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Man Who Pointed Laser At Aircraft Gets 30-Month Sentence 761

Posted by timothy
from the never-point-at-the-2d-location dept.
coondoggie writes "In a move federal prosecutors hope sends a strong message to the knuckleheads who point lasers at aircraft for fun, a California man was sentenced to 30 months in prison for shining one at two aircraft. According to the FBI Adam Gardenhire, 19, was arrested on March 29, 2012 and named in a two-count indictment filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles that said he pointed the beam of a laser at a private plane and a police helicopter that responded to the report."
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Man Who Pointed Laser At Aircraft Gets 30-Month Sentence

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  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by iggymanz (596061) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:31AM (#43281313)

    yeah so very sad we can no longer buy laser pointers online powerful enough to bore holes through solid materials....oh wait, you can

    http://www.wickedlasers.com.hk/arctic [wickedlasers.com.hk]

  • by fuzzybunny (112938) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:35AM (#43281379) Homepage Journal

    They are tremendously useful for stargazing - e.g. green laser collimators are fantastic tools for pointing out celestial objects or aiming a telescope.

    Also, long-distance cat annoying.

  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by iggymanz (596061) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:45AM (#43281523)

    yes, you can. I know people that have recently done so for their holography hobbies

  • Re:Good. (Score:4, Informative)

    by liquidpele (663430) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @11:46AM (#43281539) Journal
    Toddlers were eating those tiny magnet balls... which is a problem since it'll effectively punch holes in your intestines and kill you. It's not like it was grown men doing it.
  • Re:From the article: (Score:3, Informative)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:02PM (#43281717) Homepage
    What kind of accuracy would be required to hit a pilot in the eye from 100m away? The pupil has a radius of probably 5 mm. Using some simple trig, that's .03 degrees. You'd have to be pretty precise to hit a pilot in the eye. Expecially if the plane is moving, which it most certainly is.
  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by SternisheFan (2529412) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:06PM (#43281773)
    The problem today is that some of these handheld lasers are 10X more powerful than they're rated at.

    {Low-cost apparatus designed by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers to quickly and accurately measure the properties of handheld laser devices has shown that nearly 90 percent of green pointers and 44 percent of red pointers tested were out of compliance with federal safety regulations.

    Green pointers, which rely on frequency-doubling optics, also emitted “unacceptable” levels of infrared light, reported the team led by NIST Laser Safety Officer Joshua Hadler. It also found one pointer delivering more than ten times the allowable output power in the visible region. Reporting the results of its study on 122 pointers at the International Laser Safety Conference taking place in Orlando, Florida, this week, NIST says that the apparatus has been deliberately designed to be replicated easily by other institutions.

    While anecdotal reports of green laser hazards have previously appeared in scientific journals and the media, NIST says its tests are the first reported precision measurements of a large number of handheld laser devices. The tests also showed, unexpectedly, that many red laser pointers are also out of compliance with federal rules as defined by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). "Our results raise numerous safety questions regarding laser pointers and their use," the team's paper states.}

    http://optics.org/news/4/3/33 [optics.org]

  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:09PM (#43281813) Homepage Journal
    Oh you can still buy them, just not in buckyball form anymore. Head over to the United Nuclear [unitednuclear.com] website and look for the 10 pound rare earth magnets labelled "Extremely Dangerous Magnet"! Remember, it's not fun if it's not labelled "extremely dangerous!"
  • Re:From the article: (Score:5, Informative)

    by michelcolman (1208008) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:22PM (#43281985)

    I would bet that the pilot would have plenty of time to see the dot and grab the protection after he sees it, are there even any documented cases of a pilot being blinded by a laser? How many compared to reports of beams on aircraft? (also of note, passengers being blinded, while not life threatening to the whole plane, is still bad and unconscionable)

    I have flown with colleagues who have been hit by a laser and who were blinded for a few minutes, having to transfer control to the other pilot but fortunately without permanent eye damage. It's a very sudden flash without warning. Laser light is very focused, so you don't see any "dot" until it's pointed directly at you.

