6. Miscellaneous Procedures
Chapter 29. Outdoor Laser
Section 1. General
This chapter prescribes
policy, responsibilities, and guidelines for
processing a Notice of Proposed Outdoor Laser
Operation(s) and determining the potential
effect of outdoor laser activities on users of
a. Title 49 of the
U.S. Code (49 U.S.C.), Section 40103 gives the
Administrator the authority to regulate,
control, develop plans for, and formulate
policies with respect to the use of the
authority for laser light products has been
delegated to the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA). Product regulations are detailed in 21
CFR, part 1010, Performance Standards for
Electronic Products, and part 1040, Performance
Standards for Light Emitting Products.
a. Determinations must
be based on the findings of an aeronautical
area offices having control jurisdiction over
the airspace where laser operations are planned
must conduct an aeronautical review of all
proposed laser operations to be performed in the
NAS to ensure that these types of operations
will not have a detrimental effect on aircraft
c. Full consideration
must be given to national defense requirements,
commercial uses, and general aviation operations
that have the public right of “freedom of
transit" through the NAS.
d. Accordingly, while
a sincere effort must be made to negotiate
equitable solutions regarding proposed laser
operations in the NAS, preservation of the
navigable airspace for aviation must be the
a. The area director,
Terminal Operations, or En Route and Oceanic
Operations; or their designee is responsible for
determining the effect of proposed outdoor laser
operations on air traffic control operations and
issuing a consolidated letter of objection or
regional/service area office Flight Standards
Division is responsible for providing a safety
analysis to determine any potential effect that
a proposed outdoor laser operation would have on
c. The office of
Aerospace Medicine is responsible for providing
information regarding the potential effects of
laser beams on pilot vision.
a. Afterimage. A
reverse contrast shadow image left in the visual
field after an exposure to a bright light that
may be distracting and disruptive, and
may persist for several minutes.
b. Center for Devices
and Radiological Health (CDRH). An office of the
FDA concerned with enforcing compliance with the
Federal requirements for laser products
including laser light shows.
Laser. Any laser product designed or intended
for purposes of visual display of laser beams,
for artistic composition, entertainment, and/or
advertising display (Reference 21 CFR 1040.10(b)
13). Any demonstration laser in excess of 5 mW
requires a variance from the CDRH.
d. Divergence. The
increase in diameter of the laser beam with
distance from the exit aperture. Divergence is
an angular measurement of the beam spread,
expressed in milliradians (mrad). In laser
safety calculations, divergence is defined at
the points where the irradiance is 37% of the
Generally, a temporary visual interference
effect that persists after the source of
illumination has ceased.
f. Visual Interference
Level. A visible laser beam (normally with an
irradiance less than the MPE) that can produce a
visual response that interferes with the safe
performance of sensitive or critical tasks by
air crews or other personnel. This level varies
in accordance with the particular zone where the
laser is operating. “Visual interference level"
is an generic term for critical level, sensitive
level, or laser free level.
g. Flight Hazard
Zones. Airspace areas specifically intended to
mitigate the potential hazardous effect of laser
radiation. See FIG
29-1-1, FIG 29-1-2,
and FIG 29-1-3.
h. Glare. Obscuration
of an object in a person's field of vision due
to a bright light source located near the same
line-of sight (e.g., as experienced with
Irradiance is a means of expressing the power of
the beam per unit area, expressed in watts per
centimeter squared (W/cm2).
j. Laser. An acronym
for light amplification by stimulated emission
of radiation. A laser is a device that produces
an intense, directional, coherent beam of
visible or invisible light.
1. Continuous Wave (CW).
The output of a laser which is operated in a
continuous duration rather than a pulsed mode.
2. Repetitive Pulsed
(RP). A laser with multiple pulses of radiant
energy occurring in a sequence.
k. Laser Manufacturer.
A term that refers to persons who make laser
products, including those who are engaged in the
business of design, assembly, or presentation of
a laser light show.
l. Laser Operator. A
laser operator should be a knowledgeable person
present during laser operation who has been
given authority to operate the laser system in
compliance with applicable safety standards,
subject to direction of the laser safety
m. Laser Safety
Officer (LSO). A designated person who has
authority to monitor and enforce the control of
laser hazards and affect the evaluation and
control of laser hazards.
n. Safety Observer. A
designated person who is responsible for
monitoring the safe operation of a laser and who
can immediately terminate the laser beam if
necessary to ensure safety. Normally, a safety
observer will view airspace in the vicinity of a
laser beam to identify any potentially unsafe
o. Local Laser Working
Group (LLWG). A group that, when necessary, is
convened to assist the service area office in
evaluating the potential effect of laser beams
on aircraft operators in the local vicinity of
the proposed laser activity.
p. Maximum Permissible
Exposure (MPE). The level of laser radiation to
which a person may be exposed without hazardous
effect or adverse biological change in the eye
or skin. In general, MPE is expressed as mW/cm2
q. Nominal Ocular
Hazard Distance (NOHD). The distance from the
laser system beyond which the laser beam
irradiance does not exceed the MPE for that
Distances. The minimum distance from the laser
system beyond which the laser beams irradiance
level does not exceed the following specific
effective irradiance levels within the
1. Laser Free Zone -
2. Critical Zone -
3. Sensitive Zone -
4. Normal Flight Zone
- MPE (2.6 mW/cm2 for CW visible
s. Radiant Exposure -
A means of expressing the pulse energy of the
beam per unit area, expressed as J/cm2.
Reflections can be diffuse or specular.
1. Diffuse Reflection.
A reflection from a surface, which is incapable
of producing a virtual image such as is commonly
found with flat finish paints or rough surfaces.
Reflection. A mirror-like reflection that
usually maintains the directional
characteristics of the beam.
u. Terminated Beam. A
laser beam that is blocked from entering
v. Unterminated Beam.
A laser beam that is directed or reflected into
the navigable airspace.
Permission from FDA for a laser manufacturer
and/or operator to deviate from one or more
requirements of 21 CFR 1040 when alternate steps
are taken to provide equivalent level of safety.
Wavelengths. For the purpose of laser safety,
the wavelengths of light that are visible
(used for LFZ, CFZ, and SFZ calculations) range
from 380 to 780 nanometers (nm).
Multiple Runway Laser Free Zone
Airspace Flight Zones
1. Laser Free Zone (LFZ).
Airspace in the immediate proximity of the
airport, up to and including 2,000 feet AGL,
extending 2 NM in all directions measured from
the runway centerline. Additionally, the LFZ
includes a 3 NM extension, 2,500 feet each side
of the extended runway centerline, of each
usable runway surface, up to 2,000' AGL of each
useable runway surface. The effective irradiance
of a visible laser beam is restricted to a level
that should not cause any visual distraction or
2. Critical Flight
Zone (CFZ). Airspace within a 10 NM radius of
the airport reference point, up to and including
10,000 feet AGL. The effective irradiance of a
visible laser beam is restricted to a level that
should not cause transient visual effects (e.g.,
glare, flashblindness, or afterimage).
3. Sensitive Flight
Zone (SFZ). Airspace outside the critical flight
zones that authorities (e.g., FAA, local
departments of aviation, military) identify to
be protected from the potential visual effects
of laser beams.
4. Normal Flight Zones
(NFZ). Airspace not defined by the Laser Free,
Critical, or Sensitive Flight Zones. As with all
the above zones, the NFZ must be protected from
a visible or invisible laser beam that exceeds
Airspace Flight Zones
* Runway length varies per
airport. AGL is based on published airport
** To be determined by
regional/service area office evaluation and/or
local airport operations.