Strong handheld lasers - Threat development and protection possibilities


  • Cesar Lopes
  • Sören Jägerhök
  • Johan Öhgren

Publish date: 2010-11-16

Report number: FOI-R--3036--SE

Pages: 43

Written in: Swedish


  • Laser
  • hand-held lasers
  • laser pointers
  • laser threat
  • laser protection


Commercially available laser pointers have during the latest years been spread among the general public. The laser pointers are cheap, small, handheld and relatively strong. They can dazzle eyes from kilometre distances. At shorter distances they are able to permanently injure eyes with impaired visual function or in the worst case total blindness. The number of incidents around the world has dramatically increased due to the availability of the laser pointers. The incidents in Sweden have also increased with almost one reported incident every day. Pilots and the police forces are among the most affected. Airplanes are attacked at take off and landing, that is, during the most critical part of the flight, which can lead to serious consequences if both pilots' eyes are hit by the laser beam. Planes have been forced to abort landing or been redirected to another airport. Most of the incidents are planned. The attackers can be found among youngsters (mischief) to terrorist or terrorist inspired groups. Children's play with laser pointers has also lead to eye injuries with permanent impaired visual function. Also, the number of injuries due to laser attacks against for example police forces has increased. The civilian authorities are, through legislation, trying to restrain this activity. Stronger legislation, and even classing the lasers as weapons, has had very little effect so far. The number of incidents continues to increase around the world. The police forces in Sweden confiscate 2 - 3 lasers every day and the overall trend is that the lasers are becoming cheaper and stronger. Also new laser types are being available to the general public. The commercially available laser pointers are therefore a real threat against many important public operations, individuals and defence personnel. Commercial protections are available in the form of eyewear and also visors and screens that can block the laser light and protect against dazzle and injury. The available eyewear and the like do not give a complete eye protection and they are also strongly coloured. In order to minimise the effects of a laser attack, practise and training of personnel which are at risk is therefore important. This report describes not only how this type of threat is evolving, but also protection methods. The laser pointer threat needs to be taken seriously by both civilian and defence authorities. This report is therefore of interest for both.