Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
United States News

U.S. DOT Launches Laser Illumination Reporting 240

Unloaded writes "The U.S. Department of Transportation announced a new laser warning and reporting system for pilots . The FAA has it's own guidelines for reporting laser illumination." This is a follow up on stories reported earlier.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

U.S. DOT Launches Laser Illumination Reporting

Comments Filter:
  • Drat! (Score:5, Funny)

    by irokitt ( 663593 ) <archimandrites-iaur@yaho o . c om> on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:13PM (#11341720)
    It would appear that my army of sharks with frickin' laser beams on their foreheads is no longer feasible.

    This makes me sad.
  • by Jerk City Troll ( 661616 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:14PM (#11341723) Homepage

    I was listening to the news (NRP) this morning and the reporter explained how this was a "sudden rash" of activity. But is that really the case? It seems to me that this has been happening for a long time. Laser pointers have been available to the general public for quite some time now. We are supposed to believe that people only got it into their heads to start aiming them at planes and other interesting targets within the past few months?

    • by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:19PM (#11341825) Homepage Journal
      More a matter of strength- 100mw lasers have only gotten cheap in the last couple of months, most laser pointers are only 5mw and would be far too dim to do any damage (as it is, your average 5mw laser has to be held on the pupil for 30 seconds to do any damage. I don't know about you, but my hands shake too much to hold on a stationary target that small at 100 feet, let alone a pilot's eyeball on a jetliner moving past me at 100 MPH).
      • Try 300 mph. IIRC stall speed on a 747 is around 155MPH. Also IIRC final approach speed is about 300mph up until the last few hundred feet. It's been a while since I've been over any of that, so if we have any airline pilots who'd like to provide exact numbers, please feel free.

        The upshot of that being that it should be almost impossible to target the cabin by hand prior to the last couple hundred feet, and then you'd most likely have to be standing right in front of the plane for it to do any good. I als

        • That makes sense. My original comment came from a foolish period in my younger days when I had a very nice Mazda Miata for a rental, I had just come off a marathon coding session in Las Vegas, and was headed for the strip at 2:00am passing the airport. I decided to clock a landing jet- and it came in at just about 100MPH. No, I don't remember what the jet was- for all I remember it might have been a small gulfstream, not a passenger plane at all.

          OTOH- I think one would find it extremely hard to target
          • I still have my doubts about the reports over Oregon and Colorado that were supposed to take place at 30,000 feet.....

            You doubt the pilots' veracity, or you doubt that these were knuckleheads playing with laserpointers?

            Has anybody considered that these may be from a satellite?
      • this is just another one of those scares that try to get people to vote for some (much more scary) security policies. first of all, it's not 100mph. your average jet (something like a A320) comes down at around 145 knots, that's about 160mph. (it would, even in this configuration, stall at 100mph --> crash!). there is a system called 'autoland' that does pretty much what its name says, either up to now very low decision heights or, if airport / runway are equipped appropriately, right down to the runwa
    • TFA say there have been 400+ reported incidents since 1990. 31 of these happened since Dec. 23rd. That seems to be a sudden rash!
    • We are supposed to believe that people only got it into their heads to start aiming them at planes and other interesting targets within the past few months?

      I would say "yes"... not because this hasn't been happening for a long time now, but because the media has finally gotten around to telling the story - and of course they have to tell EVERYONE about it so yes, they're the ones who are now putting the idea into the heads of TONS of goobers who'd never thought of it before. It's your typical self-fulfil
    • by drooling-dog ( 189103 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @08:03PM (#11342370)
      But is that really the case?

      This entire issue seems a little fishy to me. Laser pointers are not very powerful (as someone else here pointed out), and the accuracy and stability with which someone on the ground would have to hold it in order to keep the (weak and highly diverged) spot on a pilot's retina (in a moving aircraft, no less) for any length of time is very hard to imagine.

      But then, I can't think of a reason why the Powers That Be would want to hype the threat, unless a ban on laser pointers was coming for some unrelated and unpublicized reason. Or, perhaps, just to maintain the general level of terror hysteria here in the U.S..

      • by samantha ( 68231 ) * on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @09:04PM (#11343205) Homepage
        a) Appear to be doing SOMETHING to KEEP US SAFE when actually doing worse than nothing;
        b) criminalize civilians whenever possible;
        c) check just how bloody gullible the public and media is.

      • OK, my simple theory why it is happening lately is following. While we had lasers available to the general public for a while -- they were mostly RED lasers. As we all know red laser beam is virtually invisible in the air, so pointing it to an aircraft is like using a camera with a broken visor.

