Vaud police issue warning on illegal lasers
Lausanne, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Switzerland recorded 80 incidents in 2010 where aircraft pilots were injured by lasers pointed at them. The figure was double that of the previous year, with 40 in 2009. Rega, the helicopter emergency service, filed 11 complaints, two of which resulted in charges being pressed, although they were dropped in one case.
Police in canton Vaud say that the problem involves legal pointers, the kind used in presentations, but also far more powerful ones.
Legal pointers range from 0.4 to 1 mW (milliwatt), but other lasers are available, notably online, from 5 to 2,000 mW.
They are designed for other uses, for example in theatres, and must be fixed and used according to instructions. They can be extremely dangerous, even at 20-30 km, say police.
Airline pilots in Europe were issued instructions in 2009 on how to deal with a laser incident, which can cause serious eye damage. Their instructions include protecting themselves, but also registering the location of the laser beam to allow police to follow up. Charges can include the serious crime of endangering the lives of others; witnesses can also be called in for questioning and face possible charges.
Some of the incidents have been due to carelessness or ignorance: a 1 mW laser beam is 1 million times more powerful than a 100 watt lightbulb. It can cause blindness for several minutes and if it’s directed at a mirror or other reflective surface it can cause serious harm to the user.
At 9-16 mW the beams travel faster than the human blinking reaction, which makes them particularly dangerous because the victim cannot protect himself.
And at 100 mW a laser beam can cause burns.