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FAA Goes To the Web To Fight Laser-Pointing

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the watch-where-you're-pointing-that-thing dept.

Security 379

coondoggie writes "The Federal Aviation Administration wants you to go online to help it battle the growing safety problem of people pointing lasers at flying aircraft. The FAA today said it created a new website to make it easier for pilots and the public to report laser incidents and obtain information on the problem which continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, pilots reported 2,795 laser events through Oct. 20. Pilots have reported the most laser events in 2011 in Phoenix (96), Philadelphia (95) and Chicago (83). Since it began tracking laser events in 2005 reports rose from nearly 300 to 2,836 in 2010, the FAA said."

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I'm surprised it's such a problem (2)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#37864984)

I'd think it'd be pretty hard to accurately aim a laser pointer at a moving aircraft. I'm surprised it's such an issue.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (5, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865006)

Those are reports of people /successfully/ getting the aim right.

The number of morons waving their lasers indiscriminately at planes is much higher.

I had one idiot shine his fucking keychain laser at my face at a fucking bar. The "average person" with a laser pointer is a fucking menace.

While I disagree with Australia's ban on "high power lasers" (i.e., lasers strong enough to be seen at distance), I do see their point.

--
BMO

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (5, Funny)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865066)

While I disagree with Australia's ban on "high power lasers" (i.e., lasers strong enough to be seen at distance), I do see their point.

-- BMO

Not for much longer if you keep looking at it. :P

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865134)

While I disagree with Australia's ban on "high power lasers" (i.e., lasers strong enough to be seen at distance), I do see their point.

-- BMO

Not for much longer if you keep looking at it. :P

Niggers. Coons. Jigaboos. Porch monkeys.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865152)

Gay niggers? Queer coons? Fag jigaboos? Homo porch monkeys?

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865200)

Niggers. Coons. Jigaboos. Porch monkeys.

Kindly start another thread for your family reunion adverts.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865310)

AKA, "Warning, do not see their point with remaining eye"

oblig Doc Evil quote (1)

geoffaus (623283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865560)

Fricken Lasers!

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1, Interesting)

afabbro (33948) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865072)

This is something I would never do because, well, it's dumb and there are better things to do.

But I wonder how much of this is "there is a serious risk we could crash" and how much is "damn kids, we are pilots, FAA we are quite put out, use your quick-and-dirty-no-legislation-needed administrative law powers".

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865328)

http://www.pangolin.com/faa/laser-aircraft-animation-and-explanation.htm

Not a pilot, but it looks like a legit problem to me

Exposure? (5, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865570)

Okay, I followed your link (which wasn't really a link, by the way...), and this confused me:

A typical flash from a hand-held laser at 1000 feet lasts about 1/50 of a second. In the FAA simulator studies, the flash used was one second long. The animation above "splits the difference" by using 1/2 second flashes. We feel this is a realistic portrayal of how long a typical exposure might last.

There is a MASSIVE difference between 1/50 of a second and 1 second! And they're going to "split the difference"!!?

It seems to me like saying, "We're going to simulate eating rice to determine if it could be dangerous. An average serving is around 200 grains, so our simulator uses 3000 grains. Let's split the difference and test 1600 grains. Yup, looks like rice is pretty dangerous!" Well, YEAH, if you're eating eight servings in each sitting!

Not that I'm saying lasers don't pose some danger, mind you. Maybe they do, but this just doesn't seem like a very good-faith demonstration of that. I don't understand why they don't just record some of these actual flashes and show them to the public so that we'll actually see what the problem is. The fact that they don't kind of leads me to think that under just the right, extremely rare and fluky, circumstances it could cause an issue; but really, the danger is probably exaggerated to scare people into not doing it. Such is the problem with these warnings, it's hard to tell where it is in the spectrum (no pun intended) of warnings against stuff like texting and driving (very real and very dangerous) and stuff like using cell phones at gas stations (totally bogus).

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (4, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865374)

This is something I would never do because, well, it's dumb and there are better things to do.

There are definitely people in the world who can't find better things to do. Pointing lasers at planes is right up there with a long list of stupidity such as throwing bricks at cars from a highway overpass.

But I wonder how much of this is "there is a serious risk we could crash" and how much is "damn kids, we are pilots, FAA we are quite put out, use your quick-and-dirty-no-legislation-needed administrative law powers".

