also mentions the area in which the Heli was flying (patrolling over Joondalup) and where they allege the attacks came from (Yokine)... a distance of over 15km (measured on Google earth). Chances are this was not a concerted attack on the heli (from over 15km - thats some pretty good aiming) and more likely the laser was being used legitimately and the heli just happened to fly into the (greatly dispersed by this stage) beam and the pilot has panicked.

    While there are some random people who might try to see if they can hit a plane in the sky, unless the plane is landing and they are in the glide path, the chances of actually hitting and keeping it on the cockpit is pretty small and the chances of it actually dazzling the pilot with the amount of dispersion it would have (after say 10-15km away and at least 3km or 10,000 feet up) is minuscule.

    Given the legitimate uses of the lasers, there is no reason for a complete ban... they should however declare laser exclusion zones along the runway glide paths... this has the effect of keeping the ban only to those areas where there use of the lasers pose an actual danger, and making it significantly easier to enforce (smaller area to monitor and easier to identify offenders).

    IMHO while some of these supposed "attacks" are extremely dangerous (like on the planes landing in Sydney), many of the reports we are seeing in the news are completely unrealistic.

    Of course even if they do a blanket ban, any group of extremists that want to bring a plane down in this way, will have no problem in a) getting hold of powerful enough lasers and b) making the attack from a vehicle by the side of the road and then just leaving the area before the authorities have the chance to arrive and nab them. So a blanket ban only inconvenience the general populace while still not protecting us from extremists from making a real attack and morons already already in possession of a laser avin a larf.

  80. Legless
    Paris Hilton

    Nope

    I don't buy this for a second.

    The closest I'll accept is that the pilots *might* be able to see the odd beam flash by them (probably dozens of yards away) as some idiot *tries* to focus on them but that's as far as I'll go.

    Someone hitting a target moving in three dimensions from a mile away without some serious kit is too much to swallow.

    Paris - 'cos she'll swallow anything

    Cheers

  81. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    @ Pete: Lancasters

    Apart from all the others who have rightly pointed out the many errors in your comment, I would like to add one point: 4171 Lancasters were lost during the second world war, quite a number of which to FLAK. I would not say 4171 losses supports your claim that hardly any were hit. To these losses add 2627 Halifaxes, 1970 Wellingtons, etc.

    Also, when Ju 52s tried to land on Dutch airfields whilst the AA had not been suppressed, a huge number were shot down during their approach. Aiming a line of tracer (manually) is similar (though more difficult) than aiming a laser (lack of recoil, nice straight trajectory, etc).

  82. Dr Patrick J R Harkin
    Gates Halo

    Just shows you the new technology isn't safer than the old.

    When I started out, we didn't use laser pointers in lectures, we had a big stick. But then someone pointed out that if you took a really big stick - military grade, not the short ones we used in lectures - you could poke the pilot with it and cause a crash, and demanded they were banned.

    But this is obviously an enviromental protest group trying to shut down air travel - I mean, it's obvious, they're using GREEN lasers!

    Bill icon to show how people are trying to shut down Microsoft by the use of yellow lasers.

    And now if you'll excuse me, it's time for my morning medication.

  83. Dave Cheetham

    Distraction at crucial point.

    At the distance from landing that the Pilot would be distracted by a flickering light or sudden flash or reflection, the pilot is a) transitioning from instrument to visual and b) monitoring for any light coming on to indicate possible problem.

    It does not have to be powerful enough to blind or do anything, merley distracting the pilot at that crucial time is enough to cause a major incident.

    ATC had reported several aborted landings because of this distraction.

    What part of the danger or believability of this article do you not undrestand.

    Why do most people need to have these even ordinatry power laser pointers for anyway. Pick up the kid in the street with one and I don't think he will be about to give a lecture at the local university. They are mainly used by mindless morons to dazzle oncoming traffic anyway.

    BAN THEM.

  84. Bryan

    Durrrr

    what about giving the two pilots a nice pair of mirrored raybans for their decent, unless we want to go lashing 14 year old into prison that is, but last i checked being a stupid little muppet wasn't an offence.

