back to article Aircraft laser strikes hit new record with 20 incidents in one night

The Federal Aviation Administration has warned of a dangerous escalation in laser strikes on aircraft, with Wednesday night alone registering a record 20 incidents. "Nearly two dozen aircraft were hit by lasers last night," the FAA reported. "Shining a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime. It can harm the pilot and …

  1. Turtle

    Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal"

    "Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal"

    Right. Now what?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal"

      Given the events tonight in Paris, declaring these events as acts of Terroism is not that far fectched.

      Send them to on a one way flight to Gitmo.

    2. Vimes

      Re: Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal"

      I wonder if this has anything to do with flightpaths being changed so that there is far loess variation on their approach and departures than there used to be? The path followed is more carefully controlled, and the upshot of that is that some people get far more aircraft passing overhead than they used to. It's hardly surprising that this might be pissing people off in some areas.

      Not that I would ever condone this dangerous behaviour of course, but changes are always made in such a way that only ever considers the advantages from the PoV of the airlines, airports and air traffic control. The impact on the public on the other hand rarely seems to get taken seriously in any significant way. Just look at Heathrow, where they didn't even bother telling people about flight path trials, and where NATS lied to the public on the subject of departure routes from Heathrow.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal"

        Which came first? The airport or the real estate development?

        Frankly, they should have passed a law or regulation that nothing other than airport support structures could be built within a few miles of an airport or at least in the takeoff and landing flight paths.

        Second, yes, interfering with aircraft operations is the very definition of terrorism and always has been since the 1940s when it was then labeled as sabotage.

        1. John Geek

          Re: Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal"

          I'm 70 miles (100km) from a major metropolitan airport, their primary approach vector was consolidated about a year ago to a single path over the mountains, and the folks a couple miles south of me, who live in a very remote rural and quiet canyon, are quite annoyed at the non-stop stream of big jets , spaced 30 seconds apart all day and night that now fly directly over them. as this valley is up 1000' elevation from sea level, the planes are flying at 6000 or 7000' above sea level, they can be quite loud.

          that all said, to the topic at hand.... green laser pointers. I'm an amateur astronomer, and use these at public events to point out the night sky features we're showing the public. There's a new generation of these lasers that are WAY brighter than advertised... I bought a pair of supposedly 5mW green lasers, that are easily 30-40 mW compared with my old 5mw lasers. the older ones used 2 AAA batteries, and were quite sensitive to cold and low voltage, they'd stop working if the batteries drop below 1.4V each (2.8V total). These new 'laser 303' lasers use 18650 LiIon rechargables. I measured the electrical power consumption of one at 1.2 watts, and at the typical efficiencies of the IR diodes, IR laser crystal, and frequency-doubler crystal these use, that comes to 30-40mW actual radiated power. frankly, for my star pointer use, I preferred the old 'actually' 4-5mW lasers, but their battery consumption was ridiculous.

          I suspect this increasing stream of reports in the press will be followed by banning them entirely.

          1. Steven Roper

            Re: Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal"

            "I suspect this increasing stream of reports in the press will be followed by banning them entirely."

            That's already happened in Australia. Several years ago the government banned all laser pointers over 1 mW, except for members of registered astronomy clubs. You have to prove membership in such a club to be able to import a >1 mW laser pointer, and there's a safety training course you have to complete to be qualified to use one.

            Essentially the safety course warns about never pointing them at aircraft, always checking to see if there are any aircraft in the vicinity you're aiming at before operating the pointer, and being aware of high-altitude ice scattering the beam in ways that aren't always visible from the ground, etc.

            They're classed as Category A firearms, which I thought was actually quite cool - I'd been waiting since I was a kid for the sci-fi moment when laser guns would be recognised officially as weapons!

            But of course that means that if you are caught in possession of one without an astronomy-club exemption you get charged with possession of an illegal and unregistered firearm - which in this country is a serious and imprisonable offence.

        2. Tom 13

          Re: Which came first?

          Not as simple as that. Sometimes it was the airport, sometimes it was the city. Also, the area affected by the noises can be somewhat large. I once lived in an apartment that was in the flight path BWI used during one type of bad weather. I understand the particular climb and turn combination pilots have to make to execute the takeoff causes rather more noise than the standard one. Most of the time I didn't notice, but I did occasionally. I was a good 20 minute drive from the airport. So you're talking about prohibiting housing in more than 600 square miles just for a small arc covering the apartment complex I lived in.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal"

        I wonder if this has anything to do with flightpaths being changed so that there is far loess variation on their approach and departures than there used to be?

        No, it's to do with high-powered lasers now being cheaply available online. Combine that with stupidity and poor education, and you get idiots who'll end up in court, crying "But I didn't think..."

        1. Vimes

          Re: Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal"

          it's to do with high-powered lasers now being cheaply available online.

          They have been for some time now though surely?

