Agents with the FBI's Philadelphia Division issued a warning yesterday about the dangers of laser pointers – and the possible penalties those who misuse them can face.
According to investigators, every summer brings a spike in reported incidents involving laser pointers being shone at aircraft.
The release noted the FAA last year received reports of 3,482 such incidents, an average of 9.5 "laser strikes" every night.
"They’re just a few bucks apiece, but their misuse can be costly," the release stated.
The FBI went on to remind the public that aiming a laser beam at an aircraft is a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison and $11,000 in fines per incident.
"Even cheap hand-held lasers can have a range of two miles, strong enough to target a variety of aircraft," the release read.
"What looks like a dot of light from the ground spreads out as it travels. By the time it reaches a plane or helicopter, it can illuminate an entire cockpit, disorienting or temporarily blinding a pilot and putting lives at risk."
Investigators said green laser beams are more powerful than red ones, but both can cause retina damage to aircraft crews.
The FBI also released a public service announcement on the dangers of laser pointer misuse:
Philadelphia man Daniel Dangler was in April sentenced to three months in jail followed by seven months of house arrest after pleading guilty to aiming a laser pointer at a television news helicopter last July.
Dangler also faces up to $11,000 in fines in connection with a pending FAA civil case brought against him.