It would depend on the airport, the type of approach, how much human intervention is required in flying the plane, and the conditions. When a laser hits an aircraft it lights up the entire plane due to imperfections in laser design creating a diverging beam. The issue isn't the possibility to blind the pilot (which is next to none), it's that the cockpit would light up like a set of highbeams pointed at you on the highway making it hard if not impossible to see anything outside the window.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865172)

I had some moron shine one towards my face when I exited a local store. The pussy kid drove off after I got in my car and drove across the street to where I saw it coming from (a gas station where the kid was shining the green laser pointer from his truck). Unfortunately I was unable to get the plate # or grab the f'ing pointer and shine it in his own f'ing eyes

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865398)

If you didn't punch his face in and shit in his mouth, you're the pussy,

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865378)

While I disagree with Australia's ban on "high power lasers" (i.e., lasers strong enough to be seen at distance), I do see their point.

--
BMO

Here is where you're heading:
http://www.customs.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/LaserPointers.pdf [customs.gov.au]

$110,000 for a private citizen buying a 10mW laser pointer on Ebay without a permit.
2 different pieces of paperwork and several weeks to get permission to buy one legally.

Do you think this will deter the sort of idiot that would point a laser at a plane for kicks? The sort of inbred cretin that has nothing to lose! No just honest people with legitimate uses for the things.

I'm an astro club member and I'll stick to 1mW. I've got young kids anyway so why have something at home that can blind them. But I'd be seriously irritated if I had a legitimate use and had to jump through these hoops.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

walshy007 (906710) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865652)

What is to stop people from simply purchasing a $50 DVD burner, removing the laser mechanism, providing a power source and appropriate optics for the required application?

I was tempted to purchase a high power laser before the import ban was put into place, but never got around to it. Fail to see how it can be enforced, at best it will bump up the costs so that only those who have the resources to manufacture their own will have them.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865656)

No court in the land would award $110k for a laser pointer for use in teaching astronomy. You'll get a caution.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865508)

I had one idiot shine his fucking keychain laser at my face at a fucking bar. The "average person" with a laser pointer is a fucking menace.

It's not just the "average person" with a laser who is a fucking menace.

Last full set of eye tests I had, there was a student doing the tests plus the usual ophthalmologist overseeing, student found something he didn't like, ophthalmologist had a look, asks me if I work with lasers, I tell him not really, but work in labs where there are a number of them, informs me there is evidence of damage due to probable exposure in my right eye. I can only think of one incident when it could have happened, I walked out of my office in a large open plan lab and walked into what I thought was just a He-Ne beam that someone had 'diverted' from the optical bench at the far end of the lab down to another bench at the other end, by the looks of it now there was (probably) an IR laser down the same path.
I know of other stories from labs where someone fiddling with things on benches with high power lasers has led to co-workers suffering substantial loss of sight, and these people are not 'average' by any stretch of the imagination, there's just something about lasers which brings out the ''Auric Goldfinger" in people.

I'm not usually one for banning things, I think these cases are being overstated, but lasers+idiots are a bad combination so I'm siding with the authorities on this one.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865618)

I can only think of one incident when it could have happened, I walked out of my office in a large open plan lab and walked into what I thought was just a He-Ne beam that someone had 'diverted' from the optical bench at the far end of the lab down to another bench at the other end, by the looks of it now there was (probably) an IR laser down the same path.

Shouldn't you be wearing goggles if you are in a line of sight of anywhere a high power laser is being used?

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

mvar (1386987) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865634)

I had one idiot shine his fucking keychain laser at my face at a fucking bar. The "average person" with a laser pointer is a fucking menace.

At a bar? Thats kids play. Once while I was taking a turn on my *motorcycle*, somewhere from the deep dark ahead a laser emerged pointing right at my helmet's visor. Pretty fucked up people indeed.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (0, Offtopic)

Tim12s (209786) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865008)

Its the sharks you have to worry about.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865022)

The thing about aiming light is it's pretty fast... ;)

And a laser just has to flash over the cabin window for a fraction of a second to be noticed...

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865032)

I'd think it'd be pretty hard to accurately aim a laser pointer at a moving aircraft. I'm surprised it's such an issue.

Lol, you're joking right?

Maybe you're unaware that all those photons travel in an extremely straight line?
and you just move that straight line until it intersects an airplane. I could draw
a diagram, but it would look rather basic, with a straight line and all that. /s

-AI

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865256)

I'd think it'd be pretty hard to accurately aim a laser pointer at a moving aircraft. I'm surprised it's such an issue.

Lol, you're joking right?

Maybe you're unaware that all those photons travel in an extremely straight line?
and you just move that straight line until it intersects an airplane. I could draw
a diagram, but it would look rather basic, with a straight line and all that. /s

-AI

Lol, you're joking right?

