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Patrick Murphy Executive Director, International Laser Display Association SAE G-10T Committee Member. Lasers and aviation Safety. Lasers and Aviation Safety. Laser pointer threat Laser uses in airspace Laser hazards in airspace Hazard factors Hazard reduction Regulation and control.

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Patrick Murphy

Executive Director, International Laser Display Association

SAE G-10T Committee Member

Lasers and aviation Safety

lasers and aviation safety
Lasers and Aviation Safety
  • Laser pointer threat
  • Laser uses in airspace
  • Laser hazards in airspace
    • Hazard factors
    • Hazard reduction
  • Regulation and control
laser pointer threat
Laser pointer threat
  • Steady rise in incidents
  • Due to:
    • Lower cost
    • Higher powers(100-300 mW)
    • Green (more visible)
laser pointer threat1
Laser pointer threat
  • January 1 – February 23, 2009: 148 laser illuminations of aircraft in the U.S. alone
    • 2.7 per day
  • February 22: 12 illuminations of aircraft landing at Sea-Tac
laser pointer threat australia
Laser pointer threat -- Australia
  • 140 incidents Jan. - April 2008
  • March 2008 “coordinated attacks” in Sydney
  • Led to NSW ban on laser pointer import, sales and possession
laser use in airspace
Laser use in airspace
  • “Guide star” lasers used in astronomy
  • Satellite communications and ranging
  • Atmospheric remote sensing
laser use in airspace1
Laser use in airspace
  • Aircraft warning
    • Visual Warning System used in Washington Metropolitan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ)
    • 7 locations
    • Green and red lasers, 1.5 watts
    • Visible up to 20 nautical miles away

