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FAA Goes To the Web To Fight Laser-Pointing 379

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-where-you're-pointing-that-thing dept.
coondoggie writes "The Federal Aviation Administration wants you to go online to help it battle the growing safety problem of people pointing lasers at flying aircraft. The FAA today said it created a new website to make it easier for pilots and the public to report laser incidents and obtain information on the problem which continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, pilots reported 2,795 laser events through Oct. 20. Pilots have reported the most laser events in 2011 in Phoenix (96), Philadelphia (95) and Chicago (83). Since it began tracking laser events in 2005 reports rose from nearly 300 to 2,836 in 2010, the FAA said."
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FAA Goes To the Web To Fight Laser-Pointing

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  • by msobkow (48369) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @11:52PM (#37864984) Homepage Journal

    I'd think it'd be pretty hard to accurately aim a laser pointer at a moving aircraft. I'm surprised it's such an issue.

    • by bmo (77928) on Thursday October 27, 2011 @11:58PM (#37865006)

      Those are reports of people /successfully/ getting the aim right.

      The number of morons waving their lasers indiscriminately at planes is much higher.

      I had one idiot shine his fucking keychain laser at my face at a fucking bar. The "average person" with a laser pointer is a fucking menace.

      While I disagree with Australia's ban on "high power lasers" (i.e., lasers strong enough to be seen at distance), I do see their point.

      --
      BMO

      • by Mitchell314 (1576581) on Friday October 28, 2011 @12:07AM (#37865066)

        While I disagree with Australia's ban on "high power lasers" (i.e., lasers strong enough to be seen at distance), I do see their point.

        -- BMO

        Not for much longer if you keep looking at it. :P

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by afabbro (33948)

        This is something I would never do because, well, it's dumb and there are better things to do.

        But I wonder how much of this is "there is a serious risk we could crash" and how much is "damn kids, we are pilots, FAA we are quite put out, use your quick-and-dirty-no-legislation-needed administrative law powers".

        • by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday October 28, 2011 @01:08AM (#37865374)

          This is something I would never do because, well, it's dumb and there are better things to do.

          There are definitely people in the world who can't find better things to do. Pointing lasers at planes is right up there with a long list of stupidity such as throwing bricks at cars from a highway overpass.

          But I wonder how much of this is "there is a serious risk we could crash" and how much is "damn kids, we are pilots, FAA we are quite put out, use your quick-and-dirty-no-legislation-needed administrative law powers".

          It would depend on the airport, the type of approach, how much human intervention is required in flying the plane, and the conditions. When a laser hits an aircraft it lights up the entire plane due to imperfections in laser design creating a diverging beam. The issue isn't the possibility to blind the pilot (which is next to none), it's that the cockpit would light up like a set of highbeams pointed at you on the highway making it hard if not impossible to see anything outside the window.

      • by syousef (465911)

        While I disagree with Australia's ban on "high power lasers" (i.e., lasers strong enough to be seen at distance), I do see their point.

        --
        BMO

        Here is where you're heading:
        http://www.customs.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/LaserPointers.pdf [customs.gov.au]

        $110,000 for a private citizen buying a 10mW laser pointer on Ebay without a permit.
        2 different pieces of paperwork and several weeks to get permission to buy one legally.

        Do you think this will deter the sort of idiot that would point a laser at a plane for kicks? The sort of inbred cretin that has nothing to lose! No just honest people with legitimate uses for the things.

        I'm an astro club member and I'll stick t

        • by walshy007 (906710)

          What is to stop people from simply purchasing a $50 DVD burner, removing the laser mechanism, providing a power source and appropriate optics for the required application?

          I was tempted to purchase a high power laser before the import ban was put into place, but never got around to it. Fail to see how it can be enforced, at best it will bump up the costs so that only those who have the resources to manufacture their own will have them.

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            What is to stop people from simply purchasing a $50 DVD burner, removing the laser mechanism, providing a power source and appropriate optics for the required application?

            You really think the morons being discussed are going to do that?

            • by Talderas (1212466)

              Is this method displayed on YouTube?

              Do not underestimate the power of morons who see something they say is "Damn that is cool." especially if it involves danger. They will replicate it.

          • Nothing. Customs controls import and export, not use within the country. However, if you use such a device in a dangerous manner you will fall foul of state law. For example, in Queensland, Section 26 of the Summary Offences Act 2005 (possibly superseded, but you get the idea):

            (1) A person must not unlawfully— ... (c) direct a beam of light from a laser at or near a vehicle that is in the course of travelling; in a way that endangers or is likely to endanger the safe use of the vehicle. Maximum penalty—2 years imprisonment.

            (Vehicle includes aircraft) The Weapons Act 1990 and related regulations have recently been amended to include laser pointers as restricted items, and their use only need cause alarm in the target to be an offence (Sect 58). Sec

            • by walshy007 (906710)

              and their use only need cause alarm in the target to be an offence (Sect 58).

              Laws like this really annoy me. If I act scared around lead pencils because they can be used as a stabbing weapon can I put someone in jail? How about sporting equipment that is bat-like?

              While the likelihood of a friend running scared to the police after saying I have an "insert high number here" mW laser are minimal, it still does not excuse the fact that it can be done.

              My logic is ban/punish being an ass with them appropriately, and leave tools (I consider firearms tools also) the hell alone.

              If we take aw

      • by mvar (1386987)

        I had one idiot shine his fucking keychain laser at my face at a fucking bar. The "average person" with a laser pointer is a fucking menace.

        At a bar? Thats kids play. Once while I was taking a turn on my *motorcycle*, somewhere from the deep dark ahead a laser emerged pointing right at my helmet's visor. Pretty fucked up people indeed.

        • Yes, and as if blinding you wasn't enough, they give you a speeding ticket as well. Very fucked up people, indeed.
      • The number of morons waving their lasers indiscriminately at planes is much higher.

        Really? We're talking about thousands of reports here. And if one did the math on the cross-sectional area of the airplane's windshield as observed from the ground...I mean, you'd have to have an army of trained, laser-wielding morons out there.

        My question is, what other phenomena might be confused for lasers as seen by a pilot?

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      The thing about aiming light is it's pretty fast... ;)

      And a laser just has to flash over the cabin window for a fraction of a second to be noticed...

    • I'd think it'd be pretty hard to accurately aim a laser pointer at a moving aircraft. I'm surprised it's such an issue.

      Lol, you're joking right?

      Maybe you're unaware that all those photons travel in an extremely straight line?
      and you just move that straight line until it intersects an airplane. I could draw
      a diagram, but it would look rather basic, with a straight line and all that. /s

      -AI

      • Unless you're in dense fog, the beam itself is invisible. You'd only see anything once the beam actually hits the aircraft (and then it's too far away to see the reflection with the naked eye).

        However, it only takes a fraction of a second to dazzle and disorient the pilots, so even a momentary random intersection caused by a sweeping laser beam is dangerous.

        • by Kagura (843695)

          Unless you're in dense fog, the beam itself is invisible. You'd only see anything once the beam actually hits the aircraft (and then it's too far away to see the reflection with the naked eye).

          However, it only takes a fraction of a second to dazzle and disorient the pilots, so even a momentary random intersection caused by a sweeping laser beam is dangerous.

          Are you serious? I have a 5mW green laser, you can see the beam CLEARLY at night or in a drkened room. You can even see it in a well-lit room if you look hard.

          • Seeing where you aim is only half the game. At these distances, there is also the issue of keeping your hand steady enough to hit such a "small" target.
          • You might even see the beam of a higher powered red laser at night if the air has the typical "city airport" level of pollutants and the beam was directed at you. At 600-800nm wavelengths, there is much more forward scattering than Raleigh scattering.
        • by Joce640k (829181)

          Unless you're in dense fog, the beam itself is invisible.

          Why did you bother posting if you've never even held/seen a laser pointer...?

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      I'd think it'd be pretty hard to accurately aim a laser pointer at a moving aircraft. I'm surprised it's such an issue.

      The bigger question is how much of a problem is this really? Out of these "incidents", how many resulted in permanent harm or loss of life? That seems to be gleamed over while throwing numbers in the thousands around...