Try not to just skip over the fact that you're trying to track an object moving at 150MPH+ next time when explaining your simplistic straight-line theory...moving vs. stationary targets is all the difference in the world, as anyone who's ever been involved in combat can attest.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

Majkow (604785) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865384)

LOL you're joking Right. Pretend you have a laser light and wanted to shine it into the eyes of a plane would you stand a) In line with the runway on the planes landing approach so yo can get the light "into the cockpit" more easily b) off to the side where you will have to try and focus the light from below and try and track the plane as it moves across from you. now think nice and hard. and since light travels really really fast the fact that the plane moves at 300km/h isn't much of an issue. especially if its coming towards you, and you are only tracking it vertical movement. as anyone who has been in combat can attest.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865430)

When it comes to aiming, the linear velocity is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the angular velocity, a fact that anybody who has ever been involved in combat (or even anybody who has played just about any video game) can attest to.

Compare the following scenarios.

Scenario 1: You are standing fifty feet from a railroad track for a high speed train. You try to hit the engine with a baseball as it comes by at 150 miles per hour. You are unlikely to succeed.

Scenario 2: You are standing on the railroad track. You try to hit the engine as it comes straight at you at 150 miles per hour. A successful hit is almost inevitable... in more ways than one.... (Note: this scenario is inadvisable for obvious reasons.)

Indeed, you can trivially hit something that's coming straight at you (or nearly so) regardless of its speed—even if it is traveling at .9c, so long as you can see it in time to aim—because from a two-dimensional perspective, it is standing almost completely still, but getting bigger.

The same would be true for hitting an aircraft with a laser pointer. Standing beside the runway, it would be really hard. Standing at the end of the runway, it would be really easy. This isn't even basic high school physics. This is third-grade snowball fight physics.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865696)

Unless you're in dense fog, the beam itself is invisible. You'd only see anything once the beam actually hits the aircraft (and then it's too far away to see the reflection with the naked eye).

However, it only takes a fraction of a second to dazzle and disorient the pilots, so even a momentary random intersection caused by a sweeping laser beam is dangerous.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865042)

Uh...you know how a flashlight beam spreads out when you turn it on? Like, the opening of the flashlight is an inch wide but you shine it on the wall and it's two feet wide? Yeah, that. A laser is just a flashlight. When you shine it on an aircraft, the beam spreads out and can easily blind the pilots. You don't need to aim accurately, and if you did, taping the laser to the side of a hunting rifle and using the scope would work great.

I'm actually surprised there hasn't been more of this, seeing how easy it is. Not just on airplanes, but on the road as well. I can see some gangsters making cars crash for their gang initiations. It's a matter of time, I suppose, it'll happen eventually. US import restrictions help, but on Taobao, the Chinese eBay, you can get a 10000mw handheld laser for a few hundred bucks [taobao.com] . The whole world knows US border security is a joke, anyway.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865132)

Do you know what a laser is?

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865164)

You are correct, the average laser pointer is quite poorly collimated, and the beam will be very wide by the time it gets the to aircraft. But "the beam spreads out and can easily blind the pilots"? What makes it easy to hit the plane also robs the laser of power by the inverse square law. You can't have it both ways.

People with multi-watt lasers on highway overpasses is a much scarier thought. Particularly multi-watt UV lasers.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865414)

He doesn't mean "blind the pilots" as in "destroy their eyes so they can never see again". He means "shine an extremely bright light into their face so it's extremely hard to see anything"

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865180)

Okay, I think you need to learn a bit about laser light. Laser light is VERY different to light coming from a torch. The whole point is that it does NOT spread out like a torch. I even went to the bother of googling you a link [howstuffworks.com] to a pretty easy to read webpage which explains the difference. Laser pointers do diverge, but nowhere near that of a torch. It is exactly due to this low beam divergence that even a low powered laser can still temporarily (or permanently) blind someone over a long distance.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865210)

Uh, obviously you are confusing highly-calibrated laboratory lasers with cheapo consumer laser pointers. Sure, the beam loses power as it spreads, but when you start with a 2000mw laser, you've still got sufficient light to blind the human eye at a distance of several thousand feet.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865356)

Laser light is VERY different to light coming from a torch

I quite agree. In addition to the difference in light, torches give off a lot of smoke too.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865786)

The unique characteristic of laser light is not that it doesn't spread out, it's that it's created through stimulated emission and is coherent.

Some sources of laser light produce naturally very focused beams.

Others, such as diode lasers do not. They use optics to collimate the light.

Most cheap laser pointers are not bright enough to blind someone without sitting there and holding it up to your eye for an extended period, although green ones are more dangerous for a couple of reasons (unfiltered IR source in cheap lasers, green ruining night vision).

When things are really going to hit the fan is when some idiot does this with one of the newer high-power laser pointers. A 1000 mW beam into a cockpit will blind a pilot faster than they can blink their eyes. Get your high-power laser pointers before then!

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865182)

And because it spreads out thus depositing fewer photons per unit area by the time it gets to the pilots; it most certainly is not powerful enough to cause any eye damage to the pilots.