    Even worse, I have heard of at least one pilot who has actually lost his license due to permanent eye damage after a laser strike. What a fun game, isn't it?

    Taking precautions against them, especially small, cheap precautions (like door locks and protective glasses) which are effective against some of the more common problems, makes sense....

    If only there was a way of keeping laser light out and letting other light in so the pilots can still see the runway at night... Yes, even with all the modern electronic guidance systems, being able to look outside is still one of the very basic safety features of any aircraft.

  • Re:From the article: (Score:5, Informative)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:23PM (#43282005)
    What kind of accuracy would be required to hit a pilot in the eye from 100m away?

    It's not necessarily hitting the pupil, but rather the scattering of the light. Cockpit glass is not a perfect surface. All the dust and microscratches scatter the light across the surface, and the pilot can no longer see out. And looking out the window is pretty much required when you are trying to land.

    We've had this problem here locally, with Navy jets coming over the oceanfront hotels on final approach. Beer fueled idiots on a hotel balcony, shining their toys at the jets.
  • by mastershake82 (948396) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:24PM (#43282021)
    Here is a video of a guy with a laser pointer being caught from above.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3k4C8grAGP4 [youtube.com]
  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by sFurbo (1361249) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:45PM (#43282301)

    Most cheap "lasers" you buy are not true lasers, running on LEDs.

    How are LED lasers not true lasers?

    . I also wonder why it would need a focus lens to stay focused for ~100 ft (as per video from their web site).

    because of the size of the lasing medium. Given the smallest radius of the beam, which of course can't be larger than the exit aperture of the optics, or the size of the lasing medium if no optics are used, and the wave length, the minimum dispersion angle can be determined. IIRC, the dispersion angle for a LED laser is something like 30 degrees before the optics, because the lasing medium is roughly the size of the wavelength.

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:48PM (#43282343)
    This guy pleaded guilty [wtkr.com] for repeatedly lighting up Navy jets. 18 months and $4k fine.
    He was pissed at all the noise. The base was there before he was born.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @12:50PM (#43282371)

    Nobody is pointing scientific lasers at aircraft.

    What this is all about is direct-diode lasers. Wicked Lasers takes these high-powered diodes, backs them up with a small power source and places them in a pointer housing. Voila: "Commercial-grade laser"

    Laser power has gotten DRASTICALLY higher in recent years, specifically with the advent of high-powered direct-diode lasers which much more portable than any type of laser tech previously available.

    Anything over 1mW (or somewhat higher as long as its firmly ensconced in an enclosure that prevents direct access) is not considered eye-safe (class 1).

    Classes 2 and 3 (and the associated sub-classes) cover lasers between 2mW and 500mW. Lasers in this class can cause permanent damage very quickly, however the blink reflex (at roughtly 250ms) is fast enough to prevent such damage.

    Anything over 500mW (1/2 Watt) is considered Class 4. There is no Class 5.

    Class 4 means various things: Permanent instantaneous eye damage (blink reflex is not fast enough to prevent damage). Clearly, the "pointers" coming from overseas fall into the Class 4 category. While these diodes may not be waveform stabilized enough to find use in holography, they are plenty powerful to do some real damage if not handled correctly. Owning a hand-held device capable of output power in excess of 1 watt requires proper handling and respect.

    Gov't enforcement on import of high-powered lasers is lax. Enforcement of their usage falls to the various state radiological boards, and the FDA at the Federal level. Any operator must possess a federal variance in order to run public laser exhibitions indoors, an additional FAA clearance is required to run outdoors, also any laser display device must be covered separately under a device variance (which ensures the device contains proper safety labels, keyswitch interlocks, registration with gov't entities, etc.) before it can be considered legal for "professional" use.

    As a laser show professional, I'm just awaiting the day someone does something really stupid which results in catastrophe and ruins it for the rest of us. The US already has some of the most stringent regulations in the world covering allowable exposure and prohibiting certain types of effects (audience scanning, etc) from being used. Enjoy the pretty lights while you can, before some bozo prompts a crackdown.

