Laser attacks are serious business. According to the FBI, they've reached "epidemic levels," with 3,700 expected to occur by the year's end. But we're not talking about some kind of futuristic death rays. No, no. This is about people with laser pointers blinding pilots.
Idiots shining laser pointers at pilots isn't exactly a new phenomenon, but it's not going away. In fact, it's getting a lot worse. Since 2005, "attack" frequency has risen 1,100 per cent. That's a problem the new Laser Strike Working Group National Initiative aims to fix.
A Laser Strike Working Group has existed in the FBI's Sacramento division since 2008, and its success there is what prompted the FBI to take it national. Under a law passed this year, laser-wielders can get up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $US11,000 for pointing the beams at planes. And that's actually a step down from existing law, which can dish out $US250,000 fines and 20 year sentences for interfering with an aircraft in general.
"Use a laser pointer for what it's made for. Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is dangerous and reckless. Just don't do it," says George Johnson, a supervisory federal air marshal who is a liaison officer with the FBI. If you see a laser attack, the FBI suggests you call 911, email the Federal Aviation Administration, or get in tough with your local FBI field office. Be careful where you're pointing those things, no matter where you are. [FBI News Blog]