Also to the moron above this moron, yes it is a straight line but at the distances which it is being aimed, even the slight shaking of most peoples hands would be enough to deflect the beam over an area larger than the plane you are aiming at.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865064)

Also consider that there is a limited amount of time before the hull blocks the laser as it approaches flying overhead and away from you.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865070)

Those numbers include pilots who think they may have seen a laser as well as human errors that are being blamed on lasers simply because they are a convenient scapegoat right now.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865130)

I'm a private pilot, but the only time I've been lasered was as a passenger in an airliner.

I was pretty surprised by it. A green light which seemed much brighter than the entire city it came from (about 20-30 miles off the side of the plane) flashed in the passenger window. It caused my eyes to dilate, and I couldn't see anything outside for a couple of seconds.

Was that flash actively dangerous if it hit the pilots? Probably not, just a distraction. But on final approach (with the plane much closer to the ground) it is probably a fair bit brighter, and it could probably be a real hazard.

While flying my plane at night I've heard the radio chatter of police helicopters flying around a major airport trying to get people to laser them so they can hunt down the perpetrators. That was a pretty interesting technique.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865150)

I'd think it'd be pretty hard to accurately aim a laser pointer at a moving aircraft. I'm surprised it's such an issue.

The bigger question is how much of a problem is this really? Out of these "incidents", how many resulted in permanent harm or loss of life? That seems to be gleamed over while throwing numbers in the thousands around...

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (1)

L473ncy (987793) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865284)

It's a major problem when you're going "low and slow". That is when flaps are down and you're just coasting onto the landing strip. Not to mention that during that time it's the most dangerous to be distracted or impaired since there isn't very much of an escape route. Seeing as how flaps are down and you can't power up the engines or risk shearing off or damaging the flaps and there isn't much time to react and do things when you're in the landing stage anyways.

Re:I'm surprised it's such a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865756)

Flaps don't mean the aircraft will fall apart if you throttle up... What the hell kind of airplane would do that? Flaps are safe to operate as long as you're under the speed that the flaps are designed to operate at. Applying power WILL increase speed, but in a situation where you're going around/recovering from a near-incident, the pilot would be pitching up for max rate of climb speed, which is typically lower than the flaps extended speed. The pilot would also be taking out flaps as soon as a climb was established in order to get a faster climb.

Anyway, yes, aircraft that are landing are generally low, and they're generally slow. This means that they have a severely diminished ability to recover if something goes wrong (such as the pilot being blinded or repeatedly distracted and making errors.)

That said, banning laser pointers is not the answer. Here's what should be done to prevent this nuisance:
Labels should be required to be prominently applied to laser pointers stating that they are a serious hazard to aircraft and the accentuating severity of punishment for endangering potentially hundreds of lives.
Enforcement should be taken very seriously and punishment should be severe for those that would ignore the label and endanger hundreds. I think we've already got this part down.

First Post (-1)

Frogking (126462) | more than 2 years ago | (#37864986)

First OWWWW MY EYES!

Re:First Post (2, Funny)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865078)

First OWWWW MY EYES!

Clicked on a goatse link, did ya?

Re:First Post (0)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865082)

Fail. But here's your white cane.

lock on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865000)

Isn't it possible to lock a missile onto a laser source and eliminate the laser pointer?

Re:lock on (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865136)

Isn't it possible to lock a missile onto a laser source and eliminate the laser pointer?

Yes, but you might have some explaining to do to the relatives of the recently "neutralized" Pink Floyd Laser Light Experience.

There is a more professional term in statistics for being wrong, but I like to sum it up with "Shit Happens".

Re:lock on (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865286)

Yes, but there may be adverse side effects.

What kind of problems does it create for pilots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865010)

I don't doubt that this is a problem, but I'd like to know what the pilots experience is when this happens. Does the laser light cause the entire cockpit to light up? What kind of disturbance does it cause?

Re:What kind of problems does it create for pilots (5, Informative)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865038)

A windshield is not a perfect surface. It's got all sorts of scratches and dirt and whatnot.

The laser hits the windshield and makes every single one of these imperfections light up from scattering. It can make things difficult to see.

--
BMO

Re:What kind of problems does it create for pilots (1)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865208)

Don't pilots usually fly blind these days? Are they really looking out the window constantly when they're up int he sky? [I truly don't know]

Re:What kind of problems does it create for pilots (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865368)

Yes, the pilots look out the windows. It's particularly important for smaller aircraft and helicopters which are both more likely to be flying closer to the ground than larger planes.