        The recent 'sudden rush' of activity can be explained by arelatively recent availability to the general public of the GREEN beam lasers, which have two distinct features - a) their beam's reach is much longer (IIRC

    • This has been a news story for about two weeks. What was two weeks ago? Christmas. What did geeky kids get for Christmas? Green lasers. What do geeky kids do with thier new powerful lasers? Try to put a green dot on something really far away. What far away objects are easy to find? Aircraft.

      This is such a bullshit non-story. The fact that the new federal TSA screeners recieved the identical bad scores as the old private screeners on random bomb and gun tests, yet cost a lot more, worries me more.
  • by adeyadey ( 678765 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:14PM (#11341726) Journal
    ..with the remaining eye..
  • Light aircraft? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FalconZero ( 607567 ) * <FalconZero.Gmail@com> on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:15PM (#11341741)
    I assume this is for (small) light aircraft, as anything bigger than a sopwith camel [aviation-history.com] either :
    • Flys above clouds (if present)
    • Doesn't have a flight deck pointing towards the ground (granted they bank, light refects and low angle beams)
    • Doesn't hang around if one place long enough for any ground based beam to hit someone eye for more than fractions of a second, so it doesn't matter (unless your talking about one of these [slashdot.org])
    Anyway.... how long is it before they also recommend, radar and IR detection, as well as chaff and flares for civilian planes?? or perhapse civilian stealth?? [I'd quite like to see a stealth Airbus A380 [planepictures.net]]
    • [I'd quite like to see a stealth Airbus A380]

      It's already stealthy - it's so fricking big no one will believe it's really floating around in the sky.

      The military transport version will just be the same thing painted pink with a Somebody Elses Problem field.
    • That 100mw+ laser is EXACTLY what they're talking about- anything less just doesn't have the power to matter, and the one guy who has been arrested so far was using one of those babies.
      • Re:Light aircraft? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by FalconZero ( 607567 ) *
        At no point does the FAA, the U.S. DOT, or the poster specify the power output, and yes, I read both before before I posted (and before the story was posted). In addition, you expect the assialant to keep a 100+mW laser on target for a significant length of time when....

        Minimum Distance from Source : 500m [50,000cm](~5 seconds from impact)
        Pupil Size : 1cm
        =~0.00114592 Degrees

        If both the plain and the laser were absolutly sti
        • I know I can't- but the guy in the OTHER story who got arrested apparently was able to target the initial jetliner for 5 seconds and the subsequent helicopter for 10. In NEITHER account was anybody blinded though- as that would take a good deal more time. I was making an assumption that the new US DOT regulations were coming at this time (as opposed to long before now) due to the recent rash of events reported.

          I'm STILL skeptical on two of the events reported- at ~10,000 m from the ground, I would think
  • Now, when you try to align something, but you overshine the target, the pilot flying 25000 feet overhead will report you to the FBI.

    • Well, one of the guys that was questioned was using his green laser to point at stars. Lasers are used quite extensively for astronomy discussions. Also, telescopes and satellites use them for calibration. There are lots of lasers pointed skyward.

      Because of this, I don't know how they would ever be able to prosecute someone.. unless they're caught with some complicated tracking system that can follow the human retina at that distance and speed. But if a terrorist had that, why would they use a friggi

    • Hey kids! If a jet is travelling at 500MPH and passes overhead, how long will that dot of light be visible?

      Now calculate exactly the angle required to shine a lazer through teh windshield of an aircraft flying overhead without going through the floor!

      What have we learned today? If an external laser light is visible at all inside a jet, it means someone is trying hard to keep it on the cockpit (unless of course they are trying to blind passengers which makes little sense from a diobolical standpoint but p
  • (or meters/metres for those of you not in the US) Since a very small movement of the wrist is going to result in a large movement at the other end of the beam, it stirkes me that it has to be pretty darn hard to aim a laser beam into a cockpit unless you've either got it mounted on some sort of tripod or you're very close to the take-off/landing point (in which case, you should be fairly easy to find)
    • Absolutely. The whole "threat" as presented to the public doesn't make any sense for a number of practical reasons. Why hype it then? Someone else here suggested that perhaps the real issue is the possibility of cheap laser-guided missiles...
    • A Q-switched pulsed laser has pulses so short that, for all practical purposes, they will deliver their entire power in a signle place even if the laser is being scanned rapidly in a 2D grid (apparently looking like a 2D grid of spote).

      Even with a few miliradian divergence, the spot size will be about 10 feet wide a few thousand feet away.

      I don't think a "man portable" laser could be truly dangerous to pilots, but one that is "pickup-truck portable" with the appropriate scanner could be.
  • by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:18PM (#11341813)
    Just what the hell is this supposed to accomplish?

    "Hey, you just got a laser aimed at the cockpit!" says the computer.