  85. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Effect on pupil dilation

    The pilots are working in a dark environment and their pupils are fully dilated. What happens when bright light enters the eye is that the pupil contracts quickly and takes a while to open up again. During that time you feel pretty blinded. You can reproduce the effect by going out on a full-moon night, getting dark adapted and then looking straight into a small torch. Now, try to find the moon!

  86. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Boffin

    @Bryan

    Mirrored raybans do not work, as pointed out above, they reflect every frequency indiscriminately, so there would be no change in visual contrast (which is most important in term of visual perception) just in overall light level. The laser protection goggles suggested before would be the better option, but the best ones, which work interference filters, have to be chosen to match the wavelength of the laser. As these may vary, the problem remains.

    I really do not see what reasonable use high-power laser pointers have outside of a laboratory. Until I hear of some real use outside brainiac style fun (which can be real fun), I do not see why these potentially dangerous items (AT A RANGE, as opposed to a stick, you cannot out-run or dodge a laser) should be available without any control. It seems perfectly reasonable to work with a permit system: anyone (even a responsible kid with his own physics lab (they exist!)) should be able to get one, but the moment they use it to cause any kind of problems their permit is cancelled. If you are found using or owning one without a permit it should be confiscated.

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Hotel Room attacks

    This reminds me of the rumours that people were using them in Hotels to temporary blind people who had looked through the Peep Holes in Doors by shining them at very close range from the outside, after first knocking on the door to attract their attention.

  88. Matt Hawkins
    Joke

    ILS

    The trouble with automatic landing systems is that it is all too easy for a terrorist to take over a disused terminal computer and adjust sea level causing the plane to crash. I saw it in a documentary once ...

  89. Steve

    Power and divergence - some figures.

    The best laser you can get is a Spyder Wicked Laser, about 300mW (all 532nm) with a divergence of about 0.5mrad (all from memory - I forget the exact details). At 1km away that yields an intensity of 40uW/cm2 – you would certainly notice that; at 300 meters you would be dazzled (0.4mW/cm2), so there’s something in it.

    Of course laser pointers are supposed to be limited to around 5mW although many on ebay are 25-50mW (of focussed laser, excluding unfocussed IR leakage) and use cheap optics, but they would still capable of severely dazzling at 100m away.

    Anyone was had a green laser pointed at them should be very thankful it was a green laser. Be thankful the offender wasn’t clever enough to modify the laser to do something immeasurably more dangerous (anyone who knows how DPSS green lasers work will understand what I mean).

    I shouldn’t say any more!

    .

  90. Peter Mellor
    Boffin

    Red lasers safe (but green ones are obviously different)

    When lecturing I used a red laser pointer on occasions. (I am now retired.) It was the usual little gadget about 3cm long that would fit on a key ring. When I was showing it to some friends in the pub one evening, a young lady shone it directly into my eye from just across the table. Having the whole of one side of my field of vision suddenly flooded with red light was startling, but there were NO after-effects, not even short-term dazzling.

    I don't actually like laser pointers for lecturing. My hand is fairly steady, but the little red dot used to wobble about in a distracting way. Watching some of my colleagues trying to use them made me wonder if they had the alcoholic shakes, which was odd, since I thought I was the departmental lush!

    The students had them as well. The favourite trick was to shine them on the projector screen in places where I didn't want to point while I was trying to use my own pointer. One of the little b*st*rds managed a direct hit on my eye from the back of the class. Again, no effect; it didn't even interrupt my flow, and I couldn't even tell who'd done it.

    The best use for a red laser pointer is to aim it at the floor a few inches in front of a cat's nose, and keep it moving.

    Obviously the high-powered green lasers that we see advertised are a different matter altogether.

    "Boffin" since I used to be one.

  91. miika
    Coat

    So if they ban lasers.

    Then I guess everyone will move to super searchlights that plug into car lighters, the ones with the LEDs or something.

    If they outlaw lasers, only outlaws will have lasers.

    Sorry, had to say it.

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