          If the availability hasn't really changed over recent years, but the behaviour has changed then perhaps something other than the tendency for not giving a shit about anybody else is to blame for the increase?

          And just to re-iterate: I do not condone what these people do. Regardless of what excuses they come up with, their actions can never be justified.

          I only mentioned the airport development since I've seen the extreme anger that the Heathrow trials last year caused when there were meetings between locals and Heathrow management. When you see it first hand it's not difficult to imagine that anger translating into this sort of behaviour regardless of how unreasonable - and illegal - such actions may be, especially since the changes trialled at Heathrow have already been put into practice in the US, presumably causing the same problems and the same levels of frustration.

          1. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal"

            No amount of 'anger' justifies pointing lasers at cockpits of planes on finals.

            1. Vimes

              Re: Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal" @anothercynic

              Did you actually read my response? I have repeatedly said that I don't condone it.

              People however have the habit of occasionally doing the unreasonable, sometimes with dire consequences. Ignoring that tendency serves no useful purpose that I can see.

              1. anothercynic Silver badge

                Re: Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal" @vimes

                Did I say you condoned it? You will find, dear Vimes, that I did not. So please, leave your self-righteous 'Did you actually read my response' indignation at the door.

        2. Chairo
          Mushroom

          Re: Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal"

          No, it's to do with high-powered lasers now being cheaply available online. Combine that with stupidity and poor education, and you get idiots who'll end up in court, crying "But I didn't think..."

          I would say it has even more to do with green lasers nowadays being sold as toys on the street in many holiday locations and brain dead parents buying said lasers for their even more stupid offspring.

          The toy version usually has some kind of filter that turns the beam into a heart shape or something, but the filter can be easily removed to create a single point high power green laser pointer.

          I'd recommend some high powered active point back system that precisely, instantly and permanently blinds whoever points such a converted toy on an aircraft.

          1. Tom 13

            Re: green lasers nowadays being sold as toys on the street

            which at it's heart is a different way of saying "availability of cheap lasers".

            I'm inclined to think it's mostly this and some in anger, but we really shouldn't rule out terrorist probing.

            All of which brings us back to the point raised by the very first poster: What are airlines going to do about it? Making it illegal obviously isn't working. Which means the airlines MUST take some sort of countermeasures to deal with it.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Dangerous, stupid and highly illegal"

        "some people get far more aircraft passing overhead than they used to."

        It's bloody hard to lase an aircraft passing overhead. You need to be a long way away and able to shine it on the windows at the pointy end, which is why so many get painted when they're on finals (low and moving slowly)

        This is more a stupid prat thing than a Victor Meldrew type response.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apparently a lot of people agree that you should have privacy in your own backyard. We don't know if the pilots were looking at our wimmin. We don’t know if they were looking for something to steal. Those pilots should be glad it was just a laser and not a shotgun.

    1. toughluck

      Here, have a downvote.

      1. muddysteve

        So, are the downvoters agreeing with the sentiment and adding a downvote, or are they disagreeing and downvoting the downvote? My head hurts.

    2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      FAIL

      @ AC

      There's a tiny difference between downing an unmanned drone hovering 30-40 feet above your backyard, and lasing an aircraft carrying people and fuel just waiting to come crashing down in a neighborhood. And I'm not even crazy about the guy who downed the drone with a shotgun, which might be dangerous to others, even if he was using birdshot.

      Enjoy the downvote and "Thank you, come again!"

    3. David Nash Silver badge

      "We don't know if the pilots were looking at our wimmin"

      Do people really think that comment was not a joke?

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: "We don't know if the pilots were looking at our wimmin"

        People really think it's a bad joke, I think.

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          Re: "We don't know if the pilots were looking at our wimmin"

          I believe that he is making some reference to some of the recent articles about drones and prvacy

          here is one of them

          http://m.theregister.co.uk/2015/07/30/man_arrested_shooting_camera_drone/

          It appers that the KneeJerk crowd are strong in the force today Luke....

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: "We don't know if the pilots were looking at our wimmin"

            These are not the KneeJerk crowd you are looking for.

            The other part of the KneeJerk crowd is blathering about our freedoms being under attack and how they are shocked, shocked!! and mourning, mourning!! about some blowback shock-and-awe in Paris and how they will let their inner Nazi out. Oh my.

            1. Khaptain Silver badge

              Re: "We don't know if the pilots were looking at our wimmin"

              @DAM

              Yes, and I think that the word is commonly known as "retribution"... and we can probably thank Mr Bush and Mr Blair.....

              1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

                Re: "We don't know if the pilots were looking at our wimmin"

                Yeah. You see the thumbs down. The keyboarder arsehole brigade is strong again and smelling blood in the water.

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Downvotes? For obvious sarcasm and references to current events?

