What can be done to minimize the risks associated with lasers that could potentially cause harm to pilots, or air passengers? | Let’s talk lasers | Let's Talk Transportation

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What can be done to minimize the risks associated with lasers that could potentially cause harm to pilots, or air passengers?

6 months ago


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  • MAKThomas 4 months ago
    1. Pilots, train drivers, etc., ought to be protected by goggles and/or cabin-windows. 2. Lasers should be registered and restricted, because they are weapons.3. Lasers should be covered by weapons laws, such as overpowering fines and prison sentences for misuse.
  • lroque 4 months ago
    A plenty of papers and articles about the recurrent growth of reports involving aircraft lasing incidents have been issued on the important worldwide magazines and journals. All of them show and confirm a trend: the number of incidents are increasing as more and more people have access to mid or high powerful laser. This growth is becoming faster, spite of the more restricted laws, more severe enforcement and even more number of education campaigns.On the other hand, it is also true (as already previously commented here by a colleague) that the most common effect for human eyes is an unexpected distraction during a critical phase of a flight. It is actually confirmed by statistics of reports of thousands of incidents occurred during the last 5 to 10 years (most of them, during the last 3 years).Based on this, flight crew training is really a must. Mandatory usage of PPE (personal protection equipment) like visors or glasses should be consider only in rare exceptional cases, since typically they are effective for a pretty specific spectrum band or several wavelengths. Aircraft windshield modification or upgrade should be study, much more considering that other similar threats can be drived from the current lasing incidents. In summary, I consider that Transport Canada should give priority and invest efforts and money on proposal of solutions that consider: 1 - flight crew training, 2 - windshield improvements and 3 - PPE's.Note: Even though I am an active member of several groups of Z136.org (SSC-1; SSC-6 and TSC-2 and TSC-4), these are my personal observations and opinions.
  • RPaura 4 months ago
    All things considered, Transport Canada is doing what they can to raise awareness, and impress upon society that it is not acceptable to point a laser at an aircraft. Earlier this year they voiced their frustration on the matter. Action has been taken that is within their capacity to do.To properly frame out this problem and discuss potential solutions is beyond the means of this forum. The rate of growth of solid state and high power diode laser technology is exceeding society's ability to appreciate and respect the hazard. I can personally attest to efforts by various members of the laser build and safety community that they are trying and then some to find a solution. Several years ago this exact topic was raised at the International Laser Safety Conference in an open forum discussion. All viewpoints were raised, though the "lively discussions" quickly turned to concerns of government interfering with interstate commerce and what resembled to me as a "right to bear arms" regarding laser ownership. Associations representing the concerns of pilots are also trying, though they are left with mitigation efforts as Pmurph5 has noted. To respond to the question raised here by Transport Canada, it is going to take a concerted effort internationally with education (at the grade school level and up), with commerce (enforcement) and with penalties (making strong and public examples out of violators) if this is truly to be addressed.One driving fundamental is human nature: to acquire more. A 1 mW laser pointer is quite sufficient for its intended use as an instructional tool. I use both a green and red laser pointer to illustrate that a Class 3R is not necessary for instructions. Though just as people want more horsepower in their cars, so too is the market flooded with hand-held laser devices that are labelled as 3R (5 mW max) - which has its own story of applicability creep - when they are truly in the 20 mW and higher territory. Amazon briefly had a policy to address this with the sale of laser devices on their website, but market pressures seemed to force them revoke it as their competition did not follow the same. Going to any website online for such to purchase, and many give clear instructions on not to worry about the low power labelling when they receive their devices, as its necessary to get by customs and into the country. Customs has bigger problems than laser pointers to deal with, though they are not indifferent to this matter.Regrettably, I fear history will repeat itself. The fact that such large numbers of people think it is OK to point a laser at an aircraft to illuminate it, would indicate sooner or later an accident will occur. For aerospace companies to build in protective measures to their aircraft, while necessary for the safety of its customers, will only increase this hazardous practice by those on the ground. Then when an accident occurs, it will be asked "why didn't we do something to prevent it". An all too familiar theme.For Transport Canada, please host a conference to discuss and frame out solutions, they do exist. It is a matter of political will. If a conference cannot be hosted, please become more active within the international laser safety community, other agencies do attend these conferences such as Pmurph5 has noted, such as the ILSC. Once critical mass is achieved with all stakeholders on this matter, our society can grow up and stop this foolish behaviour before a tragedy occurs. Or a tragedy will occur and the affected government will take draconian measures in response, with the reply that we had our chance. Not to tease, but there are solutions being proposed and tried out there. This measure by Transport Canada shows that they are serious about this problem and are doing more than just talking about it.- Note well: I am speaking as an individual laser technology professional and safety advocate. As a member of Z136 ASC and SCC for TC 76, I do not speak for them, but believe they are equally interested to see that public safety is safeguarded against at risk practices with a hazardous energy source.
  • colinchau 4 months ago