Laser use in airspace

  • Entertainment
    • Nightly show at a fixed site (theme parks)
    • Infrequent shows at various sites (special events)
    • Usually only 30-60 minutes long
not practical to ban lasers from airspace
Not practical to ban lasers from airspace
  • Unduly restricts legitimate users
  • Does not prevent accidental illumination incidents
  • Does not stop deliberate targeting of aircraft
    • Ignorance – does not know effects
    • Malice – trying to cause harm
primary hazard is to pilots
Primary hazard is to pilots
  • From visible laser beams:
    • Visual interference during critical phases of flight
      • Distraction, glare and flashblindness
    • Potential eye damage during any phase of flight
  • From non-visible (infrared, ultraviolet) beams:
    • Potential eye damage during any phase of flight
visual interference
Visual interference
  • Distraction
    • Distracting, but can see past the light
    • 0.5 μW/cm2
    • 5 mW laser pointer at 3,700 feet (1130m)
visual interference1
Visual interference
  • Glare
    • Interferes with vision
    • 5.0 μW/cm2
    • 5 mW laser pointer at 1,200 feet (365m)
visual interference2
Visual interference
  • Temporary flashblindness
    • Blocks vision during and after exposure
    • 100 μW/cm2
    • 5 mW laser pointer at 350 feet (107m)
visual interference does affect pilots
Visual interference does affect pilots
  • 2004 FAA simulator study
    • Pilots flew a challenging “short-final” approach
    • Glare and flashblindness significant
      • Adverse effects for more than 50% of the approaches
      • 20-25% rate of aborted landings
potential eye damage
Potential eye damage
  • Can be caused by visible or non-visible laser beams, at power above the MPE
  • Unlikely, though possible
  • Few confirmed reports
  • “Damage” could be pre- or post-exposure
    • Previous eye injuries or abormalities
    • Rubbing the eye after exposure
6 watt 532 nm 1 1 mrad laser
6 watt, 532 nm, 1.1 mrad laser
  • Eye hazard to 1600 feet (488m)
  • Flashblindness to 8200 feet (1.5 mi/2.5 km)
  • Glare to 36,800 feet (7 mi/11.2 km)
  • Distraction to 368,000 feet (70 mi/112 km)
factors affecting hazard level
Factors affecting hazard level
  • Laser factors
    • Power, divergence, visible/non-visible, wavelength, pulsed vs. CW
  • Operational factors
    • Area covered in sky (stationary vs. moving)
    • Location relative to airports
    • Terminated vs. non-terminated beams
    • Use of airspace observers (spotters)
    • Use of automated detection (radar, cameras)
factors affecting hazard level cont 1
Factors affecting hazard level (cont. 1)
  • Situational factors
    • Day vs. night
    • Aircraft speed and distance (helicopters at risk)
  • Laser pointer user factors
    • Deliberate (longer and more exposures) vs. accidental (short, single event)
factors affecting hazard level cont 2
Factors affecting hazard level (cont. 2)
  • Pilot factors
    • Read NOTAMs
    • Flight phase (takeoff, landing, emergency)
    • Pilot experience and training
      • Recognizing a laser event
      • Properly responding, to successfully avoid problems
factors affecting hazard level cont 3
Factors affecting hazard level (cont. 3)
  • Legal and regulatory
    • Follow aviation authority procedures
      • FAA, CDRH in US
    • Laws against interference
    • Restrict the sale or use of laser devices
      • May not be practical
      • May give false sense of security
      • Does not guard against deliberate intent
pilot training reduces the hazard
Pilot training reduces the hazard
  • Laser illuminations can be managed with training
  • Effective against both accidental and deliberate exposures
  • Not a substitute for regulations and restrictions on law-abiding laser users
public education may also help
Public education may also help
  • Educate heavy laser pointer users
    • Self-regulation/education by laser pointer sellers
  • Package inserts
  • Permanent labels on laser pointers
  • Laser pointer seller participation in regulatory efforts
  • Laser pointer seller trade association
www laserpointersafety com
  • Facts, news and links on laser pointer safety for the general public
  • Reduce annoying and dangerous incidents
    • “Bad for safety” – pilots, drivers
    • “Bad for yourself” – possible arrest, fines, jail
    • “Bad for pointers” – misuse will lead to bans
u s regulations
U.S. regulations
  • Federal Aviation Administration
    • Does not have direct authority over laser uses
    • Requests that laser uses be reviewed in advance by aerospace specialists
    • Issues a “Letter of Non-Objection” if OK;a “Letter of Objection” if not OK
u s regulations1
U.S. regulations
  • FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health
    • Regulates laser devices (equipment)
    • Only regulates three uses
      • Medical
      • Surveying
      • Demonstration
        • Includes laser pointers and light shows
        • Demonstration users MUST file with FAA and MUST get a “Letter of Non-Objection”. Only laser users legally required to get permission.
faa regulations
FAA regulations
  • Four zones around airports and sensitive airspace, for visual interference
    • “Laser-Free” Zone, < 0.5 μ/cm2 (50 nanowatts/cm2)
    • Critical Flight Zone, < 5.0 μ/cm2
    • (optional) Sensitive Flight Zone, < 100 μ/cm2
    • Normal Zone, <MPE, no visual restrictions
what u s airspace is controlled
What U.S. airspace is controlled?
  • Almost all lasers outdoors in the U.S.
  • Even if between two buildings on a city street
    • Helicopters may need to fly between the buildings
  • Even if terminated from ground to surfaces
    • Termination may fail
  • FAA control stops at about 60,000 feet
  • Some lasers are hazards above 60,000 feet
    • Must be reported to Air Force Space Command
  • No current requirement to detect hard-to-spot aircraft
    • Stealth, unmanned aerial vehicles, supersonic
how to report u s laser operations
How to report U.S. laser operations
  • FAA Form 7140-1 (part of Advisory Circular 70-1)
standards development
Standards development
  • SAE G-10T Laser Safety Hazards Subcommittee
  • ANSI Z136.6 Standard for Safe Use of Lasers Outdoors
current status
Current status
  • SAE G-10T working on guidelines for automated detection and avoidance systems
  • Prominent laser users (e.g., observatories) and laser shows follow FAA guidelines
  • Laser pointers now are the area of primary concern
  • Some concern over deliberate targeting to cause harm
    • Difficult to do, not very effective
resources for background general public
Resources for background, general public
  • This ILSC paper and its references
  • Wikipedia article “Lasers and Aviation Safety”
    • Subject to “anyone can edit” caveat of any Wikipedia article
    • Links page

(Note: Slides after this point are “leftovers” which did not fit into the main presentation, or which had material included in other slides. They are left for future versions which may find the leftover slides useful.)

hazard factors laser
Hazard factors: Laser
  • Laser power
  • Beam divergence
  • Visible vs. non-visible (infrared and ultraviolet)
  • Color
    • Green can be 2-10 times more visible than equal power red or blue lasers
  • Pulsed vs. continuous
hazard factors operational
Hazard factors: Operational
  • Beam movement
    • Stationary: Smaller chance of flying through beam; easier to protect via spotters or automated methods
    • Moving (laser show): Greater chance of exposure
  • Location relative to airports and airlanes
  • Projector and laser stability
hazard factors situational
Hazard factors: Situational
  • Day vs. night
    • Only dusk/night/dawn a problem for visible lasers
    • More visible lasers operate at night
  • Motion and speed of the aircraft
    • Helicopters are at greatest risk due to hovering
  • Distance to the aircraft
    • Low-flying planes and helicopters at greatest risk
hazard factors aircrew
Hazard factors: Aircrew
  • Flight phase
    • Takeoff, approach, landing, emergency maneuvers
  • Pilot awareness
    • Prior exposure to laser illumination concepts
  • Pilot response
    • Overreaction vs. “fly the plane”
hazard factors laser pointers
Hazard factors: Laser pointers
  • Intent
    • Deliberate targeting
      • Longer exposure
      • May be coordinated with others (Sydney, 2008)
      • Easier to catch (though still not easy)
      • May recur, hit multiple planes and/or multiple nights
    • Accidental targeting
      • One-time-only accident