Aussie gov to treat laser pointers like knives and guns
Red for show, green for a pro?
An Australian regional government has moved to crack down on laser pointers following widely-reported incidents in which the devices have been used to distract and dazzle pilots on commercial flights.
New South Wales (NSW) will class the most powerful types of pointer as if they were firearms, with sentences of up to 14 years for those carrying such devices without a permit.
"It only takes a fraction of a second for a pilot to become temporarily blinded and that could have catastrophic consequences," said NSW premier Morris Iemma, quoted by Reuters.
"It is a gutless and cowardly act that could result in an horrific outcome."
A green laser pointer was reportedly trained on an ambulance helicopter over southern Sydney at the weekend, following earlier incidents in which airliners had to be rerouted by air traffic control due to dazzling.
Green laser pointers are available with higher output power than the ordinary red lasers typically used in presentations and so forth. It is the longer-ranging green devices which are seen as the main problem for aviation, and will henceforth require a permit to be carried.
Legitimate uses for the green lasers include the pointing out of stars at night using the brighter and more visible beam. They are also sometimes used by architects and other professionals.
Less-powerful red lasers will seemingly be treated more like knives than guns. Those found carrying ordinary red-beam devices without a valid reason - such as being a teacher - won't suffer long jail terms, but might be fined up to (AUS) $5,000, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.
Laser harassment of aircraft is far from being a uniquely Australian problem - there have been widely reported cases elsewhere, especially in America.
The NSW measures follow similar plans in the less-populous state of Western Australia, and federal import restrictions on the more powerful devices. ®
I think this is seriously overblown.
Yes, a powerful laser pointer aimed at your eye can produce temporary or permanent blindness. But in order to do so it needs to get in your eye in the first place, and matching something with a one millimeter cross with a beam that's about one millimeter across a few hundred meters away is not an easy thing to do.
Even if the jerk manages to hit the target in the pupil (an incredibly unlikely occurrence at any reasonable distance to a moving target like a flying plane) and there IS damage to the retina, the area of damage will be proportional to the proportion of the field of view covered by the laser bean, which is incredibly small. That is, only a line of receptors in your retina (a line of pixels, if you will) would be affected.
Is that bad? Yes, it is. But that’s because somebody is causing some damage to someone (just as if you throw a stone at someone from close range), not because of the safety risk to the aircraft. The pilot would probably not note the damage for years, if at all.
I'm not saying aiming lasers at people is something acceptable, only a moron could do it and such a moron should be jailed. But jailing people just for possession "to prevent a catastrophe" would only be reasonable if the catastrophe is real or even possible, which is not.
It is not serious because the alleged threat is not such. GO study some optics and you'll see that in order to blind someone at a distance you need something much more powerful than a laser pointer (probably you could with a green laser pointer with the filters removed, but that would still be extremely unlikely, and such a modified laser would be already illegal given its power rating).
What about Astronomers
Some large telescopes have lasers that are used in the business of correcting for atmospheric turbulence .
Probably rather more powerful than the ordinary bloke/girl would be using.