With the increasing popularity of high power green laser pointers, there are more and more reports of lasers being pointed at airplanes and helicopters. In 2008 alone there a number of reports that received wide spread media coverage. One such case in the United Arab Emirates capital of Dubai, two Arab men were charged, tried and convicted with pointing a laser beam at an aircraft during landing.
The exposure of these cases has received has led to a number of misconceptions and misunderstandings on green laser pointers and their danger to aircraft. The purpose of this report is to separate fact from fiction.
Background information on lasers
Very simply laser beams are very concentrated and narrow beams of light and lasers can have a range measured in tens of kilometers. A high power green laser pointer may have a range of 20 to 30 kilometers but it will not have any power or be dangerous at this range. Even the best quality lasers will have a beam that grows in size by 10cm for every 100 meters. By the time the laser beam has covered 1 kilometer, the beam will be the size of a door way and will be incapable of causing any damage or harm.
Green laser pointers not red, blue or orange laser pointers are the main lasers pointed at aircraft because green is much more visible to the human eye than the other colors. The other reason is blue lasers and orange lasers are too expensive and relatively low powered to have wide spread use.
Real and imagined dangers
There are no commercially available and very few if any military lasers that can do physical damage to aircraft. The three main concerns and dangers to a pilot’s vision of pointing green laser pointers at aircraft is distraction, causing glare and temporary flash blindness. A fourth concern is eye damage but this is much less likely.
It is highly unlikely that any of these four dangers would result in a loss of aircraft or life. These dangers would only occur when a person deliberately points and tracks an aircraft with a green laser pointer. These dangers also only occur when an aircraft is taking of or landing and the aircraft is at a low enough altitude for a laser to strike the cockpit.
For the laser hobbyist who does not deliberately target an aircraft, green laser pointers are safe to use out doors at night. A good precaution when pointing lasers at the sky is to first check the sky to make sure it is free of aircraft and avoid using green laser pointers around airports.
For people thinking of pointing green laser pointers, it is Federal offence in the USA and rightly so. Lasers are very easy to track and offenders will face large fines and significant jail time. Pointing lasers at aircraft is also a serious criminal offence in most other countries.
Article is courtesy of Dragonlasers – No 1 lasers, laser pointer and green laser online store