      A lot of grumpy old farts here, I see.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Grumpy old farts don't bother me. Even if they miss the joke, their rants add a bit of colour to the proceedings.

        What I can't stand are sufferers of special snowflake syndrome who feel the need to make pointless and narcissistic posts.

        <whine> 'Here have a down vote'.</whine> Really? WTF gives a toss. If you feel strongly about something, speak up; otherwise don't waste everyone's time.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Well I thought the headline at first glance (arrrr me hearties!) was about a new Star Wars test shot, TBH. Probably I need more coffee ;)

    5. tom dial Silver badge

      It really is a shame that The Register does not provide for both anonymity and the joke icon, as I feel sure thes post was a joke. I cannot bring mysel fo upvote it, but think the downvoters might have missed the mark

    6. Steve Gill

      Excellent tie-in between the two there sir :)

  3. werdsmith Silver badge

    Time for boffins to come up with a defence against laser pointers, because it doesn't matter how many laws you make, if there are a million people then there will be a fair number of idiots among them.

    1. toughluck

      It just takes one.

    2. streaky Silver badge

      I can think of a few - laser guided missiles would be neat.

    3. Def Silver badge

      Time for boffins...

      ...to figure out how to limit the range the light can travel from a laser pointer. And then make the column of light fully visible, and a bit thicker, give them a nice big handle to hold it with, and maybe give it a nice wooshing sound as it scythes through the air.

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        Make them fail to work if pointed upwards, at more than (say) 60 degrees.

        Twats can still cause other harm with them, just as now, but accurately pointing them at an aircraft in flight would be a lot harder at a maximum angle like that.

        Edit:

        Hmm. Scrap that idea, then - just read a little further and saw the high rise blocks/Glasgow airport comment. A low angle would probably still be a problem there. Reduce the strength of the laser as the angle increases, so at anything above horizontal, it's too weak to do any harm.

        1. MacroRodent Silver badge

          mirror

          "Make them fail to work if pointed upwards, at more than (say) 60 degrees."

          A measure easily defeated with a mirror, while inconveniencing many legitimate uses, like pointing out details of frescoes in ceilings.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: mirror

            The US was looking into special fast-blackening glasses for their pilots back in the 90s when it was feared that high-powered lasers might be used against US warplanes to actually blind pilots for good (verboten by UN conventions, but hey) in case a shooting match breaks out with someone whose armed forces are a bit serious about that war business. What happened to that?

            Well, sitting in a cockpit with what would be heavy sunglasses still would not make instrumental landing practical.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: mirror

              The special ones from silent films with boot polish smeared on the back to give the characteristic Panda-eye rings?

          2. jzl

            Re: mirror

            Defeated with a mirror? But, but, but, but that's HACKING!

          3. PaulFrederick

            Re: mirror

            I would think issuing pilots glasses that block the wavelength of light green lasers emit would be enough. But that just makes too much sense. So it will never be done.

        2. Tom 13
          FAIL

          Re: at more than (say) 60 degrees.

          And what would the angle between the horizon and the plane be on landing approach?

          1. VinceH Silver badge

            Re: at more than (say) 60 degrees.

            "And what would the angle between the horizon and the plane be on landing approach?"

            You didn't read beyond the first line of my comment, I take it?

      2. roytrubshaw
        Coat

        Re: Time for boffins...

        ...to figure out how to limit the range the light can travel from a laser pointer. And then make the column of light fully visible, and a bit thicker, give them a nice big handle to hold it with, and maybe give it a nice wooshing sound as it scythes through the air.

        <pedant>More of a 60Hz A/C hum I think.</pedant>

        So how's this:

        <geek>The handle contains a reel of a mono-filament wire of some kind (probably carbon), which ends in a disc. The disc and the handle are both charged to repel each other and thus hold the filament taut. The charge is transferred to the disc at the end via ionisation caused by a powerful laser beam; as a side of effect of the extreme voltages generated there is a St. Elmo's fire effect going at that makes the ionisation path visible, this acts to tell you where the mono-filament is. It's the mono-filament that does the cutting, not the laser, though the beam and the controlled lightning effect will cauterise - to some extent - wounds caused by the wire.</geek>

        And there you have it: 3-weeks worth of undergraduate discussion (in 1977) on how to construct a working light-sabre.

        Oh look at the men in the smart, white lab-coats...

    4. Marcelo Rodrigues

      "Time for boffins to come up with a defence against laser pointers..."

      It's not THAT hard. I mean, it will cost money. And a lot more than they are willing to pay. But...

      What lasers do we have today, commercially sold?

      Red

      Blue

      Green

      Violet

      Each one of them working with an extremely narrow range of frequencies. Put some film inside the cockpit windows that blocks these specific wavelengths. There may be some change in the scenery colors, due to these missing colors, but I don't think it would be important.

      Even the red ones. The red lights use a much larger spectrum than the laser pointers.

