Laser Pointer Shot at Helicopter Leads to Arrest, Questions


Laser pointers: Not just for freaking out your cats.
  • Laser pointers: Not just for freaking out your cats.
The Post-Dispatch has an interesting article today about a 21-year-old man arrested Tuesday night for shooting a laser pointer at a St. Louis County Police helicopter.

According to the paper, the man was sitting in a parked vehicle around 9:30 p.m. when he spotted the helicopter flying 700 feet overhead and aimed the laser pointer at the aircraft. The green light so alarmed the pilot that he radioed into his colleagues on the ground who located the vehicle and arrested the man on suspicion of interfering with an aircraft.

"I don't think people realize how dangerous it is that you're temporarily blinding a pilot," the 'copter pilot tells the daily. "It hits you directly in your eyes."

My question(s): How far can those laser pointers shoot? And could they really distract someone 700 feet away?

Apparently the answers are yes, yes.

According to at least one vendor of commercial laser pointers, the devices can have a range of 100 miles. And, as the Post-Dispatch reports, the Federal Aviation Administration says laser pointers are a growing problem with pilots lodging 1,476 complaints about them last year compared to just 283 in 2005.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.