  • Re:From the article: (Score:5, Informative)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @01:22PM (#43282711)
    No Mythbusters needed. This is what it looks like from the air. [youtube.com] And this guy was prepared for it, having been notified by a previous aircraft. They went looking for this guy.
    And here is another one. [youtube.com]
    And for an airliner, you're looking at a 9 sq/ft window, instead of a 5mm pupil.
  • by simonbp (412489) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @01:23PM (#43282717) Homepage

    Heh, amateurs. Literally.

    I got to use the Keck II Laser Guide Star Adaptive Optics systems last week (to hunt for binary Kuiper Belt objects). It fires a 16 W CW laser (32x beyond what's needed to be Class 4) from one of the world's largest telescopes up to create an artificial ball of plasma about 90 km above the Earth. Since the ball should appear as a point source, all the distortion it in is due to the atmosphere. So, the computers calculate the distortion and cancel it out to create better resolution images than the atmosphere would allow. In theory it's better than Hubble (or so the PR people say), but in our experience using both, it really has to be a perfect night to just match Hubble.

    There is an automatic aircraft detection system, but we still have to have a guy out there with a pair of binoculars looking for airplanes. More pressing though, is the satellites. To insure the laser doesn't blind any "downward-looking satellites", we have to submit our list of targets to the US Space Command. If we get close to violating any of the closures that they gave us, the laser automatically shutters and the control system bleats out "Waring! Warning! Space Command! Space Command!", which has several near heart attacks at about 3 AM...

  • Re:Good. (Score:4, Informative)

    by NeverVotedBush (1041088) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @01:24PM (#43282745)
    FTFA: "The FAA last May said the number of reported laser incidents nationwide had risen for the fifth consecutive year to 3,592 in 2011. Pointing a laser at an aircraft can cause temporary blindness or make airliner pilots take evasive measures to avoid the laser light." It's time that these idiots - yes, the people pointing lasers at aircraft - get taught that they are endangering a lot of people's lives.

    With publicity over the punishment for doing it, other idiots may just learn something. Just telling the one idiot that they did a bad thing that could have led to a crash doesn't serve the larger purpose of stopping this behavior.

    The kid gets 30 months (probably much less if he behaves) in jail but is now much less likely to bring down a plane by blinding the pilot. So, hopefully, are many others who see that there are actually consequences for these stupid kinds of actions on their part.

    Next up - the idiots flying their multicopters and model airplanes into airliner takeoff and glide paths...
  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by c++0xFF (1758032) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @01:27PM (#43282775)

    Zen Magnets [zenmagnets.com] are still available [neoballs.com].

    Less expensive than Buckyballs were, and the quality seems to be pretty decent.

  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by roc97007 (608802) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @01:29PM (#43282787) Journal

    I'm going to take in seriousness something said in jest, but that's what geeks do... I read recently that the laser doesn't actually drill right through the cockpit window and quick-fry the retinas of the pilots, Rather, the beam splashes on the window, making it difficult or impossible to see out while the beam is in play. Which is still a really bad thing (and a phenomenally stupid thing to do at many levels) ESPECIALLY at low altitude approaching an airport, but is not exactly the same thing as smoking two sets of eyes and leaving the plane permanently pilotless. The article was making the case that the talk of permanently blinding pilots is conventional justice-system-driven hyperbole to make the crime seem worse than it is. (Which in my opinion is unnecessary. It's a stupid move that really could have dire consequences, so I'm ok with offenders going to jail. Eventually the word will get around.)

  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by AaronLS (1804210) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @02:53PM (#43283725)

    He didn't put it away, and instead flashed at the police chopper that was responding to the report.

  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Informative)

    by asylumx (881307) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @04:53PM (#43285239)

    Thus we should kill all birds, or preferably something even more drastic.

    Several airports have hawks on the premises for exactly this purpose.

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