    "Great, what are we supposed to do, try to evade it? Somehow, re-enacting the final flight scenes of the movie Top Gun doesn't seem like such a hot idea in a Boeing 757 full of people while we're on a landing approach...and by the way, thanks for the hot tip about that brief blinding flash I just encountered. Glad to know it wasn't just my imagination," says the pilot.
    • > Just what the hell is this supposed to accomplish?
      > "Hey, you just got a laser aimed at the cockpit!" says the computer.

      Obviously, there will be an automated system in place to start the Laser Floyd show.
    • Hmm we could eqip passenger flights with hellfire missiles. Then if someone fires a laser at the plane, the beam's source could be targetted and removed from the gene pool. That much inbreeding's a bad idea anyway, as illustrated by poodles and the British Royal Family. So you see, eliminating them really is for the good of Humanity anyway. We'd be doing evolution a favor.
  • Death Ray! (Score:3, Funny)

    by MonkeyCookie ( 657433 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:19PM (#11341831)
    A lot of good some puny laser warning system will do them when I start aiming my death ray at the cockpit.

    Remember folks, death rays don't kill people: people kill people.
  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:21PM (#11341856)
    as a result of development of this technology. Or did they just mount a stock one from Radio Shark on the airplane windshield?
  • It's just too much to ask for people to have consideration for others...

    We must legislate "nice behaviour"?

    I mean I'm about to fly to France [again] and I'm nervous enough about the flight [say weather or other failures], about getting my work done, about getting all my stuff there and back, etc...

    Now I have to also worry about some jackass with a sub-90 IQ pointing a laser during takeoff or something?

    Fuck humanity.

  • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:26PM (#11341927) Homepage Journal
    If pilots have a laser pointed at them, the circular strongly advises pilots and air crew to avoid direct eye contact...

    Whew, it is a good thing they included that advice. I am sure most airline pilots figured that the best way to deflect a laser is with their eyeball.

  • by krbvroc1 ( 725200 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:32PM (#11341989)
    Why can't this much effort be expended on creating a reporting and monitoring system for not loosing my luggage? Or how about for increasing on-time flight?. Or modernizing the radar systems?
    Some guy in an apartment shines a laser that hits a plane and he's being treated like a terrorist. I haven't seen enough technical info that would convice me that an average laser on the ground would really be capable of causing a real problem. Perhaps outfit the pilots with $10 goggles or something.
    Shoulder fired rockets are more likely to be a problem and we haven't spent the money to outfit planes with countermeasures; its cheaper to arrest people for pointing a laser and gives the appearance of being 'tough on terrorism'.
    • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @07:57PM (#11342300) Homepage Journal
      Why can't this much effort be expended on creating a reporting and monitoring system for not loosing my luggage?
      Because cleaning up a crashed airplane is a lot more hassle than finding missing luggage.
      • Because cleaning up a crashed airplane is a lot more hassle than finding missing luggage.

        Yeah but which one occurs more often (if ever). Which one is a likely scenario? People need to put these 'problems' into context. You can't minimize life to a zero risk probability environment - its just not possible. But you should focus on things that matter.
        • A rigorous analysis of the cost-benefit value of luggage-handling research versus airplane safety research is beyond my ability (and yours too, I would guess). All I have to go on is an intuitive notion that efforts expended to keep airplanes from crashing are more likely to have positive effects on human existance than efforts expended to reunite people with their clean underwear.
    • Well besides the obvious that this could cause crashes, I can't imagine why people are putting effort in to beaming planes and pilots unless they are either too stupid to be out free with society or they are really trying to cuase a plane to crash.

      I believe it was Executive Decision by Tom Clancy where they had a covert team that were causing planes to crash by shining lasers into the pilots eyes on landing. Fictional or not, this is dangerous. Anyone have a legitmate reason to do this? I could see

    • what do you mean you cant shine a laser at something moving at 100-600mph that is at least 1-15 miles away? what do you mean you'd have to hit 4-15 ft of windshield to even be considered an annoyance? what do you MEAN youd have to be ABOVE THE FUCKING PLANE TO EVEN SHINE A LASER INTO A COCKPIT THAT IS ON THE TOP OF THE PLANE?!


  • Maybe laser-guided missiles installed in the planes would be a great deterrent. Shine a laser at the plane, you get a missile at your front door...

    Unless you're in China, in which case they crash an old satellite into your apartment living room: http://www.china.org.cn/english/2004/Oct/109656.ht m [china.org.cn]
  • All they need are colored glasses to filter out that particular part of the spectrum. In the same way that red light is used for reading in the darkness and not rendering you blind after, a colorized glass could filter out the green lights. Heck, we wear them in my lab when we work with the lasers. So do the people that make the laser pointers.
    • The problem you run into with this is dealing with coherent light; It's not just a matter of coloring the glass. Different materials behave differently at various wavelengths and power levels. Most also behave differently depending on the angle that the light strikes the surface.

