Laser pointers a 'danger to air traffic'

Children on the ground may be posing an air safety threat by playing with laser pointers commonly found in toys and keychains.

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DUBAI // Children playing with laser pointers may be posing a threat to air traffic safety, says the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology.

Lasers are often found in toys, but can also be on key chains and lighters. Those who play with the gadgets in areas surrounding Dubai International Airport could pose a lethal distraction to pilots during landing and take-off.

Certain lasers can cause temporary blindness or permanent loss of sight when shined directly into eyes.

The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), which approached Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (EASM) to consider banning their sale, would not say how many pilots had complained of laser play affecting them in the cockpit.

However, nearly 60 cases were reported in Finland last year and there have been reports of lasers affecting air traffic in the United States.

Mohammed Al Badri, the acting director general of EASM, said they had recently met with authorities from customs, the GCAA and Dubai Municipality to discuss the need to develop standards to monitor and control the import and circulation of lasers.

"The lasers in these devices may even burn the skin and this is why we at the authority, as well as other competent authorities, need to pay attention to this type of device," Mr Badri said.

The next task, he said, was to develop criteria and specifications to classify laser devices intended for public use. The specifications would include the laser's power of radiation, wavelength, the amount in watts of electrical output and instructions of use.

"According to these standards and specifications, the terms of import and usage would be defined. Warning stickers would be added to each device detailing technical information as well as the precautionary measures to be taken upon usage."

After implementing the new ruling, he said, no laser devices would be allowed into the country without test certificates from internationally accredited laboratories and stickers that describe their specifications.

"The authority will also coordinate with the relevant authorities to ban the import of high-risk devices according to their classification," he said.

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