back to article LASER STRIKES against US planes on the rise

The next time you find yourself on an airline flight coming in for a landing, consider this: at that very moment, someone on the ground could be training a handheld laser at your aircraft's cockpit. It happens more often than you think. The FBI has only been keeping records of laser beams striking planes since 2004, but …

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  1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Meh

    Bah humbug - simulated picture

    You're going to need something much more powerful that the average pointer laser to do any real damage and in any case, have you ever looked out of the window of a plane as you pass over the airport parking lot on a bright sunny day?

    I'm not saying that this isn't a potential problem - just that as usual, the real dangers are completely overblown.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      ...but the eye damage is real

      Your typical 5-25mW red laser pointer may be fairly harmless. However, any IR or visible light laser over 30mW (new classification) or 500mW (old classification) is considered to be unconditionally hazardous to eyesight. So, where does that leave the readily available 400mW watt green lasers of those 1W blue laser light sabres? If you think these are hard to find, just search the internet for 'green laser' or 'laser light sabre'.

      This isn't just a US problem: there are plenty of British idiots who think targetting aircraft is cool. Reading GASIL incident reports shows just how common this stupidity is.

      1. Schultz
        Thumb Down

        Re: ...but the eye damage is real...and rare

        This article conflates the scary quantity (1 in 6900 flights) with the scary danger (high power laser pointers) even

        though the powerful dangerous laser pointers are quite rare.

        Anybody else wonder about the fact that there are thousands of dangerous laser strikes every day, but not a single crash and only unspecified occurrence of eye damage? It's a potentially dangerous situation, but the article is just sensationalistic, trying to catch your attention with a scary story.

        Afraid of laser strikes? Better stay in bed today,because you might slip and break your neck.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ...but the eye damage is real...and rare

          The thin red line between "Sci-Tech News" (as El Reg puts it) and FUD. >:->

        2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: Re: ...but the eye damage is real...and rare

          "This article conflates the scary quantity (1 in 6900 flights) with the scary danger...." But it will only take one crash due to a dazzled pilot to kill possibly 100+ people. Many more if it happens in a neighbourhood rather than on the airfield itself.

          My brother is a civil engineer and one of his first jobs as working on the design of walkways over London streets. The design his company wanted to use had an enclosed walkway to stop people jumping off or throwing things at the traffic below. At a meeting with the government department overseeing the design they rubbished the idea, said the covering added too much expense, and had a clever slew of statistics to back up their argument. A few weeks after the first walkway his company built was opened one of those "one-in-a-million" cases happened and two kids dropped a concrete slab on a woman's car, killing her and causing a multi-car pile-up. Just for the lulz, apparently.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ...but the eye damage is real...and rare

          "Anybody else wonder about the fact that there are thousands of dangerous laser strikes every day, but not a single crash and only unspecified occurrence of eye damage? It's a potentially dangerous situation, but the article is just sensationalistic, trying to catch your attention with a scary story."

          No. Not at all. Because -if you actually think about it - a temporarily blinded pilot doesn't plunge the stick forward and open the throttle, in order to immediately crash, no more than I feel the urge to press Ctl-Alt-Del during a sneezing fit while typing.

          It's only likely to cause a crash if the plane is at low altitude and manoeuvring. In the meantime it's potentially causing problems and aborted landings and is a potentially more severe accident waiting to happen. And if it's caused eye damage, it might well have ended a pilot's career.

          "Afraid of laser strikes? Better stay in bed today,because you might slip and break your neck."

          So I should be allowed to string trip wires across the pavement, because pedestrians should have stayed in bed if they were afraid that some random fuck-nut would try to deliberately injure them with legal impunity?

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: ...but the eye damage is real

        Is that "dangerous when it emerges from the laser" of "dangerous after it has spread out to a six foot diameter beam several miles away"?

      3. WatAWorld

        numbers don't add up, 5-25 mW over a 6 foot radius is too weak to have impact

        But most of what the FAA is complaining about is incidents with hand held laser pointers.

        So these are cheap devices and the light diffuses over distances of a thousand feet, instead of staying coherent like it would with an expensive laser. The article quotes 6 foot radius.

        Spread that 5-25 mW over the 6 foot radius and it seems to me laughable it could cause eye damage.

        I calculate 6000 nW per square inch (6 µW). Hardly a flash bulb.

        25mW / (3.14 * (6ft *12in/ft/ 2)^2) = 6.14 *10^-6.

        (I'm a little rusty, would someone please double check that?)

        If they were complaining about industrial and medical lasers, if they had statistics for just those, they might have a strong point. But they don't. They didn't bother to collect the numbers.

        I cannot help wondering if maybe what they think are handheld lasers are in fact something more powerful or higher quality.

        For handheld lasers, I think the bigger hazard would be to truck and car drivers, where the distances are short and the light would still be concentrated and high intensity.

        All that said, people shouldn't be messing around with these things.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: numbers don't add up, 5-25 mW over a 6 foot radius is too weak to have impact

          Event the feeble hand-held lasers mess up the light amplifiers on the surveillance drones and police helicopters. But ... nobody gives at rats arse about that - and rightfully so.

          So a better story must be created to support a ban.

          1. Nuke

            @AC 20:26 - Re: numbers don't add up,

            Wrote : "Event the feeble hand-held lasers mess up the light amplifiers on the surveillance drones and police helicopters. But ... nobody gives at rats arse about that - and rightfully so."

            Does that include when they are searching for April Jones? You are an idiot.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @AC 20:26 - numbers don't add up,

              Bah - it's like The Daily Mail: "Think Of The Children" -> Turn society into an open prison Before It Is Too Late!!

      4. James Micallef Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: ...but the eye damage is real

        1) the article is lumping all different powers of lasers together,giving a total number of incidents. I don't doubt either the availability nor the danger of high-powered lasers, but what percentage of them is actually used in these incidents, as opposed to the low-power 'teacher-pointing-to-a-blackboard' variety?

        2) What's the exposure time neede to cause damage? It's hard enough to keep a laser fixed on a static target at km-scale ranges, when it's a (very fast-) moving target, how many of these incidents have the light in the cockpit for more than a few ms?

        3) Modern airliners are capable of taking off and landing completely automatically

        So all things considered I think the chances of a plane crash due to a laser pointer are as theoretical as the 'plane-will-crash-if-a-mobile-phone-is-turned-on', and is basically scaremongering. Still, if you get your kicks out of laser targeting as a sort of sport, why not just target the rear of the plane? The 'difficulty' of aiming the laser is identical and you aren't being an antisocial bastard shining your laser in people's eyes.

    2. JaitcH
      Thumb Down

      Re: Bah humbug - simulated picture

      Bull! Looks awfully realistic based on my experience.

    3. LarsG
      Meh

      I'd love those odds

      On a ticket for the national lottery!

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: I'd love those odds

        Even your average stateside Pick 4 is tougher to hit (1 in 10,000).

    4. Richard Scratcher
      Facepalm

      Re: Bah humbug - simulated picture

      "...have you ever looked out of the window of a plane as you pass over the airport parking lot on a bright sunny day?"

      At night a person's pupils will have dilated up to 25 times the size they are on a sunny day. The retina will undergo a physical change to make it many thousand times more sensitive to light. This takes about 20 minutes to happen and is why the cabin lights are dimmed before a plane lands at night - to give passengers' eyes time to adjust in case of emergency. Returning from night vision takes about 5 minutes.

      Pilots need to be able to see, especially while they're landing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ...person's pupils will have dilated up to 25 times the size...

        'shrooms. I've been there.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Re: Bah humbug - simulated picture

        So on a REALLY sunny day, my pupil will be, say 1 mm, then at night, by your suggestion, my pupil will be an inch in diameter????

        Your maths are as flaky as your biology.....

        1. Twyst
          FAIL

          Re: Bah humbug - simulated picture

          "So on a REALLY sunny day, my pupil will be, say 1 mm, then at night, by your suggestion, my pupil will be an inch in diameter????

          Your maths are as flaky as your biology....."

          25 times the area, not the diameter - astonishing that you can criticise someone's maths when yours wouldn't even be enough to pass the 11 plus.

          1. garbo
            Boffin

            Re: Bah humbug - simulated picture

            The 25x "size" (bad definition -say diameter, radius or area) is possible.

            A pupil of 1.0 mm diameter gives area of .78 mm2

            An "area" 25x = 19.63 mm2, gives us a pupil diameter of 5.00 mm.

            Pls check my math, rounded to 2 places, it's 04:00 over here.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Pls check my math

              Why calculate the area of a circle? Make it a square, the ratio is still the same, and 25 times the area is 25^0.5

    5. Haku

      @Version 1.0

      If you had bothered to search for more information you would have found that the 'simulated picture' is actually a still from a video demonstrating & talking about the dangers of lasers pointed at aircraft:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYAgnrfeUpk

    6. OrsonX
      Boffin

      Laser the moon

      Very amusing:

      http://what-if.xkcd.com/13/

      There is also a link to purchase your own super high power (blind yourself) green laser... I'm amazed that they are legal!

      And on topic, Version 1.0, the effect in the cockpit is like looking at a camera flash when your eyes are dark adjusted. NOT what you need when you are about to land a plane full of people.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Laser the moon

        "There is also a link to purchase your own super high power (blind yourself) green laser... I'm amazed that they are legal!"

        It's possible to build yourself a much more powerful SS laser by simply gutting a DVD or BluRay writer for its red or violet diode (respectively) and retrofitting it into a low power laser pointer. To ban these things effectively would mean outlawing all light emitting diodes.

        Interestingly ≥100W diode pumped CO₂ lasers are freely available to order online. With the appropriate optics, that's sufficient to put holes though most solid materials.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Laser the moon

        There is also a link to purchase your own super high power (blind yourself) green laser... I'm amazed that they are legal!

        Yes, because we've outlawed everything else people can use to blind themselves.

        Consider the huge number of medical emergencies caused by power tools every year . (And in many cases those emergencies are stopping the user from doing significant damage to his (usually) or her home, too; so where injury doesn't result, property damage often will.) Or automobile-related injuries and deaths. Or those that result from using sporting equipment.

        You can't save people from themselves.

    7. xerocred

      Re: Bah humbug - simulated picture

      Yeah dangerous like the sun.

    8. TheRealRoland

      Re: Bah humbug - simulated picture

      You are probably possibly related to those people saying "it's ok to use phone / wifi on board of flying airplanes because I personally have not been killed while on one".

  2. Pretendiname
    Meh

    Point regarding stats:

    "Unreported incidents could bring the figure even higher."

    Similarly, it could be that there has been no change at all, but reported incidents are higher. That is the problem with reported incidents. They almost invariably increase as people become aware how to report a problem. Also, the value was projected, so it may even take things like that into account - so that entire bit of speculation is largely unnecessary.

  3. HMB

    Ironic Punishment

    My mean side says we could make the older guys drive round a specially prepared high speed off road course while we shine lasers in their eyes and see how they like it.

    My good side says that two wrongs don't make a right.

    My mean side is far more entertaining.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: Ironic Punishment

      Just need some laser guided smart bitch slaps that work in reverse and seek the laser source.

      1. solidsoup
        Coat

        Re: Ironic Punishment

        This misuse of lasers makes me furious. Lasers are meant to be attached to rostral parts of Selachimorpha, not waved at airplanes willy nilly.

        Mine's the one with taxonomy textbook in the pocket.

      2. Ross K Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Ironic Punishment

        I was thinking more of a James Bond- villain type application of a laser to the balls of a perpetrator strapped to a table...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

      So if you want to stop this nonsense, coat a patch of the bottom of the aircraft, near the cockpit, with a set of mirrors. Positioning 3 mirrors at 90 degrees to each other makes a retroreflector, which should send the laser straight back to the sender (a trick they have used on the Moon for ages to measure how far away it is). Obviously 3 large mirrors isn't going to be very aerodynamic, but you can get the same effect with an array of smaller ones, all behind a transparent panel (otherwise known as sticky tape - eg 3M's 3150).

      Naturally a more aggressive approach would be to equip the aircraft with their own lasers, along with a targeting system, but the beauty of a retroreflective solution is the damage to the sender is self-inflicted (which should keep the lawyers quiet), and the equipment is solid-state (which makes it cheap, lightweight, and easy to retrofit to existing aircraft).

      And if you're the type who doesn't worry about cost, practicality etc, (you might work for the military) then the reflected light might also prove useful for targeting your laser-guided missile retaliation.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

        Only allow laser sales of one wavelength into the unregulated market. Filter out that wavelength at the cockpit.

        1. WatAWorld

          Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

          What about cars? If this is happening how come car drivers don't notice it?

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

            I've been lased while driving. It fucking HURTS and I couldn't see properly for about 5 minutes afterwards - and that was on a moderately lit suburban street. It's a lot darker in a cockpit.

            The idiot who lased the street also lased a few aircraft on approach to Gatwick and the police helicopter searching for him. He got away with it by virtue of being outside a pub and ducked inside when the chopper got close. By the time the cars arrived the laser was nowhere to be found.

        2. Alan W. Rateliff, II
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

          And here you have it. Asshats who point lasers at aircraft because it's cool and/or fun wind up getting the government involved and screw everyone else who have non-menacing uses for lasers and laser pointers.

          Paris, menacing asshat.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

        Or, how about a laser detector / range finder just outside the cockpit.. once, it detects a laser strike, if it could lase the source back, not even with visible light, but get an angle and distance, match that with the planes GPS, and get a position from where the laser was pointed from, and then auto send the cords to local cops? The whole thing could be done in seconds, and if there was fuzz close by, a good fix on where it was sent from should give them reason enough to search property / hoodies in the imediate area.

        Even if they find nothing, or it's a bit inacurate, it'll at least give them a rough idea of where they should be looking next time it happens.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

          "to search property / hoodies in the imediate area."

          It's a good idea, but, you're singling out the hoodies?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

            No, if I was singling the hoodies, I wouldn't have mentioned properties, as mentioning both, makes it not a single target..

            If the cops rolled by and seen a group of 'yoofs' hanging about, a minute or two after a strike had been reported, then I'm sure they could have a quick word, 'Would you mind if you emptied your pockets sir?'.

            If they say 'no', they can walk on (no proof to search, but you can still ask); However, I'm sure the cops could take names for reference, due to 'an existing law that allows fines of up to $250,000 and prison terms of up to 20 years for interfering with the operation of an aircraft.', and the suspects are in the immediate vicinity.

            So now you have some names from a small area, that might have people lasing comercial aircraft... if you can discount the street urchins, then you can start looking at the properties.. eliminate the obvious first..

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

        I think that would be more like proof the target had been hit!

        However those rear total internal reflectors (like you should have on your bike so pedestrians know where to gesticulate to) would be better and make the plane well pretty!

      4. Alan Dougherty
        Stop

        Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

        No.

        The beam diverges over distance, and to reflect the beam directly back at the source, the mirror would need to be perfect in manufacture, angle, and the beam itself would need to be tight, otherwise all you're going to do is scatter green laser, diverging ever more from the point of origin.

        Mirrors will not work.

        Range finding for a GPS location, will tell you where it came from in a second or two, then let the boys in blue trawl the area for a while.. if it's kids in the street, they will get the message. If it's some nutter, he'll be shining from a property, and not on the street.. so that will be enough for the cops to go on anyway, because they would have rough cords.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

          "The beam diverges over distance, and to reflect the beam directly back at the source, the mirror would need to be perfect in manufacture, angle, and the beam itself would need to be tight, otherwise all you're going to do is scatter green laser, diverging ever more from the point of origin. Mirrors will not work."

          The fact the beam is diverging doesn't matter.

          Each photon travels in a straight line, and so long as it hits part of the retroreflector the photon will be sent straight back. The only problem with a divergent beam is you'll need a large reflector to capture as much of it as possible.

          1. Alan Dougherty
            Stop

            Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

            @16:43

            'The fact the beam is diverging doesn't matter.

            Each photon travels in a straight line, and so long as it hits part of the retroreflector the photon will be sent straight back. The only problem with a divergent beam is you'll need a large reflector to capture as much of it as possible.' /quote

            Wouldn't that mean that you have to have some way to move / alter the mirror shape? Preferably trying to do this on a small window on the underside of the nose of plane, and considering that the target of the original beam is the glass cockpit?

            If the beam is hitting it's target, then there will be no mirror to reflect it, and even if it misses, and hits any sort of reflector, it would have to stay there for a few seconds to have any chance of beaming back to the source (which you might note is not the eyes of the perp., but their hand / laser source). As the aircraft is moving more relevent to the source, the mirrors will have to change shape / move to account for the air speed.

            This sort of mirror arrangement is in line with certain 4 shot air-bourne 747 chemical lasers.. the laser on those cases is the easy part.. the targeting is the hard part..

            Still seems easier to have a small range / direction finder behind a small perspex window, just under the nose, and feed the data to ground assets.

            The aircraft does not need to return anything other than a GPS of where the original beam came from.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

              "Wouldn't that mean that you have to have some way to move / alter the mirror shape?"

              If the reflector was a simple flat mirror, then yes, but we're talking about retroreflectors here. They come in various forms, but the simplest is an arrangement of three mirrors at 90 degrees to each other, which when presented with a photon from a wide range of angles will send it back. You don't have to move the mirror to face the source/target. The wiki page on them is quite instructive.

              Another neat aspect is that by its very nature it could even cope with multiple simultaneous attackers from different directions.

              "If the beam is hitting it's target, then there will be no mirror to reflect it"

              Indeed, but if the beam is divergent there's likely to be at least some of it hitting the surrounding parts of the aircraft where a reflector could be.

              "and even if it misses, and hits any sort of reflector, it would have to stay there for a few seconds to have any chance of beaming back to the source"

              I think you'll find it happens at the speed of light. The photons don't hang around for a chat before heading back home ;-)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

                So, even if you can return the beam to the source of the hand / motorised tripod of the perp, you have achieved what? Now including a complex mirror assembly to do nothing, on the underside of a comercial plane.

                I'd still go for the perspex window under nose, with an IR range finder, feed that back to the the GPS, and feed that back to ground assets...

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

                  "So, even if you can return the beam to the source of the hand / motorised tripod of the perp, you have achieved what? Now including a complex mirror assembly to do nothing, on the underside of a comercial plane."

                  Nothing eh? I think we've established a retroreflector will light up the perp with some of his own beam. As for 'complex mirror assembly', it could probably be achieved with a mirrored moulding (complex, maybe, but that doesn't need to mean expensive) - and that's assuming the commercial sticky tape option isn't efficient/accurate enough.

                  "I'd still go for the perspex window under nose, with an IR range finder, feed that back to the the GPS, and feed that back to ground assets..."

                  Well the retroreflector gives your ground assets a laser target on the perps, without the cost and complexity of IR range finders and GPS. Don't get me wrong, I love high tech gadgets, it's just that if you can keep as much of it as cheap and simple as you can, you can more easily roll it out to more aircraft. (or with the savings you can then afford more of your enforcement: laser targeted missiles / local police etc)

                  1. Psyx
                    Stop

                    Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

                    "Well the retroreflector gives your ground assets a laser target on the perps"

                    What it also gives is some kind of visible 'reward' for hitting the plane with a laser to the type of moron who thinks it's a good game in the first place.

                    We are not talking about people who either rationalise their actions or consider the implications. Lighting them up with a return beam is just going to act as positive reinforcement, from a psychological angle.

                    The chances of catching people doing this kind of thing are generally very slim, because they aren't likely to hang around to be caught, even if their location can be identified and they can be arrested. The only real countermeasure then is to come down like a ton of fucking bricks and ruthlessly prosecute and sentence the few who *do* get caught, in order to discourage others.

      5. Mike Richards

        Re: Ironic Punishment - use MIRRORS

        Ah come on, let's not dillydally round with mirrors.

        Just fit every plane with a laser guided missile (pocket edition).

  4. Steve Evans

    Several things about these stories bug me...

    1) You're hand holding a light source and trying to aim it at a point 500 feet away (try it)

    2) The point you are aiming at it moving...

    3) Even if you could manage 1 & 2, and had a pointer powerful enough, automatic landing systems have been in use for decades. The pilots are only there for situations where the automatic systems can't handle it (and to be honest, most pilots are too inexperienced to do anything better than the automatic systems anyway!).

    Having said all that, the twats on the ground should get a good clip round the ears for even trying it.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Several things about these stories bug me...

      Yes, I've tried it, and it's not that difficult, even one-handed from my moving motorcycle. Plus the target is traveling very slowly in a very straight line (or even stationary in the case of police helicopters) - obviously you don't live or work near an airport.

      Only airliners usually have automatic landing systems, the chap in the Piper or Beechcraft is going to lose his night vision at a very inopportune time.

      The problem is most people think it's a little green dot on the window, so they don't realize what it actually does.

      1. Steve Evans

        Re: Several things about these stories bug me...

        One handed from a motorcycle? Are you staring in the next bond movie or something? I assume it's your left hand too (unless you wanted the bike to slow down?).

        For a start I do live near an air field, quite a few in fact. The East of England built a lot in the 1940s. One of them is rather large and called London Stansted. Whilst I'll concede that assuming you could aim and hit a moving aircraft with a pointer this would be a risk to a light aircraft, the story is written in such a way as to make you believe the treat is real to 747s, not light aircraft which don't tend to do much night flying.

        The story has other inconsistencies too. The whole "power" of a laser is its small concentrated beam. We're talking about a device whos power is measured in milliwatts and run constantly from a watch battery power source for hours on end. Suddenly saying this concentrated beam lights up the entire cockpit like a flash gun, a device which is run from a bank of much larger batteries, via a fast discharge capacitor and then discharged through a zenon tube which delivers more light that a 10,000watt light source for a thousandth of a second. Yes the laser could be defused by the window, but then the inverse square law dictates the power drops to negligible.

        So which is it? Does the laser surgically burn the pilots retina off, or does the cockpit light up like a Christmas tree?

        Yes, a hovering helicopter would be an easier target, but tell me, what is he going to crash into in those few seconds it take to look away from the idiot with the very steady hand holding the pointer? He's hovering! He might drift a bit, but he's not going to fall from the sky! I might even knock his night vision down a peg or two, but do you know the requirements for a night pilot licence? Yup, instrument only.

        I file the laser pointer threat along with the mobile phone threat. They're annoying, but hardly the "we're all gonna die" "Won't someone think of the children?" reaction we're seeing. Otherwise we'd be surrounded by twisted wreckage.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          but do you know the requirements for a night pilot licence? Yup, instrument only.

          Bollocks. I have a night rating, it's Visual Flight Rules only, legally I cannot fly with reference solely to instruments.

          You don't appear to know a lot about how the eye adapts to darkness either, suffice to say it's a protracted sequence of events that are all too easily reset by bright lights. At which point it doesn't matter if you're flying by looking out the windows or looking at the instruments as you won't see either, does this mean you'll crash? Not necessarily but it does raise the odds somewhat.

          Still I don't live near a major airport so it's your problem not mine.

    2. Esskay
      Meh

      Re: Several things about these stories bug me...

      bright light pointed in your face = annoying

      bright light irregularly and randomly hitting your face as the person holding it tries to keep it pointed at you = extremely fucking annoying

    3. Steve Todd
      FAIL

      Re: Several things about these stories bug me...

      Pilots routinely land aircraft manually so that they keep their skills current - there's no point in saving the pilot for when the automatics fail if they can't remember how to do it.

      By the time a pilot gets to fly commercial jets they typically have 2000 hours of flying time, they've normally got landings fairly well sussed out by that point.

    4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Several things about these stories bug me...

      Well , why dont you try it sometime... or at least a cheap and easy simulation.

      Buy a decent sized flash unit and mount it on your car's dashboard facing you

      Wait until night fall and go out for a drive along an unlit twisty country lane at about 60 mph

      At a random point , set off the camera flash .

      See , no damage done to either the driver or car..... until you miss the bend and pile into a tree because you cant see where you are going.

      Many airport approaches are not done in the classic "line up with the runway and watch your decent rate", many have the aircraft being routed in from their holding patterns with lots of twists and turns so that you can land 1 aircraft every 2 minutes

      "234 heavy turn left to 045,maintain speed and decent"

      "this is 234 heavy arrrgh we cant fucking see"

      1. WatAWorld

        Re: Several things about these stories bug me...

        "Buy a decent sized flash unit and mount it on your car's dashboard facing you"

        Completely wrong since you're comparing perhaps 50W with something a million times dimmer, in the range of microwatts.

        1. Steve Evans

          Re: Several things about these stories bug me...

          It's actually an even worse comparison than that. Camera flash power is rated in watt/seconds. For example my camera strobes range from 80-120 watt/seconds.

          Doesn't sound like much, but when you consider that is all delivered in 1/1000th second, the brightness for that fraction of a second is equivalent to a 80,000-120,000 watt light source. Not something you can power constantly from a coin cell battery in your average laser pointer. A camera flash will take several seconds to recover from that and recharge the capacitor ready for the next 1/1000th second of brightness.

    5. Stubar
      FAIL

      Re: Several things about these stories bug me...

      Go to an airport and watch the flights come in and see how slow they 'appear' to be going. At distance the brain works out all of the angles automatically, (think spears/arrows and moving targets to know we are designed to do this sort of thing), and it suddenly becomes easy. Plus, they are not painting it for strike even waving it vaguely across the cockpit window achieves the same result.

    6. WatAWorld

      Re: Several things about these stories bug me...

      They would be waving it around, it would only need to pass over the cockpit to produce a flash, it would not have to shine in steadily.

      And around some busy airports you could have an aircraft passing over every 5 minutes.

      But still, yes, something like 50µ degrees of arc accuracy would be needed for the moment where you scanned over the cockpit.

      Maybe that is the problem, people wanting to try laser pointers out on the wings, to see if it can be seen at that distance, and not realizing how much it is going to wave around, and so accidentally illuminating the cockpit.

      With hand held laser pointers I could swallow that explanation, but then the light intensity would be so low it wouldn't make sense it could be more than barely noticed. It just doesn't add up to me.

  5. Talic
    Facepalm

    I think that the plane manufacturers should stop building windows into the floor of the cockpit..

    Also, that must be a pretty powerful laser to have the brightness of a camera flash, spread over. The area of a cockpit

    1. Aldous
      Stop

      most commericial jets don't have windows in the floor. some light aircraft and helicopters do as this provides a vital view when landing /taxing. commercial jet cockpits can easily be hit from head on as they only flare right before touch down, rest of the time the cockpit ios visible from the front

  6. Barrie Shepherd

    In New South Wales These idiot's have spoilt it for those of us who just want a laser pointer for our own (inside) entertainment (have you seen a cat trying to catch the dot:-).

    It's now a serious offence (read prohibited weapon, 14 years in clink for a class 3/4 device, $5000 fine class 1/2) - more serious than a shotgun - to carry one in public.

    http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/about_us/structure/operations_command/firearms/laser_pointers

    "Also be aware that if you obtained the laser pointer before 18 July 2008, you will not need to obtain a permit until 1 December 2008. Thereafter, if you wish to retain your laser pointer, you will need to obtain a permit through the Firearms Registry."

    1. mark 63 Silver badge

      well you Aussies live in a nanny state innit :)

      hence the high price of beer n cigs and the censored internet

  7. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    A cost saving opportunity

    Instead of $350M each for the F22 we could just issue everyone with a $5 laser pointer and they could defend us against the armadas of terrorist bombers

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A cost saving opportunity

      Indeed! —If only the governments of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya [insert name of next country to be "freed"] had thought to equip their populaces with €5 laser pointers, instead of investing in all that useless air defence weaponry, they'd have had those NATO planes falling from the skies like Autumn leaves

      1. Psyx
        Boffin

        Re: A cost saving opportunity

        "Indeed! —If only the governments of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya [insert name of next country to be "freed"] had thought to equip their populaces with €5 laser pointers, instead of investing in all that useless air defence weaponry, they'd have had those NATO planes falling from the skies like Autumn leaves"

        If they'd have pointed them at low level aircraft making attack runs, they'd have potentially put them off and caused the run to be aborted, certainly. And the idea of using lasers for just such a thing goes back at least as far as the Falklands War.

        As to blocking the laser with 'tinted glass'; that only works against the specific laser frequency. Lasers can be on a lot of frequencies, and by the time you've blocked enough to be useful, you've blocked most of the visible spectrum!

        BTW: Lasers as weapons that cause permanent eye damage are banned for military use by Convention, I believe. Someone figured out a very long time ago that a moderately powered laser on a hilltop could blind people *really* easily, and everyone decided that it wouldn't be cricket.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: A cost saving opportunity

          > BTW: Lasers as weapons that cause permanent eye damage are banned for military use by Convention, I believe. Someone figured out a very long time ago that a moderately powered laser on a hilltop could blind people *really* easily, and everyone decided that it wouldn't be cricket.

          The ban is on deliberately designed "blinding weapons"

          If GI Joe realises he can do a fair bit of damage to a target's eyes with his nightscope's IR laser and proceeds to do so deliberately then he's probably acting illegally, but should the target be blinded 'accidentally' while being acquired, this is ok by the rules of that game.

          Target illumination lasers are more than adequate to blind unprotected eyes.

    2. 404 Silver badge

      Re: A cost saving opportunity

      Military aircraft already have laser protection built into the glass (generally gold) - for enemy laser rangefinders.

      On a side note, I have retina burns just from being on the wrong end of M1Arams laser rangefinders in the early 80's. Went from 20-20 to 20-40 vision. Had an incredibly stupid CO that liked to see what the enemy would observe with a battalion of tanks coming at them... sucks but there ya go.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A cost saving opportunity

        erm, NO actually. Wrong on both counts.

        Visible-light rangefinders sort of give away your position - IR is what rangefinders use. Can still blind you, and gold won't stop it - but you definitely can't see it!

        Gold in aircraft canopies is protection against microwave (radar - mostly your own or your wing-person's) and the rather nasty EMP you can get from jamming; also gives you reasonable protection from cosmic rays - flying around at altitude under just glass for any appreciable time will give you enough radiation exposure to make militaries & military tech companies worry about damages claims from pilots developing radiation-induced cancers.

      2. WatAWorld

        Re: A cost saving opportunity

        "Military aircraft already have laser protection built into the glass (generally gold) - for enemy laser rangefinders."

        Rangefinders are usually infrared wavelength, so your eyes would not perceive them, important in attempts to avoid counter-battery fire.

        But even so, against what wavelength of light does it filter, because if it protects against all wavelengths of light it won't even be translucent.

        Lasers are produced with variable wavelengths for laboratory use. It would be cost effective to weaponize these, if they would really did work.

  8. McBeese

    There are up to hundreds of people on these planes. These actions could lead to a crash with many killed. This is pre-meditated action and there is no excuse for it. Instead of a five-figure fine, the culprits need to be charged with attempted multiple homicide. Send a message before many lives are lost.

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

      > There are up to hundreds of people on these planes.

      up to 853+crew* actually, but of course who can be bothered with doing a bit of research when "up to several" is good enough for a "hang them up" stance?

      This place is becoming more and more like the Daily Mail comment section, only with more Merkins. And to say it was once a refuge for tech bods...

      *feel free to discuss this number

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        > There are up to hundreds of people on these planes.

        There are 1000s of people on cruise ships.

        The titanic was sunk by an iceberg

        An iceberg is like an icecube (*)

        So we must ban ice cubes - won't somebody think of the children - you can't be too careful

        ( - well more like an ice cube than a 1mW laser pointer is like a megawatt airborne laser)

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Endangering Transport"

      This kind of legislation needs to be more widespread:

      http://legislation.knowledge-basket.co.nz/gpacts/reprint/text/1961/se/043se203.html

      Crimes Act 1961 043

      Commenced: 1 Jan 1962

      VIII: Crimes Against the Person

      Assaults and Injuries to the Person

      203 Endangering transport

      203. Endangering transport---(1) Every one is liable to imprisonment

      for a term not exceeding 14 years who, with intent to injure or to

      endanger the safety of any person,---

      (a) Removes anything from or places anything on, in, over, or under

      any place, or any area of water, that is used for or in

      connection with the carriage of persons or of goods by land,

      water, or air; or

      (b) Does anything to any property that is used for or in connection

      with the carriage of persons or of goods by land, water, or air;

      or

      (c) Shoots or throws anything at, into, or upon any vehicle, ship, or

      aircraft; or

      (d) Causes anything to come in contact with any vehicle, ship, or

      aircraft; or

      (e) Does any other unlawful act, or wilfully omits to do any act which

      it is his duty to do, in respect of any such place, area of

      water, or property as aforesaid, or in respect or any vehicle,

      ship, or aircraft.

      (2) Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5

      years who, intentionally and in a manner likely to injure or endanger

      the safety of any person, does any of the acts referred to in subsection

      (1) of this section.

      Cf. 1908, No. 32, ss. 199, 200, 200A; 1941, No. 10, part Schedule;

      1950, No. 83, part Schedule; 1952, No. 42, s. 2

      As to the application of subs. (2) to summary proceedings, see the

      note to s. 1 of this Act.

      It gets used fairly regularly against laser louts:

      http://www.laserpointersafety.com/news/news/aviation-incidents_files/tag-new-zealand.php

  9. dssf

    Recall Soviet aircraft using laser dazzlers against F-14 and other pilots

    I the late 80's, iirc, the then-Soviets were using lasers far more powerful than gag or prankster laser pointers. It was so severe a threat (the fear that Soviets would sorty enough aircraft to dazzle-blind a nuc bomber mission or other ops) that the US military began coating the cockpit canopies, modifying optics, helmet eyewear, and possibly the instrument panels readouts, at great fortune to the public. But, it had to be done.

    Now, as with statistics and stalling on pre-911 cockpit break-ins, fliers in the civilian community seem bent on not being proactive. The risk is small, the price is high, and proactivity, no matter the cost, is priceless. Makes me wonder how many crashed planes at the runway edge were victims of dazzling.

    I predict an increase of $2-10 tacked on to airfares in affected countries, but then for compatibility, all countries that fransfer or ferry passengers from the participating countries.

    Dazzling cockpits is a reprehensible, vile act. But, there is no way in hell the airliners and private fliers should be allowed to fly until the demonstrate they have countermeasures or autolanders that will assist or take over at the push of a button. At some point, complacency won't be compatible with insurance policies.

    It also might help if airports had an ability to sweep the laser spectrum to locate vantage points so those can be monitored or encircled within a minute of a laser sighting. May not prevent, but may dissuade most who might consider this dangerous behavior.

    Unfortunately, if this gets out of hand, certain manufacturers will become beneficiaries.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge
      Boffin

      Which colour?

      There's nothing particularly special about a lased photon compared to any other photon, so the only way to block them is a coating that absorb/reflects the appropriate wavelength.

      You can't block them all, because then it's no longer a window!

      You can add a dichroic (or similar) coating to reflect certain specific wavelengths, such coatings are actually relatively cheap (commercially available ones) - and this is already done anyway in commercial airliners as part of the very complex armoured glass windows of the cockpit.

      I don't know the specifics of what they block, but I'd guess IR is blocked as a matter of course as that can easily damage sight, leaving only visible lasers.

      Secondly "sweep the laser spectrum"? It's not broadcast!

      Lasers emit a coherent beam of light. Thus anywhere that you can see the aircraft is a 'possible vantage point'. This extends for many miles beyond the airfield, and considerably further than you could see from any possible place in the airfield.

      At night, if it's misty/hazy or dusty then you might be able to see the beam as it reflects off particles in the air and backtrack that to where the line intersects the ground.