      1. cambsukguy

        I worked on a system using two fairly powerful lasers to scan eyes (yeah, I know).

        Obviously, we worked in a closed off space so others would be safe - the oscillating mirrors could throw light everywhere during development and one had to be careful, which is difficult for hours on end.

        The safety mechanism? wearing glasses with a high-Q optical filter for the two frequencies involved, not unlike the film over the aircraft screen idea.

        So, no retrofit, give pilots laser landing glasses with maybe two filters for red/green. Going forward, ensure that all manufacturers agree that commercial pointers etc. use almost the same frequencies to minimise the variance.

        The glasses were almost perfectly clear I recall so it seems possible unless there are dozens of frequencies used at the moment, even so, maybe a wider filter would still be fine even at night (where I presume the most attacks occur?, after all, they want to see the dot on the aircraft not being actual terrorists a la ISIS?).

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          "Going forward, ensure that all manufacturers agree that commercial pointers etc. use almost the same frequencies to minimise the variance."

          Nice idea, but I think at least part of the problem is that some overseas vendors are selling class 3 devices over the internet branded as "professional" laser pointers. Since they don't comply with your laws, or with plain common sense, they aren't likely to comply with a well-intentioned suggestion.

        2. Oldfogey

          One Word

          Peril-sensitive sunglasses.

          Oh....

      2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        To be honest I was thinking of then just have broad spectrum goggles just for landing and. Take off. Surely that'd.do the job and a damn sight cheaper than recoating the cockpit glass.

      3. PaulFrederick

        Only the green lasers are visible in the atmosphere. They seem to be the only lasers being used in the strikes.

    5. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      "...defence against laser..."

      Exists.

      Nanomaterial film that notches out the two most common laser pointer wavelengths.

      First marketing approach was sheets of film installed in the aircraft windows just like window tinting is installed in cars.

      Mk II marketing approach is goggles or glasses.

      Been around for about a year, roughly.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: "...defence against laser..."

        "First marketing approach was sheets of film installed in the aircraft windows just like window tinting is installed in cars."

        The local oiks lase cars, cyclists and residential windows in addition to aircraft (their usual method of getting away is to duck into a pub when the helicopter shows up)

        When they hit my lounge window about 30 degrees off axis the entire pane (1.2m square) went bright green and illuminated the room whilst preventing anything being seen outside. Apparently this is down to microcracking in the glass. Having experienced it I can see why it'd be hellishly distracting to a pilot even if he doesn't cop it directly in the eyeball. (I've caught that too, It hurt like hell and at least one other driver crashed into parked cars when he got struck).

        I've been sorely tempted to liberate a cutting laser and use it to return the favour.

    6. Suricou Raven

      Remove the windows.

      Why not? It'd allow for slightly reduced construction costs and simplified aerodynamics, and pilots don't actually need to see out of them - planes can already be flown almost entirely on instruments, and could be all the time with just a couple more cameras. It'd actually improve visibility.

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Or you could rermove the pilots.

        Take-off, cruise and landing are mostly automated anyway - or can be if need be.

        It's either that or making it illegal to own any pointer with a power of more than <not many> W.

        Does anyone really need a pointer that puts out more than 10mW? No, they don't.

    7. ecofeco Silver badge

      Fair number? What a polite way of saying "most of them."

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Eric Olson
    Devil

    I have an idea...

    ...and the FBI has offered a $10,000 bounty to anyone who lets them know when a dangerous idiot is on the loose with lasers.

    A small part of me wants to find some idiots, plant a seed, water it with beer, then turn them into the cops. I mean, it's a public service to get idiots jailed, right? The fact that I could get paid to do it would merely be an incidental benefit.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: I have an idea...

      If you were really evil you'd open a Dangerous Idiot MegaPointer Supastore on eBay, and then collect $10k for each customer.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Meh

    This happens everywhere. I'm a cop in Glasgow and there's a set of five high rise flats that are directly under the flightpath to Glasgow airport.I think we've had three people charged in three separate locations so far.

    No excuses, just unemployed neds bored of an evening.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Meh

      There was a Winchburgh man sent down for firing fireworks at aeroplanes landing at Edinburgh Airport. He wasn't a ned, he was a middle-aged home-owner pissed off by the flight path. Admittedly he was mad, but he was driven mad by the noise. Flight paths do tend to fly over poor populated areas rather than more sparsely populated rich areas, and the poor folk do get annoyed by that.

      I am in no way defending the laser-pointers - I don't fly anymore but if I saw anyone doing that then I'd brick them. After all, if they did bring down a plane then it might land on me. Am I allowed to say I'd brick someone to a cop? Och, tonight you should be worrying about Daesh and right-wing retaliation, not silly buggers like me.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Meh

        Most airports have been around a rather long time and they fly over areas populated by the poor because the noise lowers property values making it affordable to the poor and rich folks can afford to live elsewhere. Of course there are probably more flights now than there were but part of that is because airlines are consolidating their routes and many of the smaller airports, like the one I learned at, are actually being closed.