And it doesn't matter if they need to look out the windows or not because if the laser hits them the right way it will blind the whole cockpit. There are a couple good videos on youtube, if you want to go digging for them, of pilots demonstrating what happens when a laser hits the acrylic canopy of a helicopter. The light diffuses right out and glares over the entire cockpit. From inside it looks like the windows have been converted into big green spotlights.

So a very real safety risk.

Re:What kind of problems does it create for pilots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865040)

Well, if it's anything like most people's experience, it's "you fucking kids and your laser pointers!" and then they make a note of the location to alert the authorities later just in case there's any possibility that they'll get in trouble for being irritating.

Re:What kind of problems does it create for pilots (4, Informative)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865156)

I don't doubt that this is a problem, but I'd like to know what the pilots experience is when this happens. Does the laser light cause the entire cockpit to light up? What kind of disturbance does it cause?

Depends on the particular laser, quality, build, color, power, etc.

Also depends on how clean the cockpit glass is at that spot it is hitting.

Laser quality affects the collimation at a great distance, where a
cheaply built Chinese green targeting laser has a pretty appreciable
spread at landing altitude. At a half mile, my green dot is a good
inch or so, diameter.

That coupled with a bug splattered cockpit glass, would produce some
pretty overwhelming speculars in the cockpit, also potentially striking
off of other reflective objects.

Potentially worse would be a very finely collimated laser making its
way into the cockpit and having a specular reflection directly in the
pilot's eyes. A suitable powered green laser would cause at best,
temporary blindness. Total blindness while not common isn't ruled out.
And that laser could get the co-pilot as well, easily. Just leaving the
flight tech to land.

And this is on approach, 5 minutes or so to get squared or splatted.

I live in Phoenix, where the article mentions some of the highest
incidences. And I can believe it. When I first got back into Real Estate
here, I attempted to draw a map of all the "noise zones" associated
with aircraft here. I gave up as soon as I realized there was ZERO
land mass in the Phoenix valley that does not have SOME air traffic
at least hourly during flight traffic hours for the commuter airfields.
7pm at night, I've counted 20+ planes aloft. Gets crowded up there
when we have UFO's too. =) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_Lights [wikipedia.org]

What's worse, west phoenix has all those hot shots in their F-18s,
flying their practice sorties 4 at a time coming out of Luke AFB.
Right... over... head. Sigh. Can't wait to hear the LOUDER F-35,
since we won the bid. Hope they are deployed after I move.

-AI

Re:What kind of problems does it create for pilots (1)

hankwang (413283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865366)

I believe that the risks are a bit exaggerated. Yes, the laser beam is quite bright, even at long distances, but at a kilometer, the spot is about a meter in diameter for a laser with a cheap lens. At 1 mW power, that is about 100 nanowatt entering the eye, an amount similar to looking at the laser spot on a white surface from half a meter distance. Hardly something that will blind you, even at night.

Moreover, keeping the spot steady on a target, moving or not, is impossible with a hand-held laser. That will reduce the time-averaged power by another factor 20 or so.

I have pointed class-2 laser pointers at my own eyes plenty of times, half a second at a time. Both green and red lasers. It's really no big deal. Class 2 is, by definition, not harmful for exposures less than 0.25 seconds.

That said, I can understand that they don't want people to point lasers at planes. It's a matter of time before someone does it with a tripod-mounted class 3a laser (or even a 500 mW class 3b laser as was featured on /. a few months ago), in green or blue color (more blinding effect for a dark-adapted eye), which is definitely dangerous. This way, they raise public awareness that intentionally trying to hinder aircraft pilots, succesful or not, is unacceptable.

Re:What kind of problems does it create for pilots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865394)

If it's that easy to harm the pilot then damn, military anti-aircraft guys will sure want to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:What kind of problems does it create for pilots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865406)

Then holy shit, every big corp pitch in a million or fifty to develop the tech to be anti-laser-glare windshields and boom, problem solved. No needless legislation, no angering the masses. Just simply done away with the problem altogether. And it would give them an opportunity to create more jobs in manufacturing new aircraft because ours are like oh emy gosh like almost like as old as my parents like.

Science!

Easy Fix (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865092)

Federal law requiring every laser pointer to be packaged with warning (in addition to the eye damage warning): pointing this device at aircraft is a felony, you will go to federal PMITA prison.

Re:Easy Fix (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865206)

Yep, the Pre Menstrual In The Ass prison is notoriously bad.

This will just make it worse (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865096)

Laser pointers are tiny handheld devices that can be concealed or brought anywhere, so you'll never be able to track anyone down and stop them. If you're the type to actually get off on shining lasers at airplanes, then it's just going to make your day to see your latest venture reported on the website. I mean, when I see one of those radar equipped speed limit signs that tells you how fast you're going, I always end up seeing how fast I can get before I pass it. This is going to have the same effect on these people.

