To ILDA Members:
Yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a bill which includes a provision making it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, or at the flight path of an aircraft in U.S. airspace. The language in H.R. 658’s Section 311 will become Title 18, Chapter 2, Section 39A of the United States Code. A complete text of the law is below.
- The law prohibits “knowingly” aiming. If there is an accidental exposure by a laser show, which otherwise has taken all legal and practical steps to avoid exposure, this would hopefully not be in violation of the law.
- The law addresses only “laser pointers”. They are defined as “any device designed or used to amplify electromagnetic radiation by stimulated emission that emits a beam designed to be used by the operator as a pointer or highlighter to indicate, mark, or identify a specific position, place, item, or object.”
- The law contains exemptions for FAA-approved research and development projects and for FAA-approved flight testing. An FAA official has told us that FAA would continue to allow laser light shows submitted using the current procedures for FAA review and non-objection, even though these are neither R&D nor flight tests.
- The law only prohibits aiming at an aircraft, or the flight path of an aircraft. If a laser show or display avoids such aiming — for example by using spotters to turn off the beam if an aircraft gets too close — then there is no violation of the law.
— Patrick Murphy