    An appropriate policy response at the municipal and provincial level, more needs to be done to give people who don't need laser pointers to not possess them in the first place. I would leave cat owners out of this as I know they use these as toys and then post videos of their cats lunging at laser dots.First of all, we must understand what motivates people, especially young people to acquire laser pointers in the first place.1. It's "cool" and they want to shower their friends that they have one.2. Rural Canadians have limited recreational activity choices that bar them from becoming more refined individuals: barrel-rolling, axe-throwing, paintballing, etc. More has to be done to encourage them to appreciate and pursue more higher-end, even cultural pursuits so that they have sophistication to show off, not gadgets. The average demographic of laser pointer aviation offenders is disproportionately young white male, so this population should be specifically targeted for early age maturation and refinement.
  • BWHall 6 months ago
    Dear Transport Canada - why not sponsor an engineering design contest in Canada's university engineering departments to develop a handheld laser pointer suitable for use in business presentations, that is incapable of reaching aircraft or harming pilots? If a new design is successful, the government can then use its regulatory power to phase out and/or prohibit the sale of lasers incompatible with public safety. Never underestimate the power of a technical fix to a social problem.
  • Craig Nicholson 4 months ago
    Pmurph5 and BWHall both make good points. I realize it’s very difficult to turn this trend around, as is the UAV/drone problem. It’s definitely a good idea to educate pilots as an interim measure. But it’s also very important that people who make unwise and dangerous decisions that endanger the flying public, and indirectly the general public if an aircraft crashes, be made aware of this. Just because a serious injury or crash hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. The potential is there. If Industry Canada (or whoever it is) can force cigarette manufactures to put warning messages of cigarette boxes, why can’t they make laser and UAV manufactures (or distributers) put warnings on their products, so buyers know that they can be fined etc. if they don’t use their situational awareness and common sense? It will probably get done after an accident happens, so why not do it now to prevent an accident in the first place? We are an innovative country. Why not govern by foresight, which we have done in many areas, instead of by crisis management after an accident or serious incident?
  • Pmurph5 5 months ago
    It has proven to be difficult to reduce the number of laser illuminations by banning lasers or by educating users.Australia banned pointers over 1 mW in mid-2008. The number of incidents rose from an average of 132 annually pre-ban to an average of 493 annually post-ban over the next seven years.The U.S. had a major FBI publicity campaign in 2015 which may have backfired. Incidents went from an average of 3,779 annually in the three years before 2015, to an average of 7,299 annually in 2015-2017 -- perhaps people heard for the first time from the FBI about lasing at planes.Canada may want to keep or expand the June 28, 2018 ban. It is not likely to interfere very much with those who legitimately need portable handheld laser pointers.However, based on experiences in other countries, no one should expect this ban (or the “Not a Bright Idea” campaign) to significantly lower laser/aircraft incidents.Fortunately, laser illuminations are manageable — it is just bright light, not a gun or missile.Eye injury is not the major concern of experts who study this. For example, no pilot has been proven to have permanent eye injury from one of the over 55,000 lasings of civilian aircraft 2004-2017 in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and Italy. In 2016, three top U.K. experts wrote a paper about why this record is likely to continue in the future.The primary problem is with visual interference during critical phases of flight. Even here, the worst that has happened in the 55,000 lasings are some go-arounds (plus the Feb. 14, 2016 Virgin Atlantic flight that returned to Heathrow about an hour after takeoff), plus police and first responder missions that were called off to deal with laser perpetrators.But certainly no one wants a pilot, flying during a truly critical phase such as an emergency landing, to be distracted or flashblinded by a laser.This is why the single best action to minimize the risks associated with lasers and air travel would be to provide meaningful education and training to pilots. A 2003 U.S. FAA study showed that once pilots experienced laser light once or twice in a simulator, they knew what to expect: “Acquainting pilots with low-level laser exposure could minimize its effects and reduce the chance of an extreme reaction.”Further, tests in 2016 by SAE G10-OL indicated that using laser light for this training was not necessary. An inexpensive green flashlight, perfectly safe to look into, could successfully substitute for training purposes.I would therefore urge Transport Canada to require education and training of pilots so they know the relatively simple steps to take if they are illuminated by laser light. Guidance can be found in the June 2018 document from SAE G10-OL: Aerospace Recommended Practice 6378, “Guidance on Mitigation Strategies Against Laser Illumination Effects”.Other efforts should be considered as well, such as improved labeling (require pointers to have a label warning about not aiming at aircraft). Another mitigation would be a requirement for windscreen protection such as that being developed by Canada’s own Metamaterial Technologies Inc. of Nova Scotia.Success in this effort over the next decade should not be measured exclusively by a drop in the number and severity of aircraft lasings. As Australia’s experience shows, this may be impossible. But success should be measured by the reduction of possible consequences via actions such as required pilot education and training, and (if warranted) requirements for windscreen laser protection.BACKGROUND: While I have worked in the laser/aircraft safety efforts since the mid-1990s, and currently am co-chair of the SAE G10-OL Operational Laser committee, I am writing on behalf of myself and not SAE nor any other group. These are my personal observations and opinions.