Re:This will just make it worse (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865778)

when I see one of those radar equipped speed limit signs that tells you how fast you're going, I always end up seeing how fast I can get before I pass it

Where I live, they take automatic pictures and then mail you a ticket. Bad idea. :P

And on that note, seeing their latest venture reported on the website may make their day, but getting caught will absolutely ruin it. The UK are making great progress on identifying and tracking attacks [bbc.co.uk] . If the capture rate and the punishment are sufficient, they will eventually act as enough of a disincentive to bring the attacks back down to an acceptably low level.

Landing (1, Informative)

RPGillespie (2478442) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865116)

The biggest problems are when the aircraft is landing, not when flying at 10,000 feet. It is extremely difficult to shine a laser into the cockpit of an airplane if it is high above you, but as the aircraft is approaching the ground, it is easy for someone on the ground or in the airport to shine the beam into the cockpit as the craft gets closer and closer to the runway. The light bead could easily pass over any exposed eyes, temporarily blinding the pilots. It's not too big a deal for commercial aircraft since computers do the majority of the flying, but it can be dangerous for manually flown small aircraft.

Re:Landing (5, Informative)

T-Bucket (823202) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865248)

It's not too big a deal for commercial aircraft since computers do the majority of the flying, but it can be dangerous for manually flown small aircraft.

This is complete BS. The only time a computer is flying a commercial aircraft during the landing phase is when the weather is so bad that you wouldn't be able to find the airplane with a laser.

The public has this myth that all planes are controlled by computers. I fly commercial jets for a living. The autopilot rarely goes on below 10,000 feet. The only time it's used during approach/landing is if the weather is bad. (This frees up the pilots for more important things like finding the runway).

I have personally been hit by green lasers three times on approach to major airports. Let me tell you, it's not fun. Fortunately, if you look away rather quickly you can move past the laser before you're in too much danger. (The average jet is doing ~150mph on short final).

Still, it's a legit problem, and anything they can do to put the fucktards who are doing this away is a good thing.

Re:Landing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865540)

You don't fly commercial jets. Pilots only make as many non-ILS landings as they are required to keep their currency. All other times it's auto landing.

Re:Landing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865380)

There is no light bead in the aircraft. Once it hits the window (and at the larger distance, the beam is wider too) the light scatters and covers most of the window. Also, it tends to be dark in the cockpit. The light is very bright compared to what the pilots' eyes are adjusted to.

Basically, it only has to hit the window for it to seriously jar the pilots.

How would you like people shining laser pointers into your eyes when you're driving a car? It's worse than that for pilots.

Re:Landing (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865402)

You keep saying things like "shine the beam into the cockpit". That's not how it works in practice.

Most laser beams are slightly divergent. Some of the better ones will make a sub 1m wide dot from 200m away. But when you point it at a plane that's not at cruising altitude the entire plane lights up, and you'd be amazed how accurate people can aim a laser. Go out to the football field and try it. See if you can keep the corner of the posts lit up from the other side of the field.

Re:Landing (5, Informative)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865532)

Before I go any further, I am a pilot.

I don't care if you are flying a piper cub or a 787 Dreamliner. Final approach and landing is the single most dangerous operation performed by pilots.

You are low and slow and the engines are spooled way down because you are using minimum power, just enough to keep the damn thing flying, but slow enough so that when the wheels hit the pavement you don't blow all the tires and shear off the gear and kill all the people on board. Unless you are shooting a landing into damn near zero / zero conditions ( and only a very few airports are equipped to do that ( no GPS does not do that ) the plane is most assuredly NOT on auto pilot there are people flying those planes. At night it is dark in the cockpit and has been for hours. The pilots pupils are basically wide open, so just imagine how your eyes are going to react when a laser hits that acrylic windshield and every little minor scratch starts sending light in every fucking direction. even if you don;t take a shot into the eyes the windshield becomes damn near opaque and the pour underpaid overworked tired bastard is now a couple of hundred feet from the ground and suddenly can see a god damn thing except for his glowing windshield. Nice scenario eh? I am making 150kts and sinking at 500 feet per minute, or 8 feet per second so at 200 feet i got less then 30 seconds to get everything right or your relatives coming to visit are going to be showing up at your house in a barbeque bag.

Please don't try an minimize this at all. Your post shows you at least have some sense of the problem.

Sounds like you need a tech solution (4, Interesting)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865166)

When your potential culprit is a six year old child, your weapon of concern is bought for a few bucks at Wal*Mart, and you're dealing with thousands of incidents, I think it's pretty clear that you need a technological solution for filtering laser light, not a massive network of informants.

