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Review of FAA Laser Incidents in 2011 PowerPoint Presentation
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Review of FAA Laser Incidents in 2011

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  1. Note: This presentation has been updated since the January 31 2012 version was presented at the SAE G10 meeting in Melbourne, FL. • Updates as of February 15 2012 include: • Revised numbers based on FAA’s February 1 2012 revisions to the Laser Incident database, and based on FAA’s clarification of what it classifies as an “incident” (e.g., anytime an aircraft reports seeing or being illuminated by a laser) • An added table on aircraft altitudes • A description about what types of lasers and misuse are in the FAA database • Two slides about legality of selling & owning lasers • Minor corrections

  2. Review of FAA Laser Incidents in 2011 • Patrick Murphy • International Laser Display Association • LaserPointerSafety.com • January 31, 2012 Updated version 04, Feb. 15, 2012

  3. Executive Summary • 2011: 3,591 laser incidents • Compare to 2010: 2,836 incidents • 2004 through 2011: 10,000+ total laser incidents reported to FAA

  4. Number of laser incidents per year

  5. 2011: Executive Summary • 55 incidents (1.5%) causing eye or body effects • Afterimages, eye discomfort, blurry vision, headache • No incidents causing eye injuries (defined as retinal lesions or retinal damage)in 2011 • No permanent eye injuries 1990-present as far as can be determined

  6. 2011: 12 multiple-aircraft incidents • 1 incident: 5 aircraft landing at PHL, Feb. 2011 • 1 incident: 3 aircraft 15 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor, Feb. 2011 • 10 incidents: Each involving 2 aircraft

  7. About the FAA Database

  8. What is an FAA “laser incident”? • Anytime a pilot sees a laser beam • May be outside the aircraft (not illegal) • May be aimed toward the aircraft (illegal) • May enter the cockpit (e.g., be on or through the windscreen) • May enter the eyes of a pilot or crewmember

  9. What data does FAA collect? • Nearest airport and city • “Injuries reported?” • Comments • Data source • Other (security - limited release) • Date, time • Aircraft ID • Number of aircraft seeing laser • Aircraft type • Altitude

  10. Data that is hard to determine • Size (e.g., number of potential passengers) • Type of aircraft (e.g., fixed vs. rotary wing) • Incident severity • Eye effects vs. “injuries” • Phase of flight: landing, takeoff, cruise, hover • Location: Airport-related, or police-related (e.g, in a city)

  11. Types of lasers and incidents

  12. Types of laser incidents • Almost all incidents appear to involve commercially available laser pointers and handheld lasers, being misused by the general public • There are a very few cases of pilots reporting beams outside the cockpit (non-illumination incidents) that were from laser light shows • There were no known or suspected incidents from other outdoor uses • This includes astronomical observations, satellite communications, LIDAR, and other scientific and industrial applications

  13. Types of lasers • All lasers have visible beams (400 - 700 nanometer wavelength) • Pilots could not see, and thus could not report, lasers with non-visible beams (infrared, ultraviolet) • These are not expected to be aimed at aircraft by the general public • All lasers appear to be continuous wave • No pulsed lasers reported or suspected

  14. Laser powers involved (1 of 2) • It is possible to use specialized detectors to measure the beam power over a certain area (irradiance) at the aircraft • However, it is not possible from the air to determine the source power of the laser

  15. Laser powers involved (2 of 2) • Based on lasers seized from persons arrested, laser powers range from a few milliwatts to 1000 milliwatts (1 watt) • Typically, the powers most used in aiming incidents are roughly in the range of 5 to 200 mW

  16. Note on laser legality (1 of 2) • In the U.S., manufacturers cannot legally sell lasers above 5 mW as “pointers” or for pointing applications • It is legal to sell a laser 5 mW or more if the laser conforms to U.S. FDA requirements and if it is not sold as a “pointer” or for pointing applications • If a laser is 5 mW or more, and is sold as a “pointer” or for pointing applications, this is illegal from the seller’s standpoint. It is not illegal from the buyer’s standpont to buy or own such a laser

  17. Note on laser legality (2 of 2) • Under U.S. federal law, it is not illegal to own or use a laser of any power • Some states and localities may have their own restrictions on laser ownership and/or usage • Misuse can be prosecuted under various statutes such as assault, interference with aircraft, and new (Feb. 2012) law against aiming at aircraft

  18. Incident Severity

  19. 2011: 3,591 laser incidents • 2,621: Laser did not enter cockpit • 970: Laser entered cockpit • 181: Laser tracked aircraft • 55: Laser caused eye effects • 0: Laser caused eye injuries 27% 73% 5.1% 1.5% Based on Rockwell Laser Industries study in mid-2011; data extrapolated to full year

  20. Trends in Number of Incidents Per Day

  21. Number of laser incidents per day

  22. 2011: Laser incidents day-by-day

  23. 2007-2011: Incidents day-by-day

  24. 2007-2011: Overall trend is linear

  25. Yearly Trends inRate of Increase

  26. Number of laser incidents per year

  27. Number of laser incidents per year Laser incidents required to be reported to FAA beginning Jan. 19, 2005

  28. Rate of increase per year Laser incidents required to be reported to FAA beginning Jan. 19, 2005 27% 86% 61% 49% 66% 36%

  29. 2006-2011 rate of increase 59% decline 59% decline

  30. Fewer incidents in 2012? • If 2012’s rate of increase goes down as much as 2011 (59% decline), there would be a decrease in laser incidents for the first time • From 3,591 incidents in 2011to 2,836 incidents projected for 2012

  31. Trends in rate of increase1: Start with 5 years of data Laser Incidents Reported Daily to FAA

  32. Trends in rate of increase2: Shift data over one year Laser Incidents Reported Daily to FAA

  33. Trends in rate of increase3: Determine how much incidents have increased Laser Incidents Reported Daily to FAA

  34. Trends in rate of increase4: Re-plot the data as a percentage

  35. Trends in rate of increase5. Overall trend shows rate steady, rising, then dropping

  36. Day of the Week

  37. 2011 laser incidents - day of the week

  38. 2011 laser incidents - day of the week

  39. Laser Incidentsby Altitude

  40. 2011 FAA Laser Incidents, Reported by Altitude at Time of Exposure Altitude AGL, thousands of feet

  41. Laser colors

  42. 2011 laser colors reported • Green: 3,381 (94.2%) • Red: 66 (1.8%) • White: 48 (1.3%) • Other: 39 (1.1%) • Blue: 31 (0.9%) • Unknown color: 26 (0.7%) 94.2% 5.8%

  43. Airports and Locations

  44. Caution: Airports and locations are approximate • FAA records the closest airport to an incident location • Does not distinguish between ... • ... an incident in a city or suburb (e.g., police helicopter) that is away from an airport; and • ... an incident at an airport or on an approach/departure • FAA data on cities arbitrarily lumps or separates airports • Example: Dallas, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Fort Worth are reported as 3 separate cities. If reported as one city, would be 2nd in U.S. for laser incidents.

  45. 2011 laser incidents - top 25 airports

  46. 2011 laser incidents - top 25 cities

  47. 2011 laser incidents - top 25 states

  48. 2011 laser incidents - top 25 states

  49. Eye Effects Reported • Note: There were no documentedeye injuries (retinal lesions)

  50. Eye effects vs. eye injuries • Effects defined as... • Watering, afterimages • Corneal abrasion (too-vigorous rubbing of the eyes) • Shock, headache • Injuries defined as... • Medically detectable retinal lesion