        1. Roq D. Kasba

          Re: Meh

          'It's WW2, we need a new airport - quick, let's find a prime bit of real estate densely populated with poor people'

          Or possibly post-war, cities expanded to fill the gaps upto the airports, and businesses came along for the great transport links, then people came to work at those businesses, the less well paid off whom were prepared to live closer to work in exchange for engine noise and lower rents.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Meh

            'It's WW2, we need a new airport - quick, let's find a prime bit of real estate densely populated with poor people'

            More than one posh fox-hunting ground was destroyed by this defense perimeter action...

          2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

            Re: Meh

            Hardly, one of the only landing strips capable of landing the space shuttle (outside of the US) was out in the sticks of York.

            It's also visible from space and was used for Lancasters and b-17s. (and is also where my grand-uncle flew out from never to return, not surprising with 50% survival rate of his job)

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Meh

          The problem is the zoning laws allowing residential zones near airports not industrial zones. Also, how many of the complainers are the poor but upper middle class/rich who chose to live by the airport.

        3. PaulFrederick

          Re: Meh

          Some rich folks can afford to have flight paths altered too. Moving is for the poor rich folks. The really rich ones tell planes where to fly.

  7. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Stop

    If one of these idjits actually brings down a plane....

    Punishment should START with him/her/them being made to dig the graves of everyone they got killed.

  8. DCLXV

    Middle class terrorism

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Care to expand on that, #665?

  9. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Retro reflectors

    If most of these clowns thought it was somebody aiming something back at them, they might stop.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Retro reflectors

      Or just use the reflection as an aiming cue, to help find and stay on target.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Retro reflectors

        "Or just use the reflection as an aiming cue, to help find and stay on target."

        alternatively it's the plane that uses the reflection as an aiming cue .......

  10. WonkoTheSane

    Just wait.

    Some idiot will try this on a fighter plane armed with laser guided bombs.

    File under Darwin Award.

    (Yes, I know that's not how laser guided bombs really work, but it sounded nice inside my head)

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Can't say I don't like idea, but fighter pilots generally do have a bit of a problem with releasing military ordnance on a civilian population in their own country.

      1. Def Silver badge
        Joke

        but fighter pilots generally do have a bit of a problem with releasing military ordnance on a civilian population in their own country.

        So you just need a small international agreement in place. British pilots can police the French skies, and vice versa. :D

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        fighter pilots generally do have a bit of a problem with releasing military ordnance on a civilian population in their own country.

        I saw what you did there...

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Trollface

          Can't say I don't like idea, but fighter pilots generally do have a bit of a problem with releasing military ordnance on a civilian population in their own country.

          That's because they are sitting in the wrong plane. They should be sitting in a ground-attack aircraft.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "They should be sitting in a ground-attack aircraft."

            The RAF and RN will have a suitable plane in a while. It's called the F35

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Coat

        releasing military ordnance

        Then you load the fightersground attack aircraft with civil ordnance (smart bombs that say "sorry" and dig your grave before exploding on you)

  11. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    "Putting the laser where the sun doesn't shine" is the phrase that somehow springs to mind. Can't think why. Of course, it is the perpetrator's minds in need of illumination, not their lower intestines

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Of course, it is the perpetrator's minds in need of illumination

      ITYM "enlightenment".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        maybe you get them all a new Fiat Lux

        sorry

  12. Haku

    I have red, green and violet (sold as blue) laser pointers.

    They're fun toys but I'm extremely aware of how dangerous they can be, unlike some of my friends and their friends who have several times asked me to get them a green one next time I'm buying gadgets online because it's the brightest.

    I do say yeah I'll get them one, but I never do and never will because generally they're morons when it comes to technology and things like this. I mean, if they can't figure out how to buy something from the internet that's as readily available as a laser pointer how can they comprehend just how dangerous they can be?

    20 incedents in one night is nothing compared to what happened in Egypt a couple of years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjaW3QM2Nb8

    One really odd thing I discovered about laser light, which I haven't found an answer to is this: My violet laser will easily charge up glow-in-the-dark materials, it's very cool how quickly it does that, but if I shine my red or more noticably my green laser pointer at an already charged up glow-in-the-dark material it will go dark where I shine the laser, it actively reduces the glow.

    There has to be a scientific explanation for what happens when you do that, but to me that's just weird with a capital weird.

    1. tfb Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: I have red, green and violet (sold as blue) laser pointers.

      For the glow-in-the-dark question, the violet laser will have higher-energy photons and so will be kicking whatever it is needs to be kicked into an excited energy level. The other lasers will then either give whatever it is enough of a kick that it falls back rapidly or, perhaps, kick it into some yet other excited energy level where it is much more nearly stable, so appears dark.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: I have red, green and violet (sold as blue) laser pointers.

        Clearly the energy quantum is involved. Better ask at StackExchange

      2. Suricou Raven

        Re: I have red, green and violet (sold as blue) laser pointers.

        If you could sandwich the material between two mirrors, you could make another laser.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I have red, green and violet (sold as blue) laser pointers.

      I haven't seen a laser pointer used in public for years and I travel a lot of miles.

      I understand the UK health department has them listed whereby over a certain power they are not allowed to or recommended not to be sold.

      Contrary to this, I'm woken up and disturbed regularly by cars and motorcycles with extremely loud modified exhausts. A practice that has become more and more fashionable and now reaching out to middle age men driving exotic cars, paying up to £5,000 for a system designed to audibly show off the power of their vehicle contrary to type approval standards and MOT rules.

      So I've bee wondering. Next time I'm sleep deprived by one of these selfish motoring enthusiasts forcing their noise into my apartment and head, how would they and the Police react if I forced laser light into their vehicles and eyes?

      I'm guessing the car and motorcycle modification industry being worth £millions more than the laser pen industry, would see me prosecuted and the car driver ticked off with a little warning, with the MOT testers continuing to making a good living out of the fraud.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I have red, green and violet (sold as blue) laser pointers.

        I'm woken up and disturbed regularly by cars and motorcycles with extremely loud modified exhausts

        Most of those exhaust modders are idiots. All you have to suggest is that they will be better able to enjoy the sound if they duct it into the interior, and Darwin will take care of the rest.

        :)

        1. DanceMan

          Re: Most of those exhaust modders are idiots

          Yes. How do you make more power? Rev higher. Only at a track day would a modified exhaust have any real use. On my current (25 year old) car I had the noisier muffler replaced with a quiet one as soon as the exhaust needed work. I can't use anything near the max power my car can make on public roads, and scores of current cars have much more power than mine.

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: I have red, green and violet (sold as blue) laser pointers.

        @ac

        Contrary to this, I'm woken up and disturbed regularly by cars and motorcycles with extremely loud modified exhausts. A practice that has become more and more fashionable and now reaching out to middle age men driving exotic cars

        The loudest car near me left the factory that way - TVR Cerbera. Its so loud that I can't even hear my car when I'm sat in it if the owner pulls up next to me, and my car is fairly loud. Some cars are just loud, and no matter how they're used will be audible in a road side building.

        Now, I completely agree when we're talking about badly modified shopping trolleys, fart canning their way between McDonalds, while looking like the spare carriage off the Ninkey-Nonk. Or idiots that hold the gear up to the red line in residential areas.

        Those, to me, are two very different issues, but I say that as a middle aged man, with a faintly loud car. I'm not really sure what you want me to do about it though.... The car can't be made quiet.

    3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: I have red, green and violet (sold as blue) laser pointers.

      The glow in the dark is either phosphorescence or fluorescence. Both require the illumination of a suitable material with light of the correct frequency to occur. For many common materials this is in violet region.

  13. IvoryT

    There's one way to stop this

    I am against the death penalty for all the obvious reasons, but if your country actually has it then laser strikes on planes would be a good candidate because it actually would act as a deterrent.

    You would only have to publicly execute 3 or 4 people and and this horribly dangerous behaviour would stop.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's one way to stop this

      You would only have to publicly execute 3 or 4 people and and this horribly dangerous behaviour would stop.

      it hasnt exactly worked for the other crimes which carry the death sentence, though has it?

      Using a sweeping generalisation, most people who are dicking around like this are likely to struggle with difficult concepts like "repercussions".................

      1. Yugguy

        Re: There's one way to stop this

        There is one thing that the death penalty absolutely prevents, and that's the chance of the daft fuckwits doing it again.

        1. Anonymous C0ward

          Re: There's one way to stop this

          Assuming you've got the right person.

          There are lots of cases that deserve the death penalty. There are rather less times when the evidence is clear enough, or the judge and jury can be impartial enough, to hand down such a penalty that can't be undone. And he who is without sin, etc.

        2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: There's one way to stop this

          You're thinking of summery executions. Death penalty almost always involves a lot of trials and appeals, almost always costing more than keeping someone in prison for life.

          So either you have a system where people are getting killed for things they didn't do, or finding very expensive ways for the state to kill it's own citizens.

          But it's a pretty typical narrow minded little englander attitude, written by someone not near enough to the bottom or top of society to actually appreciate how the law does (or doesn't) work, and especially on how it's enforced.

          I'm sure you'll be voting for whoever is offering to reduce our freedoms in the name of fighting $Enemy, who hate us because of our freedoms, and nothing to do with killing and theft.

    2. cambsukguy

      Re: There's one way to stop this

      If 250k and/or 20 years doesn't stop it, threat of death won't either.

      After all the homicide rate is lower in our non-death penalty Europe than most, if-not-all death penalty countries, and yes, I am aware that that is not necessarily why.

      But I seriously doubt if the death penalty would reduce the murder rate, I have known a few murderers and they all were not cognisant of the penalty because most were not in a stable frame of mind at the time and a small number knew the risks but were motivated by stronger urges, usually money and they don't expect to be caught, otherwise, what would be the point?

      Lasing an aircraft is easy to do and easy to get away with. We have high penalties for 'easy' crimes that are hard to stop but none-the-less very unwanted for a reason, we have nothing else. But, you have to publicise it heavily or it just means that stupid saps get massive penalties (with some publicity of course).

      The obvious one I know is the insane penalties available for pointing a camera at a screen in a cinema (10 years in prison and huge fines in the UK). Obviously reserved for the worst of the worst but still.

      And speeding?, easy to do, rarely causes the possible outcome (Hello sir, in a hurry?, better to get there alive don't you think?), small fine and points, only persistent offenders and very, very fast drivers get anything like an actual punishment - them and the ones that actually cause an accident.

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: There's one way to stop this

        @cambsukguy

        And speeding?, easy to do, rarely causes the possible outcome (Hello sir, in a hurry?, better to get there alive don't you think?), small fine and points, only persistent offenders and very, very fast drivers get anything like an actual punishment

        Speeding fines are just another tax on motoring, and a means by which to make it unpleasant such that the already unpleasant public transport looks less like a descent into hell and more like a possible option.

        I speed. There, I said it. I speed where I feel it is safe to do so, and I drive under the posted limit where I feel that it is an unsafe speed to achieve. A tin disc at the side of the road, with a number put there by a civil servant who's probably never seen the road has literally no bearing on the road surface, the weather, the traffic level, number of cyclists & pedestrians etc etc. There's more to safe driving than a speed limit.

        Almost 25 years with no points or awareness courses, so I must be doing something right. In that time I think I had two at fault accidents, both in my youth, which were caused by driving too close rather than too fast. After which, I learned to drive properly rather than driving like the teenage boy I was.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There's one way to stop this

      I would be possibly more interesting if it was possible to mandate blindness for a few weeks by whatever reversible means. If they survive that they will come out of it with a new appreciation of what it means to be able to see, if they don't, well, that too solves the issue.

      Heavy offenders would have to wear the offending item up their rear end for the duration. If they bought a big laser with sharp protrusions, tough.

  14. romanempire

    Small missile...

    ... launcher mounted above the flight deck loaded with laser homing guided missile. Perhaps with a ground proximity fuse (say 50m) that triggers a parachute and ignites a flare to light up the perps so the police can spot them. Or the payload could be a blob of that anti-theft marker dye that paints the perp.

    1. cambsukguy

      Re: Small missile...

      What about making every laser pointer oscillate with an invisible, unique pattern so that it can be recorded and traced back to the source.

      Strong market in untraceable pointers and hacking the code but both better than the current untraceable system.

      Added bonus: You could use your laser pointer as a key to open optical locks, buy the lock, do set pass code, shine your laser, repeat as required.

      Handy at the office, car and home. Just off to check the patent office...

      1. Suricou Raven

        Re: Small missile...

        Ever opened up a laser pointer? It consists of exactly four components: Diode, resistor, button, battery. A modulation chip would increase the cost greatly. People wouldn't go looking for an untrackable laser: They'd just buy the dodgy one because it's on eBay for £5 and the legit ones are £7.

  15. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Could be worse

    the could project power point presentations and London would be buried in sleeping pilots.

  16. Timbo

    Sad...

    I have to he honest here and think that, to a degree, we have brought this upon ourselves.

    We've used technology to create certain types of devices and this has brought work for people and profits to be made. Which is fine.

    But somehow, we've let the genie out of the bottle with the expectation that people will use these devices with good intent, and yet, here we find ourselves a day after Paris, with conversations about how said devices are being used to harm others.

    Maybe, just maybe there needs to be restrictions put on the production (and/or sale) of such items which might then lead to a reduction in deaths (or injuries) to other humans? And maybe we should all be accountable for these problems, by not creating a "demand" for them in the first place?

    #prayforparis

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Mushroom

      I have never seen wreaths lying in front of the Afghan embassy in the last 14 years.

      #prayforparis

      Don't give me this kind of whiny shit.

      We have brought this on ourselves, and it's only gonna get worse. Painted ourselves into the corner of mendacity. And now it's getting dark.

      #prayforgoodideas

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Which colour laser?

    Is green the best to try or red?

  18. Chozo

    I wonder how difficult it would be for the driver IC's of these laser pointers to modulate the beam with a unique serial number that's hard-coded into the silicon at manufacture.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't bother

    Stop thinking of clever hacks and regulations and countermeasures, trying to make the laser safe or cooperative in any way. Any idiot can get ~150mW of blindness out of the diode in a DVD burner, after some trash digging. Consider that some sober people are stupid enough to decide to get totally smashed at which point they're drunk enough to decide to drive home. If that hasn't stopped, whatever gets people to stop aiming lasers at air traffic will likely seem like overkill.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Don't bother

      But could a drunken idiot perform the required electronic surgery?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Don't bother

        You don't have to be terribly smart to use one of the thousand LM317-based constant current supply schematics up on the internet, some of which are just colored lines MSPainted over a photo of the 3 components involved (not counting a button and a battery). And you don't have to be sober to push the button. The hardest part may be getting the lens aligned, unless you just buy the diode holder/heatsink with spring-loaded screw cover for the lens in front, like more of the YT videos will tell you to do. And sometimes the DVD burner sled takes care of that for you-- it's only a matter of guessing where to nibble with diagonal cutters in order to leave the useful lens in place but open up a straight path for the beam.

        IMO the only thing you can do is go back to the original problem-- how do you get people to stop being stupid and doing stupid things? But even that is a layer above the ultimate problem: how do you get people to stop believing things that aren't true, such as:

        * this is going to be cool as hell

        * there's nothing wrong with X

        * whatever, nobody's going to catch me

        * this politician/party/organization has my interests in mind

        * my interests/concerns/needs are the most valid and should be pressed into the model for society with the exclusion of others

        * my assumptions are/were valid

        * everyone makes the same assumptions as me

        * well, everyone should make the same assumptions as me

        * while everyone tries to reckon unobservable reality from observable reality, the correctness of my interpretation should be obvious to all

  20. Richard 126

    Has anyone ever died from this?

    I have been reading about lasers and aircraft quite a bit on her pprune and several other sites but nowhere can I find information on anyone actually dying, aircraft brought down etc from laser attack. It seems to be extremely annoying rather than deadly.

    1. robmobz

      Re: Has anyone ever died from this?

      No. They are all terrified of it but no actual injuries or deaths. the worst that has happened is flash blindness like if you accidentally shine a torch at yourself in the dark.

    2. Filippo

      Re: Has anyone ever died from this?

      It is indeed extremely annoying. That's the point. You really don't want anything extremely annoying to happen to you while you're landing an airplane.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. eptc

    It's not just the number, it's the power?

    With lasers available far exceeding a few mW, I hope the airlines have their heads out of the sand and are spending money to provide 'blast shield' protection against lasers?

  23. Dick Emery

    Eye lights

    I suspect more people are hurt by these having them shone in their eyes than pointed at aircraft.

  24. Lou 2
    Mushroom

    Can I suggest they get a few drones to fly into those airports - one or two well placed missiles should sort that nonsense right out. Or maybe a fifty cal loaded with tracers - would look quite pretty?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Temporarily stationing an AC-130 at a laser hotspot to ruin their fun could be entertaining.

  26. Blinkered

    Eye Burn

    I have a 15mW Astro Pointer (pulsed green) - and I can tell you it can paint a beam on a mountain over a couple of km away. Only used in rural areas showing kids constellations and as such it's a great educational tool instead of wiggling your arm vaguely at the sky and saying see that star up there - it's the next one over. Never use in an urban environment but a lot of kids fun to be had attaching one of the many crazy beam scatter heads available that split the beam into a hundred or so patterns for disco lights while camping.

    As an educational tool it's great - and at the same time you educate the kids to use it responsibly - in the same way we were taught to use potentially dangerous things like axes at Scouts. Personally I'd rather be dodging a kid with a laser pen than a kid with an axe but nutters will be nutters.

    Don't blame the technology blame the education (in general) of irresponsible morons

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eye Burn

      The same argument is used against guns. "Lets ban guns" Let's ban Lasers" Let's ban everything"

      No, we should be more reasoned and ban stupidity. If you are too stupid to use tools properly then you have proved you should be banned from participating in Humanity.

      It's not the tool, it is the user that is the problem.

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: Eye Burn

        It's not the tool, it's the tool that's misusing the tool?

  27. Van

    but it's perfectly fine for so-called car and motorcycle enthusiasts to bombard our lives with their modified and excessive noisy exhausts. (the latest fashion, pop and bang noises on the overrun)

    Note that the Health department has already warned on the sale of laser pointers over a certain power, presumably making the seller liable incase of injury, yet the noise making industry is sponsored by certain MPs who constituents include the makers of loud pipes. Illegal and an MOT failure, yet fine to sell in the UK according to the health dept and trading standards.

    btw, havnt seen a laser pointer in public use for approx 10 years, yet get woken up 3-4 times per night by Harley riders and ricers.

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