      • by digitig (1056110)
        A tolerable rate would be something like one in a billion events leading to loss of life (one in ten million as the tolerable rate of serious aircraft accidents, factored by a finger-in-the-air one hundred possible causes). By the time you are able to count incidents resulting in permanent harm or loss of life it is many orders of magnitude higher risk than is tolerable. In aviation safety we try to prevent people being killed before it happens.
      • by Pieroxy (222434)

        I'd think it'd be pretty hard to accurately aim a laser pointer at a moving aircraft. I'm surprised it's such an issue.

        The bigger question is how much of a problem is this really? Out of these "incidents", how many resulted in permanent harm or loss of life? That seems to be gleamed over while throwing numbers in the thousands around...

        You think we should wait for a plane to crash before doing anything?

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      I'd think it'd be pretty hard to accurately aim a laser pointer at a moving aircraft. I'm surprised it's such an issue.

      Didn't they start adding lasers to guns to make them easier to aim?

      It only takes a millisecond to dazzle somebody with a laser. Get it somewhere close for a few seconds and the pilot is bound to get an eyeful.

      (and with cheap lasers now in the hundreds-of-milliwatts range it only takes a millisecond to permanently damage his eye)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Laser pointers are tiny handheld devices that can be concealed or brought anywhere, so you'll never be able to track anyone down and stop them. If you're the type to actually get off on shining lasers at airplanes, then it's just going to make your day to see your latest venture reported on the website. I mean, when I see one of those radar equipped speed limit signs that tells you how fast you're going, I always end up seeing how fast I can get before I pass it. This is going to have the same effect on

    • when I see one of those radar equipped speed limit signs that tells you how fast you're going, I always end up seeing how fast I can get before I pass it

      Where I live, they take automatic pictures and then mail you a ticket. Bad idea. :P

      And on that note, seeing their latest venture reported on the website may make their day, but getting caught will absolutely ruin it. The UK are making great progress on identifying and tracking attacks [bbc.co.uk]. If the capture rate and the punishment are sufficient, they will eventua

  • by physicsphairy (720718) on Friday October 28, 2011 @12:23AM (#37865166) Homepage

    When your potential culprit is a six year old child, your weapon of concern is bought for a few bucks at Wal*Mart, and you're dealing with thousands of incidents, I think it's pretty clear that you need a technological solution for filtering laser light, not a massive network of informants.

    • by istartedi (132515)

      I'm thinking some kind of active film inside the windshield. Laser hits a flexible, transparent solar cell layer, which powers a flexible LCD layer that turns opaque. It should be something you can peel off from the inside in case there is a problem with it.

    • Six year olds can't stand still long enough to point a laser pointer at the cockpit of an aircraft far away, especially if it's in flight.
    • The technical/legal solution:This applies to all light (300nm-1090nm) sources capable of emitting more than 10mW radiant power or 0.5mW power/mm with a beam divergence of less than 1 radian/meter.

      1) At 10 millisecond intervals, the light must pulse a data frame containing Globally Unique ID pattern, followed by a dark interval of at least 1ms and optional packet data.
      {50us GUUID pulse} {1ms dark interval} {5ms optional data packet or CW beam} {optional 0-50ms dark interval} ... {50 us GUUID pulse...}

      • by cfalcon (779563)

        Super plan, boyscout.

        Then some turkey mounts one aimed at the sky above your window. In your dystopia, you and yours are now the target of some manner of bomb.

  • Do they track any of the stats regarding the pilots that experience these events? For example, pilots are supposed to fly at least 1000 feet above residential areas. In my area, we regularly have helicopters and small planes no more than a couple hundred feet above our houses and I have observed it is the same frequent offenders every time by writing down the (clearly visible to the naked eye) numbers on the bottom of the aircraft, when such numbers are present. I have attempted to contact local air cont
    • by nhtshot (198470)

      Here's a better idea:

      I'll promise that the airport was there BEFORE some developer bought the farmland and built your subdivision full of McMansions on it. He got a spanking deal on the land because it's near an airport and you didn't do your homework.

      How about, instead of chastising the airport and pilots for your mistakes, DO YOUR HOMEWORK THE NEXT TIME YOU BUY A HOUSE.

      To answer your direct question, yes, there is a rule. However, it does not apply during approach and landing, which is what you are talkin

      • by digitig (1056110)

        Here's a better idea:

        I'll promise that the airport was there BEFORE some developer bought the farmland and built your subdivision full of McMansions on it. He got a spanking deal on the land because it's near an airport and you didn't do your homework.

