Aussie laser-pointer dazzle attacks on airliners: Bad
Politicos talk ban after six Sydney flights delayed
Australian politicians are demanding restrictions on the ownership of laser pointers in the land down under. The banning calls follow a series of widely-reported incidents in which individuals on the ground have attempted to dazzle pilots of commercial aircraft making approaches to landing.
A particularly troublesome dazzling attack took place last Friday, involving at least four comparatively-powerful green laser pointers in the Bexley area of Sydney. Six passenger flights were affected, with air-traffic controllers having to re-route the planes.
"The use of these laser pointers against aeroplanes is unbelievably stupid and cannot be tolerated," Australian Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"I cannot say what the motivation of this extraordinarily irresponsible behaviour has been - there are a range of possibilities from vandalism and stupidity through to outright criminality.
"There is every reason to treat these devices as if they are firearms and respond with that kind of severity."
Laser-dazzling harassment of aircraft in Australia is a common problem, with official spokesmen saying that five to six incidents are typically reported each week.
New South Wales Police Minister David Campbell said that the state might ban laser pointers.
"There are some penalties that police can impose now, but we're looking to make these items a prohibited weapon in certain circumstances," he told the Herald.
Some green laser pointers are significantly more powerful than ordinary red ones, with expensive models putting out enough energy to pop a balloon at close range. Their effects against aircraft, however, are purely a matter of dazzling the pilots. There has been military interest in "non-lethal" laser weapons intended for just this sort of attack, or perhaps ones which might permanently blind enemies - though purpose-built blinding weapons are banned by international convention.
In Canada, there has recently been a debate over government plans to trial dazzler technology in Afghanistan, as an alternative to deadly force; Canadian troops are committed in the dangerous southern areas of Afghanistan, and have been compelled to open fire many times. In general, however, the huge amounts of negative publicity resulting from non-lethal weapons has made armed forces and police reluctant to get seriously involved.
America has also seen lasering of airline pilots, with the Feds deploying Patriot Act measures against suspected dazzler terrorists a couple of years back.
Read the Sydney Morning Herald report here. ®
So if they ban lasers.
Then I guess everyone will move to super searchlights that plug into car lighters, the ones with the LEDs or something.
If they outlaw lasers, only outlaws will have lasers.
Sorry, had to say it.
Red lasers safe (but green ones are obviously different)
When lecturing I used a red laser pointer on occasions. (I am now retired.) It was the usual little gadget about 3cm long that would fit on a key ring. When I was showing it to some friends in the pub one evening, a young lady shone it directly into my eye from just across the table. Having the whole of one side of my field of vision suddenly flooded with red light was startling, but there were NO after-effects, not even short-term dazzling.
I don't actually like laser pointers for lecturing. My hand is fairly steady, but the little red dot used to wobble about in a distracting way. Watching some of my colleagues trying to use them made me wonder if they had the alcoholic shakes, which was odd, since I thought I was the departmental lush!
The students had them as well. The favourite trick was to shine them on the projector screen in places where I didn't want to point while I was trying to use my own pointer. One of the little b*st*rds managed a direct hit on my eye from the back of the class. Again, no effect; it didn't even interrupt my flow, and I couldn't even tell who'd done it.
The best use for a red laser pointer is to aim it at the floor a few inches in front of a cat's nose, and keep it moving.
Obviously the high-powered green lasers that we see advertised are a different matter altogether.
"Boffin" since I used to be one.
Power and divergence - some figures.
The best laser you can get is a Spyder Wicked Laser, about 300mW (all 532nm) with a divergence of about 0.5mrad (all from memory - I forget the exact details). At 1km away that yields an intensity of 40uW/cm2 – you would certainly notice that; at 300 meters you would be dazzled (0.4mW/cm2), so there’s something in it.
Of course laser pointers are supposed to be limited to around 5mW although many on ebay are 25-50mW (of focussed laser, excluding unfocussed IR leakage) and use cheap optics, but they would still capable of severely dazzling at 100m away.
Anyone was had a green laser pointed at them should be very thankful it was a green laser. Be thankful the offender wasn’t clever enough to modify the laser to do something immeasurably more dangerous (anyone who knows how DPSS green lasers work will understand what I mean).
I shouldn’t say any more!