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Product Code: ILSC2009_101

Lasers and Aviation Safety
Patrick Murphy, International Laser Display Assn.; Orlando FL USA
Presented at ILSC 2009

When laser beams intersect an aircraft's path, a hazard can result. There are four primary types of concern: distraction, glare, temporary flashblindness (for visible lasers only), and eye hazards. The threat level depends on factors including: type and power of the laser, beam path/area in the sky, time of day, aircraft motion and distance, flight phase, pilot workload and pilot awareness of laser hazards. There are two primary ways to minimize or eliminate these hazards: careful and responsible laser use to avoid aircraft, and pilot knowledge of procedures to follow in case of accidental or deliberate laser exposure. Since the early 1990s, the industry group SAE G10-T Laser Hazards Safety Subcommittee has developed guidance for laser users and aviation regulators. Responsible laser users have followed reporting procedures such as FAA Order 7400.2 and UK CAP 736. The threat to aviation is now primarily from irresponsible users of low-cost, high-visibility, hard-to-regulate laser pointers. Helicopters especially may be at risk, although they also have the ability to track rogue pointer users. The number and nature of incidents has led to a ban, or proposed ban, on laser pointers in some jurisdictions.

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