Light & Laser Blog Blog

Light & Laser Blog

The Laser & Light Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about optoelectronics, fiber optics, lasers, light sources, optics, imaging, electro-optics, and anything else related to the photonics industry. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Previous in Blog: Do Lasers Make You Squirm?   Next in Blog: Could a Laser Pointer Down an Aircraft?
Close
Close
Close
19 comments

How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

Posted February 14, 2011 8:30 AM by Steve Melito

Last year, the number of reports about lasers pointed at aircraft nearly doubled. "This is a serious safety issue," warns U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Lasers can distract and harm pilots who are working to get passengers safely to their destinations". Nationwide, laser event reports have risen steadily since the FAA established a formal reporting system in 2005. The 300 incidents in 2005 rose to 1,527 in 2009, and climbed to 2,836 in 2010.

The FAA attributes this trend to several factors, beginning with the proliferation of inexpensive laser devices available on-line. Higher power levels allow these same lasers to affect aircraft at higher altitudes, too. There's also the growing popularity of green lasers, which are easier for pilots to see. This leads to increased pilot reporting – and attempts to curb potentially-dangerous behavior. Shining a laser at an airplane is against the law in some cities and states, and may even result in federal charges.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) led the nation with 102 laser events in 2010, but Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) came in a close second at 98. Phoenix/Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) and San Jose International Airport (SJC) tied for third place at 80, while Nevada's McCarran International Airport (LAS) came in fourth. With the exception of O'Hare, laser events may seem like a Sun Belt phenomenon – but they're not. Several of the cities in the Top 20 list are located in cloudier and colder parts of the country.

What more can be done to protect pilots from lasers?

Source: FAA

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 688
Good Answers: 21
#1

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/14/2011 9:22 AM

There is not much anyone is going to do to someone who is intent on being an a__ and doing something to harm others. We once had in this country the where with all to but people away who where not quite right in the head. Can't do that anymore, not the proper thing to do. But, we better wake up to the fact the that sometimes we need lock people away. Mental health issues are out of control.

Then you have the ones that just are playing around. Need to make an example out of a few of them to show the rest we mean business. But, we will not do that either, not in us anymore. We've become soft.

Reply
Anonymous Poster
#6
In reply to #1

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 6:03 AM

I agree with you 100%. The lawyers have all but ruined us in trying to protect ourselves and others against idiots! The two most common elements in the universe are nitrogen and stupidity!!

Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Optical Engineering - Member Engineering Fields - Engineering Physics - Member Engineering Fields - Systems Engineering - Member

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Trantor
Posts: 5363
Good Answers: 646
#11
In reply to #6

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 8:29 AM

Ummmm, yeah....

Ten most common elements in order of abundance
Atomic #, Element Name
1, Hydrogen
2, Helium
8, Oxygen
6, Carbon
10, Neon
26, Iron
7, Nitrogen
14, Silicon
12, Magnesium
16, Sulfur

__________________
Whiskey, women -- and astrophysics. Because sometimes a problem can't be solved with just whiskey and women.
Reply
Power-User
United States - Member - New Member

Join Date: May 2008
Location: Arizona
Posts: 356
Good Answers: 4
#9
In reply to #1

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 8:06 AM

You can thank Geraldo Rivera for getting the crazies released from the mental hospitals.

Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Marine Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Australia
Posts: 1630
Good Answers: 19
#10
In reply to #1

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 8:27 AM

........sometimes we need lock people away.

I don't think that does much good............I know what I would do with them........however that is not politically correct.

Perhaps a better solution would be to get these people along with illegal immigrants and put them into work gangs in some inhospitable place to build pipelines, large channels or whatever is needed.........minimum supervision required, because they ain't got nowhere to go.

In Australia we have plenty of inhospitable places.........they could build a pipeline and pumping stations from Lake Argyle in the North West of Western Australia to the Murray/Darling River system in eastern New South Wales.

They may not be tradies at the start, but after pulling down their mistakes a few times and starting again..........they would soon learn............and WHEN it is decided that they have learnt something they may be able to fit into a "normal" society.

__________________
TO BE. or NOT TO BE. That is the question!! The Bard
Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru
Engineering Fields - Optical Engineering - Member Engineering Fields - Engineering Physics - Member Engineering Fields - Systems Engineering - Member

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Trantor
Posts: 5363
Good Answers: 646
#2

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/14/2011 11:54 AM

There are already goggles (and eye shields) available for military pilots that selectively absorb certain high-power laser wavelengths.