      However, this requires two viewers at different locations who can act immediately, before the perpetrator runs away. These things are very small - smartphone or smaller.

      Basically, this is not something the airport can enforce, it's something that the police need to - because they are the only group in a position to both see the beam and act upon it.

      Unfortunately, the lasers powerful enough to dazzle a plane have another excellent feature - they can all temporarily (and in some cases permanently) blind you with very brief exposure.

      Although with any luck the oiks doing this will blind themselves.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Which colour?

        Err... Some sort of polorising filter would seem of use...

        1. Steve Evans

          Re: Which colour?

          Polarising would cut out some light (from all sources), but which way is the laser pointer polarised? Most aren't.

          Even if they were, which way depends how you've pulled it out of your pocket.

          So polarising the screen will be no more help than tinting it, cutting out a percentage of all light making everything darker, although it might make the blues of the sky and reflections on the sea look prettier.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Which colour?

            I was under the impression that a diode laser is inherantly polorised. It is, however twenty years since I had any lectures in the subject...

      2. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: Which colour?

        "There's nothing particularly special about a lased photon compared to any other photon"

        You are right. But there is something special if you consider those photons in groups, i.e you detect many coherent photons (same frequency & phase) hitting the detector at the same time. I read somewhere that's the principle behind some laser detectors, enabling them to detect ANY coherent light.

  10. Chris_Maresca

    Easily solved

    Laser guided missile - the first kill would put a stop to this instantly. Doesn't even need an armed head, just fill it with paintball paint.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Easily solved

      Except laser guided missiles depend upon seeing the splash of light caused by the laser striking the target.

      Unless the idiots are stupid enough to aim the laser directly at the laser guided missile it will never see the origin of the laser.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Easily solved

        Ah, but if what I said further up was feasible; That the planes had a strike detector, and a range finder that could swivel, and target the source, then feed that data to the planes own GPS, then you should get a fairly accurate GPS cord. of the source.

        I was sugesting that that could be sent straight to those that protect and serve, but maybe a small barrage of ball bearings would do just as well...

  11. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    Annoying brats

    Yes it is a simulated picture, yes the chances of hitting the cockpit of an airliner from ground outside of the airport's fences are extremely thin (there is absolutely no reflection to ajust your aim; unless you have some sort of self-made sight, from the ground you have absolutely no reference to adjust your aim and hit the cockpit).

    But statistically, if enough dickhead keep trying, then it becomes likely. That's the beauty of statistics: one dickheak has utterly negligible chances of doing any harm at all, but given an infinite number of dickheads, the probability of something very bad happenning reaches 1. Thus, the number of dickheads has to be kept in check.

    The diameter calculation is, I think, utterly bogus. It would be true is the cockpit window was optically perfect and if the bog-standard red laser pointer was not completely inefficient over a hundred meters or so (as it is: humidity in the atmosphere is unforgiving to the stray laser signal). As I see it, the danger is with a high-class laser pointer (not the $1 variety; probably the $50 one) hitting a heavily-scratched cockpit window (as they tend to be) at short range (certainly not several miles).

    In that scenario, the still-powerful laser ray would stand a chance to hit the cockpit window. The laser ray at that point is still quite narrow, but the imperfections and scratches on the cockpit window would spread it and allow it to flash the eyes of the entire crew indeed.

    In any case, trying to flash airplanes with a laser pointer is akin to throwing eggs to cars from a highway bridge: un-fucking-tolerable.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Annoying brats

      Sighting is relatively simple.

      A good followspot operator can do a pickup from dead straight onto a head-and-shoulder spot from several hundred meters away - one end of a stadium to the other. We use telescope sights for this as they don't affect night vision.

      A good sniper can do the same from several km using telescopic sights.

      Both of these are easily available anywhere (unlike the actual sniper rifle)

      You're right that this is not an issue with the Class I-II laser pointers that you can buy in a high-street shop (almost) anywhere. They just aren't powerful enough to be even noticeable from more than a hundred metres or so.

      Somewhere I have a Class III green laser diode, in the UK you can't buy those 'bare' anymore - only as part of a larger product like a disco laser scanner.

      However, in the US you can buy some seriously terrifying lasers. Over there it's quite easy to purchase a laser from an online shop that can almost instantly permanently blind a person at short range, and those are capable of a laser flash at some distance.

      1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

        Re: Annoying brats

        > Sighting is relatively simple.

        Oh no, simple it's not. It is feasible, but not simple. Certainly too expensive for the average joker. Certainly too expensive (and too easily spotable) to justify that kind of a report.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          @ElReg!comments!Pierre

          A cheap telescope or telescopic sight costs about £40-£100.

          The lasers powerful enough to dazzle at range cost more than that - we aren't talking £10 laser pointers, those are just Class I-II, you'd need at least a Class III or higher to dazzle from outside the airfield perimeter fence.

          So as it's being reported as a regular problem, the price isn't a barrier to these idiots.

          In my day job I'm seeing a lot of people buying cheap "disco" lasers that contain diodes easily capable of doing this - some would even dazzle or blind if they simply broke down.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Annoying brats

          > > Sighting is relatively simple.

          > Oh no, simple it's not.

          You've never used a green laser, have you?

          Thanks to Rayleigh scattering, green laser beams are clearly visible at night to the miscreant firing the things (and anyone else near enough to be "on axis") which makes aiming trivial. This is why green beams are used for pointing at stars.

          Virtually all the flashblinding incidents happen with Green lasers. The eye is extremely sensitive to this wavelength AND nightvision is centred there too, so a bright green flash quite effectively shuts the ability to see down for a few seconds.

          Being hit with red, blue or violet lasers is irritating as all hell but at least you can still (mostly) see afterwards in a darkened environment.

          One other thing to bear in mind about green lasers is that almost all of them are frequency-doubled IR lasers (real "green" lasers are as rare as rocking horse shit and twice as expensive). If they're not filtered properly then there's 3-10 times as much IR energy in the beam as green - something the eye has zero defence against. (The high powered cheapies tend to have both lousy filters and rotten conversion efficiency. People concentrate on the "Watts", but not on which wavelength it's coming out on)

          I'm still waiting for a news report where someone flashblinded by a laser manages to swerve into the pillock holding the thing. It'd be poetic.

      2. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

        Re: Annoying brats (bis)

        > A good followspot operator can do a pickup from dead straight onto a head-and-shoulder spot from several hundred meters away - one end of a stadium to the other. We use telescope sights for this as they don't affect night vision.

        I'm sure it's true, but the minimum approach speed of, say a 747, seems to be 155 mph. A lot of that is going to be horizontal, but the cockpit widow is still a few square meters, and most of it at an angle that will just reflect the ray. Moving at a freaking minimum of 155 mph. I hope you're a good aim.

        1. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: Annoying brats (bis)

          Re the aiming problem, the speed is only a problem if you're standing directly to the side of the approach path, if you're standing head on the aiming problem is much simpler as the aircraft is pretty much on a constant bearing, it's just getting bigger.

          I do know some people who's aircraft was hit by a green laser, the lesson for the people on the ground was don't point bright lights at a military helicopter as they'll be able to pass your exact position to the police very quickly and you'll get arrested. On the flip side green lasers and NVGs do not mix.

        2. Alan Dougherty
          FAIL

          Re: Annoying brats (bis)

          @ ElReg!comments!Pierre

          It may indeed reflect some of the beam, but the glass will most likley 'scatter' most of it insde the cockpit.. chances are, that the pilot probably wont even be able to see the instruments infront of him, due to reflected light, coming from the airframe and cabin behind him, as that's now awash with intense laser light.. even if he looks down and away from the window, the entire cabin will be a massive tint of green..

          Considering most displays are green on black, good luck finding that heading / speed marker when everything around you is luminous green.

        3. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Annoying brats (bis)

          The cockpit generally faces forward, so a miscreant intending to do this would probably stand in front of the aircraft.

          At that angle the apparent motion is very slow.

          Even from the side it's relatively easy because it's a long distance away and extremely smooth.

          Example: Next time you're a passenger in a car on a motorway/freeway, use a pair of binoculars and watch a few stationary objects through them.

          You'll find it really difficult to watch anything nearby to the side, easy to watch anything ahead, and easy to watch anything that's far enough away.

      3. cyberdemon
        Boffin

        Computer Vision

        Anyone else see the potential application here?

        With a camera on each wingtip, you could get pretty good binocular vision at long range.

        If in addition to the high-FOV cameras on the wingtips, you have a long-lens that can seek to any point on the ground, you could automatically obtain both the location of the perpetrator, and maybe even a snap of them for evidential purposes if your telescopic lens is good enough.

        Send that to the local police automatically and people would think twice about doing this sort of thing.

        For laughs you could have a kilojoule pulse laser instead of the long-lens. >:)

    2. Wombling_Free
      Megaphone

      Re: Annoying brats

      TIME TO BAN EGGS NOW! 25 MILLION YEARS PRISON FOR PEOPLE FOUND CARRYING EGGS WITHOUT A PERMIT.

  12. JaitcH
    Happy

    In China, amazingly CHEAP!

    I bought a bunch of 100mW Green laser modules at USD$10.05 each to make me a private 'ighthouse' so I could find my way home - the low tech way using my eyes.

    These units are good for at least five kilometres at ground levels.

    A friend who on approach, as a passenger, flying our local airport said he could make out our house with ease - even though they were not pointed at the aircraft. He also said he knows when I am fishing!

    Ever taken a blue laser from a CD burner? These, when repackaged, can pop balloons at up to 15-20 feet!

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: In China, amazingly CHEAP!

      > I bought a bunch of 100mW Green laser modules at USD$10.05 each to make me a private 'ighthouse' so I could find my way home - the low tech way using my eyes.

      erm

      > These units are good for at least five kilometres at ground levels.

      Which means? Obviously not direct light, so it must be "the diffraction light is visible from 5 km when the unit is pointed up". That's relevant to X-effects and finding your way home; irrelevant in the present case.

      Actually the power rating and the effect reported suggest that your "100 mW laser modules" are composed of 20 bog-standard 5 mW laser diode each, with a "dangerous" range of a few hundred meters at most. The diffracted light would be visible from quite a distance, though... which brings us to the next point:

      > A friend who on approach, as a passenger, flying our local airport said he could make out our house with ease - even though they were not pointed at the aircraft. He also said he knows when I am fishing!

      And that, my friends, is why having at least high-school notions of physics can prevent you from looking like a tool. Lesson 1: learn what LASER actually means. Lesson 2: diffraction, reflection and related *tions.

      Lrn2physics...

    2. Psyx
      Facepalm

      Re: In China, amazingly CHEAP!

      "even though they were not pointed at the aircraft."

      So...by very definition, it isn't a LASER beam, then?

  13. Stuart Halliday
    Facepalm

    My grumble is people using lasers in the cinema and more seriously in the car behind me!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You can get cars into your cinema? Where have you hidden your time machine? I demand to know!

  14. Herby Silver badge

    They are a bit scary!

    A couple of years ago I was accosted by one of the hand held green laser pointers from a car that was in front of me. Most likely by the passenger. It was very frightening and at first I didn't know what it was for a while (they intermittently flashed it). This was all at 65+ MPH on the interstate freeway. It wasn't very fun. My only solace was that I did get back at them. I went behind them (real close) with my bright lights on, ending in a less occupied lane. Then I sped away. I don't think that the driver had clean pants after my maneuver (which was the idea anyway).

    The bad thing (for me) was that it woke up my wife, which was an untended side effect. I gave a good story and all was forgiven.

    Airplanes? I don't want to think about it. I have relatives and friends that are flight (cockpit) crew for major airlines. They probably don't appreciate it AT ALL!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    people do these things

    ask yourself if youre a people person (Scummer)

  16. petur
    Coat

    Time to bring in the bigger lasers

    Attach a device at the bottom of the aircraft that can aim back a sufficiently powerful beam at the origin of the incoming one. Problem will be solved case by case :)

  17. nineworlds
    Alien

    Peril-sensitive cockpits

    Easy solution: when the windscreen detects laser light, it turns black. No danger of blinding anyone inside...

    1. The Alpha Klutz

      Re: Peril-sensitive cockpits

      It's a great idea but I think Apple already got the black rectangle patent.

  18. Alan Firminger

    Two separate issues

    If this is a serious threat to aircraft why is it not a more common threat to road traffic ? There are roads everywhere and irresponsible fun would be to see how many cars we can crash tonight. But it doesn't happen.

    These cheap and powerful lasers are probably a counter in drone wars ? Blind the sensors. Hundreds of innocent people die each year because of outrageous irresponsibility of the U.S. , the president of which should be got to the Hague as quick as possible. So on balance I this could be a good news story.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Two separate issues

      Why aren't cars dazzled? Because, being ground-bound, it's easier to create havoc with bricks. Most people turn to the lasers because it's the only way to reach aircraft from the ground.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Two separate issues

        No way! When did they do away with the steps and those tunnel affairs?

    2. Alan Dougherty

      Re: Two separate issues

      Cars, trucks, vans and all types of ground transport, can stop quickly, with minimal risk to life, even with the drivers eyes closed.

      Granted that some one might crash, but it wouldn't be i the scale of an aircraft crash, or from the distance that it could be caused from with a laser.

      Lasers and road traffic, just gets people to pull over, get out, and beat the shit out of the tools with the laser.

      1. Alan Dougherty
        WTF?

        Re: Two separate issues

        @Alan Firminger

        And WTF has this got to do with US drone strikes, the current president (one who seems to be trying his best to reduce overseas military assets / strikes, as much as is feasible, taking into account resources and money already commited), or the Hague? Which President do you mean? The one left with the shit on his plate or the one (or more) that started it?

        Maybe it isn't one individual Presidents fault, but the whole countries fault, and you're just pointing fingers at the current President, because you probably can't name the last five in order? Who knows?

        High power lasers, directed at comercial aircraft, needs to be dealt with, BEFORE something happens, and the current state of the US international agenda / internal polotics have cock all to do with that.

  19. Mr Young
    Coat

    Fly by wire I say?

    Some LCD's instead of a cockpit window? Then some code can ignore the problem when updating the display but OMG where has the airport gone?

  20. Steven Jones

    Most of this story is nonsense. Annoying it might be, but dangerous? If the beam is really 6 feet in diameter by the time it , then the energy density of even a 1w laser (far stronger than the "pointer type") would be low, at about 0.4W per square metre. In comparison, the energy density of sunlight can reach over 1KW per square metre, over half of which is in the infra red (although the UV is far more damaging). The eye has defence mechanisms to prevent damage caused by sudden exposure to sunlight (although staring are the sun for any period of time is not recommended).

    I have a very strong suspicion - approaching certainty - that the eye damage referred to in the article is not from a pilot "targetted" by a laser at a few hundred metres, but eye damage caused by these laser pointers in other contexts. I rather think that the source of this story is deliberately giving the impression there are pilots who've had their eyes damaged through being momentarily dazzled rather than through misuse of laser pointers at close range in other contexts (which is credible). Specific examples would have helped, of which none are provided.

    Of course, it might be thought that even being momentarily dazzled could cause a crash, but in these days of automated approaches and safety systems at major airports? Seems very unlikely.

    This story comes up regularly. I think there are far more real risks in life than this one...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The danger is in a potential crash

      Eye damage ain't the real issue, a plane crash on landing is.

  21. steogede

    Remember the Ray Gun articles?

    Do you remember the 'plane mounted laser/ray gun articles El Reg used to run? Maybe the should combine the two. Give the commercial airliners ray guns so they can fight matches with napalm.

    BTW, my take, there are 10 incidents per day, 3,650/year, yet no substantiated reports of real damage. I think this is just something that annoys pilots more than anything, perhaps because it interrupts their sleep.

    >> That's wide enough to light up an entire cockpit, with an intensity that's comparable to a camera flash.

    So pretty much like drive down an unlit motorway, and having an idiot with full beams on behind you? Or driving down a dark road, when a speed camera flash someone on the opposite side of the road? - except that there is nothing to crash into and you have autopilot to do the real work.

    1. MrZoolook
      FAIL

      Re: Remember the Ray Gun articles?

      "So pretty much like drive down an unlit motorway, and having an idiot with full beams on behind you? Or driving down a dark road, when a speed camera flash someone on the opposite side of the road? - except that there is nothing to crash into and you have autopilot to do the real work."

      Except for the fact you can stop a car within a few dozen feet, more then one person dies (if indeed its a fatal crash), that a speed camera only flashes you if your breaking the law, and that an auto-pilot is generally not used during take-off and landing, and that a dazzled pilot cant find the switch to turn it on... yes, that's exactly how it is!

  22. WatAWorld

    How about the Reg doing the experiment under safe controlled cirumstances

    The Reg goes out to an isolated area (away from roads and aircraft) where there is 2,000 feet of clear space from source to target, and something large (like a hillside) behind the targets so the beam doesn't go miles.

    You create four plywood targets and place them 500, 1,000, 1500 and 2,000 feet from the source. Keep in mind the targets have to be big enough that you can measure how much the laser beam has dispersed.

    You shine a few samples of commercially available hand-held laser pointers at them.

    You do the same thing with some regulated high power industrial, medical or laboratory lasers. A friendly university engineering faculty should be able to source some for you to borrow.

    You'll want to carefully align the lasers so you hit the plywood targets and don't overshoot into the unknown.

    You want to wear the appropriate protective goggles when using the high power lasers. Note the goggles will be different for different wavelength beams.

    Once you know which lasers are safe enough to be hand held, you can do part two where you check on whether the human hand is steady enough.

    Tell us the results in a follow-up article.

    No amount of debate replaces actually doing the experiment. It is cheap, and it can be done safely in an isolated area using plywood targets by a few competent people.

    1. Anonymous IV
      Happy

      Re: How about the Reg doing the experiment under safe controlled cirumstances

      Looks like a case for MythBusters?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about the Reg doing the experiment under safe controlled cirumstances

        Whilst I agree completely about the proposed test and publishing the results, once you have proven what we all know I then gives a green (LASER) light to idiots to then shine a LASER at a plane.

        IMHO, the LASERs that are being shone at aeroplanes, and causing problems, are not the cheap five quid down the market types and more likely the few hundred quid types. There should probably be some sort of registry about the purchase of such devices.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. MrZoolook
          Megaphone

          Re: How about the Reg doing the experiment under safe controlled cirumstances

          Quote: "IMHO, the LASERs that are being shone at aeroplanes, and causing problems, are not the cheap five quid down the market types and more likely the few hundred quid types. There should probably be some sort of registry about the purchase of such devices."

          You mean like a firearms registry? That works flawlessly in the US doesn't it? Not sure it will work with things that have non lethal uses though, especially considering the lack of control over things designed SPECIFICALLY to injure, maim and kill!

  23. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance
    Terminator

    One major question I have..

    ... unless I have totally misunderstood how lasers work (quite probable), how does the beam widen to six feet after a certain distance? I thought that the whole point of lasers and the the thing that made them unique was the fact that it was a coherent beam of light and basically that means a dead straight beam of light that does not fan out or decohere. How else do they measure the distance to the moon if the beam is six feet wide by 30,000ft or so, and how spread out would it be a quarter of a million miles later? Obviously they are talking about a beam from a pointer that would realistically at the most be a few hundred mW in power, and I would imagine that a super powerful laser would suffer less decoherence or fanning out.

    Boy that , must be one powerful laser! Then again there is the pulsed laser versus continuous beam laser to consider as well. Even things like lasers are not straightforward, in fact they are damned complicated. I'll have to look up exactly how they do dat later.

    Actually after looking up spatial and temporal coherence, I see that I am indeed wrong and things are not so simple.

    ------------------------------------------

    The most monochromatic sources are usually lasers; such high monochromaticity implies long coherence lengths (up to hundreds of meters). For example, a stabilized helium-neon laser can produce light with coherence lengths in excess of 5 m

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Whoopee doo...

    I suppose the coherence of the ray produced would be directly proportional to the power used to generate it.

    Less power - less coherence. More power - more coherence (up to the point of hitting the moon and bouncing back - a half a million mile round trip - to get measurements of the accuracy that can tell us that the moon is is moving away from us a few inches or feet every year (can't remember which it is)). And if you are going to hit a tank from an aeroplane mounted laser weapon, I would imagine that beam or pulse of light would not fan out over equivalent distances. Air to ground as opposed to ground to air. The power would need to be directed at the target and not dispersed over a wide area. A close direct hit of a low power laser beam to the eye will cause blindness, a long range hit would obviously be dispersed quite a bit from the same said powered beam. I also question whether this could even cause the 'just like a photo-flash going off' theory. Mmmm. Not convinced either way. It wouldn't cause blindness and it wouldn't have the power to light the cockpit up either.

    But that is just with a pointer type device of low mWs. If you had a 1000mW to play with and the plane was only yards away - I have been there - I had an air side pass when I worked at Heathrow - then yes you could quite easily blind a pilot. The question is, is he using autoland software or doing it old-school? If it is the latter and he doesn't expect to be zapped, then you have just scored a major point. And killed a few hundred people in the process. I've seen pointer devices that go up to 1500mW . Also, is he landing or taking off?

    Lasers have always fascinated me, I even did a course when I was at uni to become certified as a laser safety officer. As you can imagine I was taught all about lasers and how they worked, the different designs etc. and obviously most important of all - how not to blind thousands of people at a rave when their pupils are like saucers from the ecstasy and acid - pupil dilation and response has a major effect on the harm that a laser can do - not only are the pupils more dilated hence causing more damage, but the response time is reduced to the fact that the autonomic nervous system does nor respond as it normally would. The blink, or even looking away reflex can save eyesight in the majority of cases where a direct hit has been scored. As stated, this is reduced by the effects of certain pharmaceuticals on the body's natural responses.

    Learned the software to generate messages and text and pictures/patterns - pangolin I think it was called - pretty nifty - you could program in a big smiley face to be projected along with the text (i.e. - you are all a load of soap-dodging drug-taking cnuts ;-)).

    At one point, after pissing about with pen lasers and learning basic safety - red lasers tend to be less harmful than green lasers, which are less harmful than blue lasers. But it is the wattage of the power source not the colour that is the main factor in when it comes to safety. An 800mW red laser can blind you better than a five mW blue laser.

    This guy even brought in the BEAST. A BFO machine that generated some serious wattage. We put our goggles on and marveled at the spectacle. Guy even did the lasers for Jean Michele Jarre at his live events. But I am rambling and reminiscing now. Btw, I never got my safety officer licence - I dropped out, but it was fun...

    Out of curiosity and a bit of nostalgia, I wondered what it would cost to actually buy a bona fide laser these days. I do not and have never owned one (apart from inside cd players of course ;-)). But they were a lot more expensive then, now you can get a 5mW one from the net for less than a fiver including delivery. Red ones are cheapest because they are the simplest to make, being able to construct them from a single diode I believe. Green ones are more complicated and hence more expensive, they also tend to be more powerful and dangerous. Blue, more of the same again for the same reasons.

    In fact I saw lasers for sale that hit the 1000mW mark. WTF? One direct hit to your retina or a bounce of a mirror/shiny surface will leave you with permanent eye damage. Actually no, not eye damage, that can be achieved by 5mW. Blindness! Apparently it is illegal to buy anything with more than a mW of power in the UK, so even the 5mW ones are technically illegal, although there is no law against importing them - so in theory you could buy one from the states - 1500mW (quite common and not expensive) and have it legally imported. You just can't buy one here. Except that I saw a place advertising 200mW lasers to be bought UK side. Either I don't know what I am talking about (possible), or the law is an ass (likely), or there is some kind of loophole thing going on...

    A 200mW laser will blind someone easily. Not sure how good it is for measuring the distance to the moon though.

    http://scienceblogs.com/builtonfacts/2010/12/16/all-right-im-gonna-delay/

    Sorry for the ramble. Sometimes I'm just not very coherent.

    Spatially, temporaly, or linguistically.

    Or even logically.

    Any physicists out there? Please put me over your metaphorical knee and spank some not so metaphorical sense into me. I love to be educated. I have always loved the subject of light. And don't get me started on the double-slit experiment! Did anyone think of trying that with pulse beamed lasers?

    1. Anonymous IV
      Headmaster

      Re: One major question I have..

      "Please put me over your metaphorical knee and spank some not so metaphorical sense into me."

      Perhaps you should consider whether prolixity reduces coherence.

      (Or are you in "Fifty Shades of Grey" mode?!)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One major question I have..

      They diverge cos the optics you get in a cheap laser pointer are crap. Nasa spend a bit more that a quid.

      The eye is more sensitive to green, the same power it looks brighter. Checkout ICNIRP book.

      I think it is scare mongering otherwise something would have happened by now...

    3. Psyx

      Re: One major question I have..

      "More power - more coherence (up to the point of hitting the moon and bouncing back - a half a million mile round trip - to get measurements of the accuracy that can tell us that the moon is is moving away from us a few inches or feet every year (can't remember which it is)). "

      It also helps if one has the forethought to put an optical corner reflector on the moon. Which they did.

  24. RobbinB the second

    Others views

    Perhaps the doubters here should take a look at pprune, they are pilots and they seem to believe there is a problem, no theory but actual experience.

  25. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance
    Windows

    Another major question I have..

    What does prolixity mean?

    Oh, right looked it up.

    Very accurate assesment.

    Otherwise known as talking shit, or at best not condensing the best parts down to make sense to an otherwise un-interested audience.

    Fair comment. I agree with you in fact. Great word. Now I have a label to put on the disease - like autism.

    It's ok - I'm autistic. It's ok - I'm prolixitic. Oh you don't know what it means...

    I'm not in that type of mode at all. Kinky shit. I love it, but not now. (Graham, where are those leather underpants I ordered yesterday, I need them ToDay ;-)).

    Yes, prolixity reduces coherence..

    To paraphrase David Byrne: I'm a rambler.

    Born under punches...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem isn't the technology

    Its stupid people who use technology in an inappropriate way to annoy/risk lives.

    So banning pointers makes no sense because all this will do is encourage the real criminals while annoying legitimate researchers and hobbyists with even more draconian regulations.

    Better to educate than legislate, 99.999995% of the population would not even think of using a laser as a weapon in this way.

  27. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Flip down filter glasses

    I mean those lasers typically have one of very few wavelength. So simply make "flip down" safety glasses for the pilots so they can simply filter out that particular wavelength.

    Maybe it's even worth to just think about such an idea. Maybe just creating the urban legend would discourage people pointing laser pointers at planes.

    1. moiety

      Re: Flip down filter glasses

      Wouldn't work...by the time you've selected and flipped the correct filter, you're already dazzled.

