There have been some high-profile cases of people who targeted aircraft with laser pointers being identified and prosecuted. But in many cases, it was luck that played the largest role in tracking down the offenders. But the FAA recently announced it has developed a visualization tool for analyzing laser strikes dating back from 2010 and through 2020.
The software can identify trends related to such parameters as geographic area, per capita data, year and time of day. Despite significantly lower flight activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, laser strikes increased in 2020. The FAA received 6,852 reports of laser strikes from pilots, the highest annual total since 2016. There were 6,136 reports of laser strikes in 2019.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said, “Pointing a laser at an aircraft can temporarily blind a pilot and not only affects the crew but endangers passengers and the communities they fly over every night.” In addition to federal, state and local criminal penalties, shining lasers at aircraft can bring FAA fines of up to $11,000 per violation and up to $30,800 for multiple offenses. The agency reports it has issued $120,000 in fines so far in 2021 and a total of $600,000 in fines since 2016.