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posted by janrinok on Tuesday March 11 2014, @12:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the it-was-only-a-matter-of-time dept.

Papas Fritas writes:

"Scott Smith reports at AP that 26-year-old Sergio Patrick Rodriguez has been convicted of pointing a green laser at a Fresno Police Department helicopter and sentenced to spend 14 years in federal prison. 'This is not a game. It is dangerous, and it is a felony,' says US Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. 'Those who aim lasers at aircraft should know that we will seek to convict them, and we will seek to send them to prison. The safety of aircraft and the people in them demands no less.' According to evidence presented at trial, Rodriguez and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, used a high-powered green laser pointer 13 times more powerful than common pointers to repeatedly strike the cockpit of Air 1 during a clear summer night in 2012. In imposing the sentence, Judge O'Neill considered not only the severity of the offenses but Rodriguez's criminal history, numerous probation violations, and Bulldog gang affiliation. An expert said that the laser pointer that Rodriguez used was an instrument capable of inflicting serious bodily injury and death due to a high potential for crash caused by visual interference. A jury found Rodriguez guilty of attempting to interfere with safe operation of aircraft and aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. 'Lasing aircraft is not a joke or a casual prank,' says Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the FBI's Sacramento field office. 'Rodriguez's sentence clearly demonstrates the seriousness of his actions and that the FBI will work with its law enforcement partners to locate and arrest those who engage in dangerous, improper use of hand-held lasers that puts us all at risk.'

On February 11, 2014, in 12 cities, the FBI, in collaboration with the Air Line Pilots Association International and the FAA, announced the Laser Threat Awareness campaign, a nationwide effort to alert the public to the threat that aircraft laser illumination poses and the penalties for such activity. The FBI will offer up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft. The program is being rolled out in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Houston and San Antonio, Texas; Los Angeles and Sacramento, California; Philadelphia; Phoenix, Arizona; Cleveland, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; New York; and San Juan, Puerto Rico."

 
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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @12:44PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @12:44PM (#14602)

    Dangerous?

    A while ago, a major airplane company made a video showing just how big a problem it is. From the video, it was clear that it is less annoying than when someone in a car going in the opposite direction forgets to turn his high beams off.

    In the details about the video, it was then explained that in the video, the laser pointer was pointed towards the cockpit window for 50 times longer than what would be realistically possible with a handheld laser pointer and a moving plane.

    So yeah, if you compare how dangerous it is - according to propaganda videos from THEIR side - 14 years prison for this is just as reasonable as more than 14*50=700 years for forgetting to turn your high beams off.

    Again, according to what THEY try to tell us.

    I have also noticed that this did not become a problem with the appearance of high powered green laser pointers. It became a problem at the same time as anything to do with flying became a problem. I.e. after 9/11.

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @12:53PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @12:53PM (#14606)

    AFAIK you don't get permanent eye damage from high-beams at the moment. These lasers can and do cause permanent eye damage. Not always of course, and not always immediately noticeable damage.

    Permanent eye damage is not good for pilot careers.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @01:31PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11 2014, @01:31PM (#14628)

      According to the video, the cockpit window spreads the laser beam out. That's one small amount of light being spread over a larger area, compared to a large amount of light, which does not do permanent eye damage, because it is already spread out.

      Otherwise, the much more powerfull high beams WOULD do eye damage.

      If the glass didn't spread the light, hitting an eye inside a moving plane with a handheld laser, over a distance where you can't even see the face you are aiming at... Might as well start playing Lotto, because Lotto has better odds.

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by Foobar Bazbot on Tuesday March 11 2014, @05:28PM

        by Foobar Bazbot (37) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @05:28PM (#14715) Journal

        According to the video, the cockpit window spreads the laser beam out.

        This isn't the only (or even the main) spreading effect involved -- the beam itself diverges significantly over such such ranges, so the beam from a very high-powered pointer at long range may have much lower power density than an alread "safe" <5mW pointer at short range. Typical divergence values for laser pointers are on the order of 1 milliradian, so over a range of 1 km, the beam expands to 1m. Compared to a perhaps 5mm beam at short ranges, that's 200^2= 40000x the area, so even a full 1W laser has 1/40th the power density of a 1mW laser at short range. There's essentially no risk of eye damage from anything that can reasonably be called a laser pointer at these ranges. You need more power and/or a larger aperture to have sufficient power density to be a credible direct* hazard.

        If the glass didn't spread the light, hitting an eye inside a moving plane with a handheld laser, over a distance where you can't even see the face you are aiming at...