  28. xperroni
    Facepalm

    "So what kind of jerk points a laser at a plane anyway?"

    If my workplace is any guide, everyone.

    Seriously, every single time someone gets hold of a laser pointer, the first thing they do is frantically wave that thing about everyone else's desk and/or face. It's even as though lasers emit some kind of radiation that impairs human cognition, turning otherwise sensible people into flashlight-wielding morons.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My country does not think I am an airplane but others do...

    On a bad day, month, year, contract... I can run into an average of 5 or 6 of these suckers per 15 seconds just by wanting to go to the pisser. Did I miss something?

  30. Bradley Hardleigh-Hadderchance

    Could I make a serious point here?

    In the UK they have made anything over one mW illegal.

    There are still many 5mW pointers being sold in the UK.

    And many 1500mW pointers that can be legally imported from usa for 20 quid.

    Now, I am not for banning anything. Or censoring anything. But.........

    I can't see what the point of a 1500mW pointer might be - yes - pointing out astronomical features - This is Orion, and in the middle we have, from left to right, Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Yes all very educational...

    But you can do that with a 5mW.

    I think the UK govt. should crack down on imports over at the very most 100mW (can still cause major eye damage).

    The ban that is in place does not work. Lasers are very dangerous things. They can be made safe. By not having access to them.

    All I know is, I can buy a 1500mW laser for £30 inc. delivery, legally from the states. With this, I can blind people in any room I share with them, I can even blind the pilots of 747's if I can get a good enough shot. And I am close enough.

    And I can also use it to make fire by igniting paper or dry wood shavings.....

    Just saying like. Don't have one yet. Though might get one soon before the new laws come into place...

    1. cyberdemon
      WTF?

      Re: Could I make a serious point here?

      The problem is that banning stuff just doesn't work. As someone here has already said: it rarely affects the real criminals, but causes major problems for legitimate users. There are plenty of legitimate uses of a >100mW laser.

      One of which, for example, is in your CD writer. It is also relatively easy to disassemble a cheap CD writer and turn it into a very powerful laser pointer.

      What would you prefer to do? Ban imports of blu-ray writers (which contain a >1000mW blue laser) or criminalise curious youths (our future scientists and engineers) for wanting to have some fun taking things to bits?

      1. Psyx

        Re: Could I make a serious point here?

        "The problem is that banning stuff just doesn't work. As someone here has already said: it rarely affects the real criminals"

        'Real criminals' don't tend to waste time shining lights at 'planes. There's not much money in it.

        We're talking about casual, stupid, thoughtless criminals here, who probably don't even realise what they're doing is criminal. So a ban or license requirement on powerful lasers would discourage most of them.

  31. Bob McBob
    Coat

    pedantic point

    It's aeroplane not airplane

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: pedantic point

      Depends on which side of the water you're talking to., and Americans like their version of English just fine, thank you, so don't bother with the smug superiority.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pair of red lensed glasses for the pilot and pair of green for co-pilot to be worn on approach, problem solved £20.

    1. Psyx

      So both of them can only see half the navigational lights of the things that are the only other obstacles in the sky, and one of them can't see warning lights on tall buildings, either?

      Awesome plan.

  33. M7S

    Food for thought.

    About a decade or so ago in Berkshire, when the memsahib was an eye surgeon working there, there was a spate of lasers being used to dazzle the rozzers in the street from distances of no more than a few hundred metres. They (and some of the public) would frequently come in wanting some kind of treatment but to be frank there isn't any as no damage was done. Yes, lasers are used in eye surgery and do have an effect but you really need to be close up, althought the eye does assist by automatically focussing on the light and cncentrating it on a point of the retina, which in this case does not help. The situation got to the point where all such cases were turned away at the door. Yes, doctors refused to see them. As a considered response having examined the facts. Basically you've been dazzled by a strong light, and just need to rest the eye for a bit. This is the real danger for pilots (also motorists etc), particularly at night where they might be acclimatised to darkness outside the cockpit and dimmed instrumentation inside.

    Laser power has undoubtedly increased over time but there are still no documented cases where such idiocy has been the direct cause of ocular trauma. It might distract a pilot so that s/he has an accident which would probably be significant in it's own right but you could acheive the same effect with a decent searchlight.

    One question the police would, however, never answer is why it was still acceptable in the circumstances for them to be firing their laser speed devices directly at the front of motor vehicles. Whilst they aim at the number plate, a slight movement of the hand would be enough to place the laser spot on the windscreen/visor of the motorist/motorcyclist. I don't know much about the frequency/visibility of their lasers but if there was dust or some factor in the transparent material that made the beam more visible, would this not be hypocritical? One trusts that greater minds than mine have considered and addressed this issue but I'd appreciate any informed comment in return.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Food for thought.

      "One question the police would, however, never answer is why it was still acceptable in the circumstances for them to be firing their laser speed devices directly at the front of motor vehicles."

      One, LIDARs don't need a lot of power to work: just enough to reach a vehicle a few (at worst, tens) of meters away and reflect back (usually via your plate or lamp housings). Some reports I've read indicate the laser used is only rated in the tens of mW--not exactly in the danger zone. Two, LIDARs normally use beams outside the visible spectrum (typically infrared or ultraviolet). Three, police don't tend to fire them until you're close (A, because it help minimize exposure time and the chance of hitting the wrong thing and causing a false reading, and B, because it makes it too late to detect when you're being clocked).

  34. Andy Lawton

    See what the pilots think - http://www.pprune.org/rumours-news/349414-l-sers-attacks-aircraft.html

  35. JT163
    Mushroom

    Surely there's a technological solution.

    For example I'm under the impression that things like binos and goggles can be rendered laswer safe with a coating or laminate.

    Give the pilots or at least one pilot said glasses, like the coldwar days when it was alleged NEACP and Looking Glass pilots wore an eyepatch, so they'd have a good eye in the event they weere blinded by a nuke flash.

    Or treat the cockpit windows.

    Oh yeah and issue a laser detector and a hellfire, to each civil airliner.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have seen it

    Even as a passenger in an aircraft I have seen people shining a laser at the aircraft. It is blinding like a sunstrike, yes, but when it is dark this is much, much brighter in its percieved effect.

    The technical niceties of wavelength and wattage are less relevant that the impact.

    Can you drive a car in the dark with a million candle torch on the dash pointing at your face??

  37. The elephant in the room
    Boffin

    LCD arc-welding mask

    The tech that makes welding masks instantly darken on striking an arc could presumably be worn by the pilots as goggles or built into the windshield. I would guess that the light from a welding arc at point blank range is a lot more intense than that from a laser pointer pointed at a flying aircraft.

    Lasers arent the only dangerous lights, according to Tom Clancey in Debt of Honour, where as far as I can remember Clarke & Chavez down Japanese AWACSes with a mercury discharge flashgun.

    1. Psyx
      FAIL

      Re: LCD arc-welding mask

      "The tech that makes welding masks instantly darken on striking an arc could presumably be worn by the pilots as goggles or built into the windshield."

      Why yes they could *If they wanted to see sod all!*

      Would you wear sunglasses while driving a car at night in case someone drives at you with lights on full beam? No, because it's clearly stupid.

      Now consider that aircraft don't have their own headlights to illuminate the course ahead, making things relatively even darker for the pilot than the afore-mentioned ray-ban equipped night driver.

      And that the tint on a welding mask is far heavier than the tint on sunglasses.

      And that things that you have to worry about why flying a plane at several hundred mph are far further away than things that you worry about looking for when driving a car.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If they wanted to see sod all

        The thing about automatic welding helmets is that they darken very quickly when there's bright light, then lighten almost as quickly when there's no bright light.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: If they wanted to see sod all

          Thing is, arc sparks are brief and sporadic. Well-aimed, a laser dazzler can be continuous, meaning you're either blinded by the dazzler or blinded by the automatic shade, neither of which are very comfortable positions to be in when you're trying to line up for a runway landing.

        2. Psyx
          Facepalm

          Re: If they wanted to see sod all

          "The thing about automatic welding helmets is that they darken very quickly when there's bright light, then lighten almost as quickly when there's no bright light."

          Does it darken and lighten again as quickly as -say- an eyelid?

          If not, then you've just created a marvellously over-engineered solution. Even worse, really: Because the MOMENT that the light is gone is the time when the pilot most needs to re-orientate themselves and check their instrumentation. Waiting around for another couple of seconds would be even more detrimental.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Does it darken and lighten again as quickly as -say- an eyelid?

            Well under a millisecond to block light, under a second to llghten again. It's quicker and more reliable than trusting your blink reaction, and it can tell when the light stops shining - how are you going to do that with your eyes shut?

  38. MrZoolook
    Alert

    I bought an adjustable laser...

    ...to annoy the sisters cat with, and showed it to my housemate. Lo and behold, within about a week, he showed me this --> www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/9220786.Arrests_after_lasers_shone_at_aircraft/?ref=rss

    Damn, the planes have their wheels down as they pass overhead and I live not half a mile away from these assholes! They shulda thrown away the key!

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