        How about, instead of chastising the airport and pilots for your mistakes, DO YOUR HOMEWORK THE NEXT TIME YOU BUY A HOUSE.

        There was a much reported incident (within the industry, at least) in the UK where somebody tried that argument on somebody complaining about aircraft noise, and they got a response along the lines of "This house has been in my family since the eighteenth century. Your move."

        • by digitig (1056110)
          Perhaps you didn't understand the bit about "However, it does not apply during approach and landing, which is what you are talking about." So for you the advice should be GET SOMEBODY WHO HAS A CLUE TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK THE NEXT TIME YOU BUY A HOUSE.
          • by digitig (1056110)
            Aagh -- replied to wrong post. Next time I'll get somebody who has a clue to do my posting.
    • by Alioth (221270)

      There's no wonder you only get voicemail and no replies. If you bought or rented a property near an existing airfield, the FAA is probably tired of it.

      If you bought a property near a pipeline, then they will ignore you for that too, because pipeline patrol (who tend to use helicopters and light aircraft) have a bona fide need to fly low. Do your due diligence next time you look for a place to live!

      If you don't like aircraft or aircraft noise, don't live in a house near an airfield. Aircraft must descend bel

    • Do they track any of the stats regarding the pilots that experience these events? For example, pilots are supposed to fly at least 1000 feet above residential areas. In my area, we regularly have helicopters and small planes no more than a couple hundred feet above our houses and I have observed it is the same frequent offenders every time by writing down the (clearly visible to the naked eye) numbers on the bottom of the aircraft, when such numbers are present. I have attempted to contact local air control authority types but I can't get any more than a voice mail. They are so loud that it shakes my house and I could certainly understand how those who are willing to take the law into their own hands might decide to do whatever is necessary to discourage the pilots from skimming the treetops in their neighborhoods.

      First of all, you should report suspected violations to the FAA. A local FSDO handles complaints about low flying a/c.

      That said, I've flown small single engine a/c years ago, from a very busy field. People would regularly complain about noise, and we tried to minimize it but sometimes it is not possible to do that - I certainly would not try a takeoff at anything less than full power. I tend to think that was preferably to them than have me barely clearing their roof; I also preferred having some extra clea

  • Where I work, we've got plenty of these [birchalls.net] things [birchalls.net]. We already report to both the FAA and the DoD's Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) at... Vandenberg AFB, I think it is these days. Of course, this is maybe 30,000 laser-pointers worth... ;)

  • Just allow the pilots to aim for the laser. Evolution should breed these morons out. /yoke
    Flying a plane should still be safer than riding a car if each and every pilot would actually do this, but I suspect there would be some complaining...
    • by siddesu (698447)
      Surplusshed sells very cheap, very good mirrors.
      • by dargaud (518470)
        The light is already too diffuse at this distance, so a mirror would be useless. And you'd need tracking optics anyway. And as long as you need tracking servos, you might as well put a real 15W laser on it and fire it back at the offender. Blind him for a week. I think that'd be a cheap, good and easy technical solution, and a good comeuppance as well.
  • Attempted mass murder should at least get you a few decades and they are well deserved in this case. Do that and make it widely public. Repeat every few months until the problem goes away.

  • by Tanuki64 (989726) on Friday October 28, 2011 @04:15AM (#37866176)

    Website? Laws? Punishments? Forget it. There can only be a technical solution. Find some way to make planes impervious to this kind of attack.

    I personally would not have a problem with it, that when someone is pointing a laser pointer at a plane and is caught, she is skinned alive. But since 'idiot' and 'asshole' is among the most common human traits, this would hardly cause a ripple in the gene pool and would do nothing to improve the safety of planes.

    Another possible solution would be to forbid laser pointers. Good luck with that.

  • Or are they more interested in feeling up little kids than in stopping actual attacks on aircraft?
  • I'm willing to wager that the number of laser devices in the hands of the public has not skyrocketed since 2005, but that the incidence of reporting airplane / laser incidents *has*.

    It's like feeding the trolls on USENET, the more one tries to "correct" the problem the worse it becomes.

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