Similar goggles or even just well-fitted wrap-around 'sunglass'-type eye-wear with either absorptive lenses or laser-line reflective coated lenses could be made. The laser-line (reflective-notch) filter lenses would be nearly transparent to other wavelengths like regular glass (so no problem wearing them at night), and aren't that expensive. The reflective notch can be tuned exactly to the green laser pointer wavelength without interfering with the perception of the colors on the cockpit displays.

__________________
Whiskey, women -- and astrophysics. Because sometimes a problem can't be solved with just whiskey and women.
Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru
Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Engineering Fields - Piping Design Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Richland, WA, USA
Posts: 20985
Good Answers: 781
#3

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/14/2011 6:15 PM

This sounds potentially worrisome, but is there yet an actuarial record on eye damage or distracted piloting problems? How perfect is laser collimation through the atmosphere (or conversely, how much beam spread)?

__________________
In vino veritas; in cervisia carmen; in aqua E. coli.
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - HAM Radio - New Member United Kingdom - Big Ben - New Member Fans of Old Computers - Altair 8800 - New Member Canada - Member - New Member

Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Toronto
Posts: 3968
Good Answers: 119
#4

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 12:33 AM

It is becoming an aggravating problem. If all the offending wavelengths were known with precision, then the notch filter suggested would work.

If there are power lasers for many frequencies,not just laser pointers, then abuse outside of the notch is possible, but the notches will block the common ones.

Laser blinders have been developed, and as far as I know, have been outlawed, like poison gas. Sadly, once made, things like that tend to get used.They work on the retro reflective principal whereby a scanner looks for a reflecting eye and adds a power surge when one is found. I think circular polarizing goggles would block the retro reflection?

Ultimately, fly by wire systems, where the pilot sees a screen,via unblindable sensors will work for the military. Civilian aircraft? Have any planes been crashed? or pilots blinded or flight disabled? Is it a real manace or just a nuisance at the pointers low power (100 Mw)??

__________________
Per Ardua Ad Astra
Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Optical Engineering - Member Engineering Fields - Engineering Physics - Member Engineering Fields - Systems Engineering - Member

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Trantor
Posts: 5363
Good Answers: 646
#14
In reply to #4

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 9:03 AM

The green laser pointer is by far the main offender, and it's wavelength is precisely known: 532 nanometers. It's the main problem for these reasons:

1. The wavelength is near the peak response (555 nm) of the human visual system, so the beam from a 5 mW green laser pointer appears much, much brighter (~ 50 times) than the beam from an equivalent-power red laser pointer.

2. The 532 nm beam quenches the rhodopsin (visual purple) in the retina in the eye that helps the eye to see at night. Once the rhodopsin is quenched it takes about 20 minutes for it to come back. (Which is why it takes a person about 20 minutes to become dark-adapted.) The red laser pointer is typically 635 nm and does not quench the visual purple. (That's why red lighting was used for many years for cockpit lighting for nighttime flying.)

3. The green laser beam back-scatters much more due to fine dust and water vapor in the atmosphere (rayleigh scattering) so the user can see the beam much better than the beam from a red laser pointer which has far less back-scatter -- which is why people have the urge to flash them around at night. You can see the green beam better, so it's easier (and more fun) to point it at something, like a star or an airplane.

While it may be possible to do some actual eye damage with an extremely intense green laser pointer, perhaps if it were aimed directly at one spot on the retina, the 532 nm wavelength itself is not unusually harmful like an (invisible) Ultraviolet beam which packs more energy or an (invisible) Infrared beam that might burn a spot on the retina. I think the natural "blink response", along with the automatic muscle twitching that takes place in the eye continuously, would prevent a pilot from sustaining real eye damage from a green laser pointer beam.

I think point #2 above is the main concern; that a pilot can be temporarily distracted and have his night vision impaired.

__________________
Whiskey, women -- and astrophysics. Because sometimes a problem can't be solved with just whiskey and women.
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Hemel Hempstead, UK
Posts: 5383
Good Answers: 292
#5

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 5:31 AM

If the problem is this big for aircraft: what's it like for cars/drivers?