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865194)

So, say, something in the laser pointer to detect if it's being pointed at an aircraft, and causing a small explosive to detonate, deactivating the device and removing the hand of the moron who was holding it? That might work...

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865348)

I find your ideas intriguing and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865450)

Or something in the aircraft to detect the laser and determine its position...

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865542)

Hellfire missiles FTW.

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865706)

Now that's a tech solution I can support!
Stupidity should be painful to the practitioner...it creates a fast learning curve for those that survive.

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865212)

If I had some mod points I'd give them to you.

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (1)

DrInequality (521068) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865354)

Exactly! It shouldn't be too hard to make the cockpit windscreen able to block or attenuate lasers. Biggest problem is that technology is required in a technology-averse industry.

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865400)

Or for about a thousandth of the price, goggles for the pilots.

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865496)

Or for about a thousandth of the price, goggles for the pilots.

Absolutely. Given that these are lasers there are only a handful of specific wavelengths that need to be blocked. Last time I checked there was one really common green, two reds (a deeper red and an organish red) and a blue. Goggles, or even just light-weight plastic "safety glasses" with filters for those 4 most common frequencies should practically eliminate the problem. Perhaps I need to patent the idea...

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865530)

So, there is a problem with too many random shootings? Well, just get yourself a bullet-proof jacket! Problem solved!

Your eye gets burned due to fuckers with lasers? Well, use a camera and a monitor to view the world!

I have a better solution. Every time someone shines a laser on the plane, an automated system locates the point of emission and directs a hellfire onto its precise location.

Perhaps you need to learn some optics (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865750)

Do you know what is involved in designing narrow-band optical filters?

Unfortunately there is no magic technology for this. Optical notch filters have quite high attenuation at all frequencies. Put 4 of those in succession, and you will have what are practically blackout goggles at all frequencies.

In Europe you would not be able to patent the idea because you actually have to present a workable technology. You might get away with it in the USA.

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865774)

Right, let's further limit the vision of our pilots during takeoff/landing by making them wear goggles because some jackass thinks it's funny to try to crash a plane.

I wonder what the chance of dying from a terrorist attack is compared to that of a laser attack. Then again, the instant anyone posts such numbers the US will simply declare laser-pointer users as terrorists and the numbers go all wonky...

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865564)

Re: "technology-averse industry"... I'd feel so much safer if aircraft were controlled by iPads or Windows 8 than some out-dated technology that has undergone the rigors of pointless airworthiness certification, not to mention the shape of aircraft, while practical and reliable, don't look anything like the awesomely technomological advancities in the action packed movies that I spend all my life watching. The moronic aeronautical engimineers of the world would be much better off if they just listened more to me and my armchair-wielding brethren. I mean they haven't even got photon torpedoes yet for Christ's sake! Time for another ale.

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (4, Informative)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865814)

The trouble with attenuating lasers is that you still need to see. Green is where we have our best vision by far. Red is fair, and our vision in blue is terrible. That's why the green lasers are always the biggest problem.

Thing is, green is right in the middle of the spectrum. Most filters are high-pass or low-pass. It's quite hard to make a very narrow notch filter that won't take out a huge swath of your most important vision information. That's why there are different laser safety goggles for different wavelengths - if you're using a red laser, you break out the blue goggles.

Pilots can't afford to lose that much vision on final approach.

I think there are some technological countermeasures that can be taken. I'd add a telephoto camera to the front of the plane that can zoom in and take a few shots whenever the plane gets hit with a laser. Even if you can't make out their faces, you might get some license plates, or see whose back yard it's coming from.

I think there are also nontechnological things they should be doing. First up would be to take some cockpit videos using a camera with a nice wide aperture - real sensitive, like your eyes are in the dark. Show the runway getting closer, closer, then FLASH you're completely overwhelmed by green for a couple seconds, stop the camera down a few to simulate your now-desensitized eyes, and then go back to trying to land the plane, now much closer to the runway and somewhat disoriented. Then publicize the hell out of the videos and some people will get the message.

For the rest, well, that's what the telephoto pictures are for.

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865644)

I'm thinking some kind of active film inside the windshield. Laser hits a flexible, transparent solar cell layer, which powers a flexible LCD layer that turns opaque. It should be something you can peel off from the inside in case there is a problem with it.

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865744)

Six year olds can't stand still long enough to point a laser pointer at the cockpit of an aircraft far away, especially if it's in flight.

Re:Sounds like you need a tech solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865776)

The laser pointers involved in these incidents are not your average toy laser pointer bought at walmart. These are high powered lasers, capable of burning holes in wood. They're usually for astronomers to point out night time objects, but manufacturers have been marketing them as your personal laser beam. The people involved in these incidents are NOT kids with a new toy, they're full grown adults who feel the need to act like dickwads.