      I think you might be better off working with some sort of auto-tinting in the glass that opaques above a specific power level at whatever wavelengths seem to have the most chance of causing harm.

  • I read the title and thought "wow, a wise thing". Only the summary+article changed that.

    Just think: A laser illumination reporting/warning system. Using the kind of lasers that are used at disco to display stuff on the sky to project warnings on the clouds - hurricane, earthquake, flood, contamination, whatever disaster. These things are broadcast through the radio and TV, but people who aren't listening to a radio/watch tv at the moment may peek through the window to identify the "lights on the sky" - and
  • Ach! My eyes! The goggles do nothing!
  • just out of curiosity, do the pilots have to let the passengers know if they get lasered but (obviously) not turn into a big accident.

    i ask because a friend of mine experienced a plane accelerating to take off after trying to land. after reaching a higher altitude, he heard over the PA that "they had to abort the first landing attempt because there was another plane on the runway." (no joke.)

    if they can divulge such information to the passengers, can they do the same about a "hot" topic like being laser

    • i ask because a friend of mine experienced a plane accelerating to take off after trying to land. after reaching a higher altitude, he heard over the PA that "they had to abort the first landing attempt because there was another plane on the runway." (no joke.)

      First of all, that is not an unusual circumstance. It has happened to me a couple of times. Due to congestion at airports, it is not unusual for pilots to have a short window of time in which to use a runway for takeoff or landing. If they delay

    • i ask because a friend of mine experienced a plane accelerating to take off after trying to land. after reaching a higher altitude, he heard over the PA that "they had to abort the first landing attempt because there was another plane on the runway." (no joke.)

      It happens all the time, and it isn't a big deal (except for the inconvenience).

      At peak hours, a busy airport will have the airplane stacked up on approach about 60 seconds apart. Normally, this provides plenty of time for an airplane to touch d

  • by DrKyle ( 818035 )
    from TFA:
    If pilots have a laser pointed at them, the circular strongly advises pilots and air crew to avoid direct eye contact given the health and safety risks posed by some types of lasers.

    Who are they getting to write these warnings, my Mom? "Don't look stray dogs in the eye or they might get mad and bite you." I would think this would be common sense, but then again, we are talking about the same people who brought you terrorist-proofing your home with duct tape.
  • You light up my life...

  • How you actually injure a pilot with a laser?

    I can't make out the HEAD of a pilot 100 yards away, let alone bullseye the pupil! Throw in the fact that the plane is moving, and, it just seems unlikely that you could actually hit someone in the face. Maybe if you had a good scope attached to it, and the plane was coming right at you. But still: when a plane takes off or lands, its nose is up; and when a plane is in flight, the cockpit is obscured by the nose of the aircraft. How the heck could you possi
    • Have you ever hung out near an airport and watched aircraft land? On final approach, there isn't a whole lot of apparent motion, unti they get quite close. Landing is not that much nose up, until the get close to the ground. With a scope, it wouldn't be too hard to track the cockpit from a good distance off.

      Add in scatter off the windshield, and eyes adjusted to night, and a couple of seconds would be enough to screw a pilots night vision, and completely distract him during a critical part of the flight. Th

  • Now even laser pointers are WMD...

    But the majority of business-class america is white middle aged males. :-(

    How will they do this? They can't invoke things like the Patriot Act on them. That would be unconstitutional.

    Then again... we know every Arab in North America participated in 9/11. Or at least that's what our government has been trying to get us all to believe.

    So lets go into random offices, and arrest business men... since we need to get the WMD.
  • Okay, I've been wondering something since this story came out.

    I can't hold my laser pointer on a car 2 streets down, how the HELL do you come within hundreds of FEET of a plane, let alone hit the cockpit????
  • Good.

    Can we monitor idiot teenagers using these in theatres?

    Although to be honest, I haven't seen one of those being used in years, and I usually go to showings where immature teens aren't at the movies (weekday nights late, for example).
  • by jskiff ( 746548 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2005 @09:12PM (#11343283) Homepage
    For those who keep saying "this isn't a big deal," or complaining about how infeasible this is, perhaps it would help to read about what actual pilots think?

    Professional Pilots Rumour Network: Professional Laser injures Delta pilot's eye [pprune.org] thread.
  • Remember, if you can use a laser pointer to do a constellation tour, the terrorists have already won.

    (Fortunately, air traffic over the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station [hawaii.edu], where such things happen nightly, is minimal to zero.)

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp