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Old 03-11-2016, 11:51 AM #1
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Default Pilot Looking for info

Good afternoon.

I'm a pilot who posts on a pilot web forum, and as I'm sure you are well aware, laser pointers being shone at aircraft is a subject that is getting more and more attention.

I have used military hand-held laser pointers like the LPL30 and laser designators before so I am not completely ignorant about lasers, but I certainly have no specific knowledge beyond a reasonable grasp of physics.

The reason I am posting on here is that I am looking for authoritative references re laser safety ranges for various laser strengths/colours etc.

To give you some context and give you an idea where I am coming from.

Many pilots and pilot organisations are getting very excited about pilots getting eye damage from idiots with hand held pointers.

To me, that just does not add up. The difficulties of actually targeting a cockpit with a hand held laser for long enough to damage at ranges of miles seems unrealistic. If it were that easy, then militaries the world over would bin SAMs immediately and just man the borders with millions of kids with pointers.

That said, I have no facts to back up my belief, and more peculiarly, the Virgin pilot who turned back has got damage to his eye.

Can anyone point me in the direction of where to find scientific data on these things?
Or even post tables/graphs or eye safety for various lasers?

Also, does anybody on here actually think that they could actually produce a laser that would damage eyes at 13000ft and a range of many miles?
If you really wanted to, could it be done with commercially available kit and at what cost? Would it need special tracking kit?

My thought process is that if you guys couldn't do it, then idiots who got a pointer for xmas couldn't either.

I'm trying to argue on the pilot forum that the threat is being exaggerated, but it would help to have the back-up of facts.

Many thanks in advance.


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Old 03-11-2016, 12:40 PM #2
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tourist View Post
Also, does anybody on here actually think that they could actually produce a laser that would damage eyes at 13000ft and a range of many miles?
If you really wanted to, could it be done with commercially available kit and at what cost? Would it need special tracking kit?
No certainly not. I am about as knowledgeable as anyone here, I can build or repair a laser with one hand and blindfolded, maybe I am exaggerating a little but I know what I am talking about. Yes I could build a laser that can shine a very visible light at that distance but it's not going to cause eye damage, and no that's just way too far away anyway, at least with a hand held battery powered laser, you couldn't do it from the ground. The only danger is when landing and take off, and even the most powerful lasers people can get or build if they know how would only be dangerous out to about 800ft but could flash blind someone briefly out to maybe twice that distance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tourist View Post
My thought process is that if you guys couldn't do it, then idiots who got a pointer for xmas couldn't either.
No even the most powerful laser you can buy online or easily buy parts to build would not be a danger beyond about 700 - 800ft, at least as far as eye damage. Going beyond that isn't easy and requires a lot of money.

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Old 03-11-2016, 12:55 PM #3
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

Distraction at low altitude while landing is the issue, even though pilots hardly do the landing anymore, it's mostly automated is it not?
But as for permeant eye damage you have the diameter of the human pupil and the power of the laser then the divergence and the length of exposure as the plane is moving.

I doubt any pilot other than a pilot who is landing could get anything close to damage unless the idiot on the ground had a very strong laser with incredible beam quality and a set of computer guided tracking galvos, it would not be hand held.

Mostly all it will ever be is a bright flash of light, the math to do real damage with these portable pointers is extremely unlikely for a pilot in a moving plane behind a cockpit window.

Also aren't the planes getting that laser blocking window film installed?

As for 13000 feet away no portable laser is going to do permeant damage to your eyes in a moving airplane, or parked at 13000 feet distance, a bright spot in the distance is all one would see, it's a matter of physics.

The real danger of eye damage from these lasers is at close distance, for pilots it's virtually always a matter of distraction, not permeant damage.
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Old 03-11-2016, 02:27 PM #4
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tourist View Post
Good afternoon.

I'm a pilot who posts on a pilot web forum, and as I'm sure you are well aware, laser pointers being shone at aircraft is a subject that is getting more and more attention.

I have used military hand-held laser pointers like the LPL30 and laser designators before so I am not completely ignorant about lasers, but I certainly have no specific knowledge beyond a reasonable grasp of physics.

The reason I am posting on here is that I am looking for authoritative references re laser safety ranges for various laser strengths/colours etc.

To give you some context and give you an idea where I am coming from.

Many pilots and pilot organisations are getting very excited about pilots getting eye damage from idiots with hand held pointers.

Can anyone point me in the direction of where to find scientific data on these things?
Or even post tables/graphs or eye safety for various lasers?
See info here: Laser Pointer Safety - Different lasers' hazards compared

and here: Laser Pointer Safety - Info from the FAA and others on laser light effects

and info here: Laser Pointer Safety - Laser safety calculations

Study the whole LaserPointerSafety site--excellent resource.

See charts here: laser hazard chart - Bing images

See good individual chart here: http://lasersafetyfacts.com/resource...or-LSF-v02.png

Last edited by Encap; 03-11-2016 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 03-11-2016, 03:00 PM #5
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

thanks for getting back to me guys, that's pretty much what I thought.

There are three bits people are worried about.

Permanent damage.
Loss of sight for seconds/minutes.
Distraction.

Distraction during the take-off or landing is certainly possible. Personally I think it should not really be that difficult to deal with, but others disagree.

Permanent damage is obviously a concern if actually realistic but as you guys have said, it seems unlikely unless very close.

The most worrying is the potential for temporary blindness at critical moments.

I there relevant research as to how likely this is with different lasers, ranges?
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Old 03-11-2016, 03:02 PM #6
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

Encap, just saw your links. Many thanks, that's just what I need. I will do some reading.

RedCowboy

Yes, most airliners can auto land, but usually the pilot does it for entertainment!
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Old 03-11-2016, 03:36 PM #7
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tourist View Post
thanks for getting back to me guys, that's pretty much what I thought.

There are three bits people are worried about.

Permanent damage.
Loss of sight for seconds/minutes.
Distraction.

Distraction during the take-off or landing is certainly possible. Personally I think it should not really be that difficult to deal with, but others disagree.

Permanent damage is obviously a concern if actually realistic but as you guys have said, it seems unlikely unless very close.

The most worrying is the potential for temporary blindness at critical moments.

I there relevant research as to how likely this is with different lasers, ranges?
Distraction and temporary flash blinding are mostly issues during the landing phase of planes or if the target is a helicopter/small airplane close to the ground. These issues are real and concerning.

As others have said, permanent damage to the eyes of a pilot at cruising altitude would be pretty implausible. You'd probably need an extremely powerful laser(40W or more), a beam expander and a computer guided tracking system. You'd also need it to be shone at the cockpit from exactly the right angle. The ability to do all of this is WELL beyond the means of hobbyists and would probably require the military to get involved.

Last edited by Razako; 03-11-2016 at 03:42 PM.
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Old 03-11-2016, 04:08 PM #8
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

Quote:
Originally Posted by Razako View Post
The ability to do all of this is WELL beyond the means of hobbyists and would probably require the military to get involved.
Exactly, and the fact that we don't do it (partly due to the Geneva Convention I believe...) suggests it is not easy.
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Old 03-11-2016, 04:44 PM #9
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

Quick follow up questions.

What can the type of idiot we are all worried about realistically get hold of in the UK? The sort of guy who might think it fun to stand in the garden idly illuminating passing airliners or Police helicopters.

Can somebody actually buy a 1,2,5 W laser off the internet? I'm guessing they are not cheap?

I read that some people modify. Is this enthusiast level effort requiring engineering aptitude and intelligence, or can somebody just google it and up the power or reduce the beam spread easily?

Thanks again guys.
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Old 03-11-2016, 04:53 PM #10
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tourist View Post
Quick follow up questions.

What can the type of idiot we are all worried about realistically get hold of in the UK? The sort of guy who might think it fun to stand in the garden idly illuminating passing airliners or Police helicopters.

Can somebody actually buy a 1,2,5 W laser off the internet? I'm guessing they are not cheap?

I read that some people modify. Is this enthusiast level effort requiring engineering aptitude and intelligence, or can somebody just google it and up the power or reduce the beam spread easily?

Thanks again guys.

Yes, someone can just hop on the internet and buy a laser with those power levels. I think the most powerful handheld available is ~7W, although those aren't that cheap. You can get a 1W blue for around $100 or so, maybe less if you buy a cheap PoS from China. A +5W blue is likely going to be $300 or more.



Anyone else remember when +5W of blue would have run you >$10,000?
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Old 03-11-2016, 05:45 PM #11
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tourist View Post
Quick follow up questions.

What can the type of idiot we are all worried about realistically get hold of in the UK? The sort of guy who might think it fun to stand in the garden idly illuminating passing airliners or Police helicopters.

Can somebody actually buy a 1,2,5 W laser off the internet? I'm guessing they are not cheap?

I read that some people modify. Is this enthusiast level effort requiring engineering aptitude and intelligence, or can somebody just google it and up the power or reduce the beam spread easily?

Thanks again guys.
You can get a crappy 1W blue laser for around $60 on ebay.
The lower powered greens are extremely cheap right now. Your average idiot lasing planes from his yard would probably have something like this
10 Mile 532nm 5mW 301 Green Laser Pointer Lazer Pen Beam 2x18650 Double Charger | eBay
OR these
http://www.ebay.com/itm/3PCS-Green-B...sAAOSwKrhVaK~Y

Last edited by Razako; 03-11-2016 at 05:46 PM.
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Old 03-11-2016, 08:35 PM #12
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

highly unlikely to order high power laser though as the idiots that shine laser at airplanes don't even understand the basic concept of electronic and this has been proven many times....They all think wicked l@ser are the best....the idiots also buy a false advertisement laser ( a pen laser put out 1000mw of 532nm < lolz)... they prefer cheap stuff as well and ask many stupid question on forums and get butthurt and complains about it...in summary those idiots are endangering themselves, and everyone around them...

-since our pilot friend ask about the physic of laser divergence....anyone want to answer him?

- there's a different between a laser hobbyist and idiots....
we hobbyist know the responsibility of owning a laser and we cherish our pointers while following the law.

-those idiot on the other hand, uses lasers to annoy people and thinking it fun to point laser at people eye...

Sorry for the rant but there are so many incident popping up recently and people are clumping us together with those idiots...
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Old 03-11-2016, 11:55 PM #13
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

I love this chart here. Also, in my opinion, an individual whom is going to spend the money ($500+) on a high powered laser pointer with a beam expander normally isn't going to risk losing their device and jail time to try and hit a plane. Even if they did, to hit a cockpit would be extremely hard, and to hit a pilots eye would be next to impossible, and if they could, it would be only a nanosecond or so. And this is if somehow the laser has such low divergence it could make its way to the plane with a small dot diameter which I highly doubt.
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Old 03-11-2016, 11:57 PM #14
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tourist View Post
Good afternoon.
The difficulties of actually targeting a cockpit with a hand held laser for long enough to damage at ranges of miles seems unrealistic.

Can anyone point me in the direction of where to find scientific data on these things?
Or even post tables/graphs or eye safety for various lasers?
This is something we have been re-iterating here for quite a while - it is NOT feasible to cause eye damage to a pilot flying over, say, 10.000 feet with any portable laser on the consumer market, peroid.

The science behind it is quite clear. We have exposure limits (MPE) used to determine the safety of laser shows and such. These give equations where you put in paramters like laser power, wavelength, divergence and -distance to the audience-.

The latter parameter is quite important as exposure drops with the square of the distance.

But i think i should put my money where my mouth is: I'll happily let anyone that says otherwise have a go at me, personally. You can shine right at me, from 3km/10.000ft distance:

- any visible laser (700 to 400 nm)
- that you can lift, including power supply*
- that can currently be purchased by the public for under $10.000

I will look directly into it, but blink if i feel like doing so. If eye damage occurs that is my problem and proofs the point that laser points can be harmful to pilots health.

* you need to lift the entire system on your person, not just a laser head or something like that. Feel free to use mains powered units with a car battery and inverter in a backpack or anything like that. You can use beam expanders, but have to hold them (i.e. not tripod mounted or such).
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Old 03-14-2016, 02:59 AM #15
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

Freaking out passengers is another safety issue; if pax panic in flight that's a lot of trouble for flight crew and somebody's probably going to get hurt. Given the media hype I can imagine a passenger getting spooked if they catch a laser from the ground.

My view is that most people lasing planes have simply not thought the scenario through. Most people are not sociopaths who want to blind or kill anyone, most of us want to be responsible and generally do the right thing. Most people want to show good courtesy. It's still surprising to me, sometimes, just how bright a laser coming in at low angle appears. Really vivid and brilliant. I wouldn't expect it to harm my eyes on any permanent basis (if at range) but I'd rather not fly/drive into it just the same. I just think that most of the people doing these crimes don't fully understand what they're doing.

Which is not to excuse them by any means, but there does need to be a difference between intent to harm and carelessness, at least as long as no one is injured or dies. Putting people in jail for years because of a foolish decision is just more knee-jerk over-correction on the part of the government people who need to justify the people's waste of tax dollars for their "services".
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Old 03-14-2016, 11:41 AM #16
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Default Re: Pilot Looking for info

I would be 1000 times more concerned with a drone strike. It is EXTREMELY unlikely that a laser would cause an actual emergency. Too much news sensationalism.
I have a friend who is a commercial pilot who gets interviewed by the news at times when something tragic happens and before I gave him a green laser pointer he had never seen one before and he has been flying for a very long time and is considered an expert.
I'll talk to him again possibly this Sunday at church and ask him about it to see if anything has changed.
I could swear the times I've seen a demonstration on a plane getting hit the plane was on the ground and someone was shining a laser at it from a short distance to simulate the effect which is not accurate. Simple cheat to get a rise as emotions make news. It's why you feel exhausted listening to talk radio. It's meant to hype you up and get you angry. Doesn't matter what side of an issue you are on, the game is to keep you engaged regardless of facts.
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