Make them illegal then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865216)

I'm sure we'll draw some 4th amendment allusion to the right to carry weapons but not to shoot at planes with them. The same needs to be said of lasers. All lasers, visible or not, of any power level should be considered at the minimum to be as dangerous as a taser and potentially worse than a gun at high power (seeing as they can take out ICBM's)

If it's not damaging, it's still distracting. I think all laser pointers are banned here (I forget if that is still the case) because of dipshit children shining them at their busdrivers.

Re:Make them illegal then? (1)

Montezumaa (1674080) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865360)

That would be the Second Amendment(A citizen's right to "keep and bear arms". The Fourth Amendment covers illegal search and seizure. Though, please, continue...

Wait, what the fuck are you talking about? Lasers can take out ICBM? Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles? Seeing how you cannot even discuss the correction US Constitutional Amendments, it is no wonder that you would believe these lower-powered, handheld laser pointers could take out an ICBM. Jesus, give me a break.

When is a firearm at "high power"? Hell, when it is ever at "lower power"? Outside of plane issues, and eye irritation, I have never known of these cheap, handheld lasers killing a human, on its own. Firearms sure can.

I have to wonder if you even know what type of lasers are being talked about. Do you? Do you understand that these lasers discussed are not the types that can intercept and destroy missiles? From your comment, it is obvious that you are more than a little confused.

Tint the cockpit windows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865258)

Why don't they have cockpit windows that are specifically tinted to diffuse the laser light colors that most affect them (red and green). Similar to the glue on tints they have in cars. If it's tailored to specifically diffuse red and green it won't even have a huge affect on what the pilots can see.

Or the pilots could wear special glasses when landing that diffuse / absorb the light. Either way, both are potential solutions to this problem.

Re:Tint the cockpit windows? (1)

crutchy (1949900) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865580)

Same reason why antivirus is pointless... protect against red and blue and the fucktard cockholes will just use blue lasers instead. They might be morons but google can tell them everything. By the way, did you know that if you Google "i'm a laser cockhole", the first result is to a site with lyrics to the david bowie song "i'm a laser". How about that.

Just out of curiosity. (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865260)

Do they track any of the stats regarding the pilots that experience these events? For example, pilots are supposed to fly at least 1000 feet above residential areas. In my area, we regularly have helicopters and small planes no more than a couple hundred feet above our houses and I have observed it is the same frequent offenders every time by writing down the (clearly visible to the naked eye) numbers on the bottom of the aircraft, when such numbers are present. I have attempted to contact local air control authority types but I can't get any more than a voice mail. They are so loud that it shakes my house and I could certainly understand how those who are willing to take the law into their own hands might decide to do whatever is necessary to discourage the pilots from skimming the treetops in their neighborhoods.

Re:Just out of curiosity. (2)

nhtshot (198470) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865746)

Here's a better idea:

I'll promise that the airport was there BEFORE some developer bought the farmland and built your subdivision full of McMansions on it. He got a spanking deal on the land because it's near an airport and you didn't do your homework.

How about, instead of chastising the airport and pilots for your mistakes, DO YOUR HOMEWORK THE NEXT TIME YOU BUY A HOUSE.

To answer your direct question, yes, there is a rule. However, it does not apply during approach and landing, which is what you are talking about.

I apologize in advance for the tone of this message, but I used to fly out of an airport in exactly this situation. There were hundreds of home owners constantly complaining/picketing/etc. I have 0 sympathy for them. They knew the airport was there when they bought the house. You are in the same boat.

Dichroic filters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865332)

They aren't going to stop people from doing this. They need to either coat the cockpit window with a dichroic notch filter for common consumer laser wavelengths. Or, issue sunglasses that remove the laser lines.

Problem, Reaction, Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37865396)

Create a problem, blame it on kids with lasers and then let the people cry to outlaw lasers.

Most of these incidents could have be committed by black ops, since there is no oversight of the government, there can be no facts, and therefor no trust.

If anything this will be used to prevent lasers from being available to mess with drones while they spy on Americans under this tyrannical police state with no rule of law.

Re:Problem, Reaction, Solution (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865796)

Just curious, how many layers do you use for that tinfoil hat of yours?

We already report our 15W laser pointers. (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865428)

Where I work, we've got plenty of these [birchalls.net] things [birchalls.net] . We already report to both the FAA and the DoD's Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) at... Vandenberg AFB, I think it is these days. Of course, this is maybe 30,000 laser-pointers worth... ;)

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Aim for the laser (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 2 years ago | (#37865666)

Just allow the pilots to aim for the laser. Evolution should breed these morons out. /yoke
Flying a plane should still be safer than riding a car if each and every pilot would actually do this, but I suspect there would be some complaining...
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