__________________
We are alone in the universe, or, we are not. Either way it's incredible... Adapted from R. Buckminster Fuller/Arthur C. Clarke
Reply
Anonymous Poster
#7
In reply to #5

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 6:53 AM

We can able to stop a car with in a second whether it is possible in case of aeroplanes?

And also the no.of persons,cost of the vehicle,materials carried by the car is very less when compared to the aeroplanes.

we can easily spot out the accident zone in case of a car and can do a necessory actionbut it is toomuch diffcult in the second case.

Whatever may be in both cases we met losses. The seviority is muchmore different in either cases

Reply
Active Contributor

Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 19
#8

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 7:39 AM

Stop reporting them to the news media. The kids doing it are just trying to see of it gets on the news. no news, they get bored, no more 'lazertag".

Reply
Member

Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Wellsville
Posts: 7
#12

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 8:38 AM

So, this is assuming that the laser can be pinpointed at the pilots eyes from what one would assume a few hundred meters and up to kilometers in distance. I would think the time duration for this annoyance would be in minimal. Probably no longer than the time it takes for a bird to smash into the windshield or the time it takes the pilot to sneeze.

Reply
Guru
Hobbies - HAM Radio - New Member United Kingdom - Big Ben - New Member Fans of Old Computers - Altair 8800 - New Member Canada - Member - New Member

Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Toronto
Posts: 3968
Good Answers: 119
#13
In reply to #12

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 8:45 AM

RE: "So, this is assuming that the laser can be pinpointed at the pilots eyes from what one would assume a few hundred meters and up to kilometers in distance. I would think the time duration for this annoyance would be in minimal. Probably no longer than the time it takes for a bird to smash into the windshield or the time it takes the pilot to sneeze."

From what I have read, the dark adapted pilots are aggravated by the light cone, which is quite large from these divergent laser pointers and it reflects inside the cockpit and causes a general loss in the visual signal to noise ratio.

Lots of info here

__________________
Per Ardua Ad Astra
Reply
Guru
Engineering Fields - Optical Engineering - Member Engineering Fields - Engineering Physics - Member Engineering Fields - Systems Engineering - Member

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Trantor
Posts: 5363
Good Answers: 646
#15
In reply to #12

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 9:08 AM

A pilot on final approach during landing is looking toward the ground, facing the same direction for perhaps a minute or two. Someone even a mile or two from the airport could easily aim and hold a laser pointer at the cockpit windows in this situation.

__________________
Whiskey, women -- and astrophysics. Because sometimes a problem can't be solved with just whiskey and women.
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - HAM Radio - New Member United Kingdom - Big Ben - New Member Fans of Old Computers - Altair 8800 - New Member Canada - Member - New Member

Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Toronto
Posts: 3968
Good Answers: 119
#16
In reply to #15

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 9:30 AM

""A pilot on final approach during landing is looking toward the ground, facing the same direction for perhaps a minute or two. Someone even a mile or two from the airport could easily aim and hold a laser pointer at the cockpit windows in this situation.""

Paint the front facing portions flat black. With no back scatter, the miscreant would not be able to know if he has the plane. The windows would reflect upwards, and so would not provide backscatter. Sort of a stealth mechanism.

In daylight, laser pointers are not a problem, since the ambient is so high...

__________________
Per Ardua Ad Astra
Reply
3
Anonymous Poster
#17

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 10:29 AM

Mount laser tracking missiles on the planes, if the missile detects a laser, it would follow the beam to the source. Problem solved.

Reply Good Answer (Score 3)
Anonymous Poster
#19
In reply to #17

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 4:43 PM

It would make sure there was no second offense!

Reply
Guru
Canada - Member - New Member

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Edmonton Alberta Canada
Posts: 629
Good Answers: 39
#18

Re: How to Protect Pilots from Lasers

02/15/2011 1:10 PM

Don't they use lasers to create targets for cruise missles?

...Target lock attained .......launch........end of problem!

edit.... darn...someone beat me to it.!

__________________
All that is required for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.
Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Reply to Blog Entry 19 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

Anonymous Poster (4); Apothicus (1); aurizon (3); fixitorelse (1); flyinghigh (1); MOBI (1); Randall (1); Robert of Wellsville (1); Tornado (1); Usbport (4); vincentwade (1)

Previous in Blog: Do Lasers Make You Squirm?   Next in Blog: Could a Laser Pointer Down an Aircraft?

Advertisement