Airborne police struggle with laser threat
Unfortunately, the threat to aircraft from persons armed with lasers appears to be growing. In addition to commercial and business aircraft being “lasered” numerous law enforcement aircraft have reported that they have also been the subject of a laser attack.
The threat from lasers ranges from general distraction to permanent eye damage. Most laser incidents are perpetrated by people that bought their laser at the local office supply store. However, as those lasers get more sophisticated, so does the danger, especially those posed by so-called “green-dot lasers.” They are brighter and more powerful than the standard red-dot laser and are becoming more popular. Military grade lasers, although not common, pose the greatest threat and could cause permanent damage.
Preparing for the Laser Case
Once the threat and seriousness of the laser issue is understood, many prosecutors take a much more serious position. There have been successful prosecutions in California, Ohio, Florida, and New York. In these cases, the incidents were either teens looking for a thrill or a misguided adult trying out their new “toy.”
Responding to the Laser Call
When a laser incident is reported to police aviation units, their primary response is to fly to the general area in which they believe the laser came from and then attempt to “draw out” the actor by watching for additional incidents or having the laser pointed at their own aircraft. Hopefully, ground units are strategically placed in the general vicinity and dispatched to the scene when a precise location can be determined.
Laser incidents in England are increasing at an alarming rate and they are rapidly developing technology to combat the threat. The latest push is to have a camera that takes a picture of the laser, and an onboard computer interpolates the location where the laser is coming from. This provides physical evidence as well as a certain location to conduct an investigation. The best part is that this equipment does it “passively” and requires no action by the flight crew.
Norman Mineta said in 2005 (Maneta at the time was Secretary of Transportation), that there is “no specific or credible intelligence that would indicate that these laser incidents are connected to terrorists. As far as we know, lasers are not the terrorists’ weapon of choice. Nor is there any evidence that these incidents are terrorists practicing for use of other weapons, as some have speculated.”
In any case, agencies should at least consider the possibility of a more sinister motivation when investigating these incidents and always make notifications to other agencies when necessary.
The Extent of the Problem?
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