        But that part's wrong, because as above, the beam is pretty big at typical airplane ranges, so you've got a decent chance of momentarily catching the pilots eyes with some part of your big, low-density, beam, and probably making him blink.

        * This is not to deny the existence of indirect hazards, such as the possibility that dazzling/momentarily blinding the pilot (or even just inducing a reflexive blink) could, under the right circumstances, cause him to crash the plane, just as high-beams could, in just the right circumstances, cause a driver to crash a car. I'm just talking about the direct hazard of eye damage.

        • (Score: 2) by Foobar Bazbot on Tuesday March 11 2014, @05:44PM

          by Foobar Bazbot (37) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @05:44PM (#14732) Journal

          I realized after posting, from other comments, that this case involved a police chopper, not an airliner. In light of that, the 1km distance for which I ran numbers may not be typical. Still, the point stands, and anyone may easily do the math for any range they deem representative...

        • (Score: 2) by hubie on Tuesday March 11 2014, @08:07PM

          by hubie (1068) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 11 2014, @08:07PM (#14815) Journal

          You also have to take into consideration that the eye is about 50 times more sensitive in the green than it is in the red, which is why I generally hate when a speaker uses a green laser pointer during a presentation because they appear to be much brighter (in fact, depending upon the laser pointer they use and the properties of the wall/screen, I will look away from where they are pointing because it is discomforting to stare at the laser spot). Also, an idealized nice, clean cockpit window may act as a weakly powered optic to spread out the light some more, but a real cockpit window has all sorts of scratches, microbubbles, etc. in them that will cause all sorts of annoying glinting.

  • (Score: 0, Troll) by crutchy on Tuesday March 11 2014, @01:00PM

    by crutchy (179) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @01:00PM (#14613) Homepage Journal

    if you forgot to turn your high beams off while passing a police orificer in the almighty USA, you might just get 700 years in prison. never can tell nowadays. who's game to find out?

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by bucc5062 on Tuesday March 11 2014, @01:02PM

    by bucc5062 (699) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @01:02PM (#14615)

    Forget everything else for a moment and focus on just point point, pointing a laser at an airplane is both a stupid thing to do and against the law. Whether it is dangerous or not (for a pilot it can be) there is no reason to do so for any good benefit. This is not a us vs them situation where the Man is stepping on our necks. This is a situation where a common sense law was broken.

    Now, is it dangerous to throw a snowball at a moving car? Sure since at worst it could break a window, effect the driver who then swerves into on coming traffic causing an accident. A laser could distract, possibly blind a pilot as the plane is on the most critical part of flying, the landing phase. Anything that distracts from outside the cockpit is dangerous and just plain stupid to do.

    As to lasers, tape one to a high powered rifle and that little spot of light could be followed in a second by a bullet. A laser can help target an object so how can you not see it as dangerous? What sucks is that, because of the actions of this nimrod the government could consider all lasers, even simple pointers, as bad and ban t hem. Thus the actions of a few, or one, effect the many.

    --
    The more things change, the more they look the same
    • (Score: 0) by Fnord666 on Tuesday March 11 2014, @01:09PM

      by Fnord666 (652) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 11 2014, @01:09PM (#14620) Homepage

      Whether it is dangerous or not (for a pilot it can be) there is no reason to do so for any good benefit.

      So you're saying that anything a person can do that doesn't demonstrate a good benefit should be illegal?

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bucc5062 on Tuesday March 11 2014, @01:25PM

        by bucc5062 (699) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @01:25PM (#14624)

        No, I am saying that pointing a lit laser at an aircraft, car, or anything being operated by a human has no benefit if doing so has a negative impact on the operator. I also stated that that specific action was against the law. Never was the thought that *anything* and illegal go together.

         

        --
        The more things change, the more they look the same
    • (Score: 1) by captain normal on Tuesday March 11 2014, @08:01PM

      by captain normal (2205) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @08:01PM (#14811)

      If you do think about it just the act of pointing a hi-powered laser at a plane (or any thing or anyone)may seem harmless unless it causes loss of sight. I think one has to be pretty close to the source, the same as carbon arc on a welding machine, in order to suffer permanent eye damage. But if the laser pointer is an aiming device...like on a rifle or SAM...then there is real danger.

      --
      “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison
  • (Score: -1) by crutchy on Tuesday March 11 2014, @01:03PM

    by crutchy (179) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @01:03PM (#14616) Homepage Journal

    also, as much as i think 14 years for lasing a police helicopter is over the top, lasing a commercial jet on final approach at night in shitty weather is a different story

  • (Score: 2) by linsane on Tuesday March 11 2014, @02:58PM

    by linsane (633) on Tuesday March 11 2014, @02:58PM (#14678)