Part 6. Miscellaneous Procedures
Chapter 29. Outdoor Laser Operations
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 navigable
b. Regulatory 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 shall be based on the findings
of an aeronautical review.
b. Regional/service 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 operations.
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 non-objection.
b. The 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.
c. Demonstration 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 peak
e. Flashblindness. 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
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
i. Irradiance. 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 condition.
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 or mJ/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
r. Protection 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 - 50nW/cm2;
2. Critical Zone - 5mW/cm2;
3. Sensitive Zone - 100mW/cm2;
4. Normal Flight Zone - MPE (2.6 mW/cm2 for
CW visible lasers).
s. Radiant Exposure - A means of expressing the
pulse energy of the beam per unit area, expressed
t. Reflections. Reflections can be diffuse or
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.
2. Specular 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 navigable airspace.
v. Unterminated Beam. A laser beam that is
directed or reflected into the navigable airspace.
w. Variance. 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
x. Visible 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 disruption.
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 the MPE.
Airspace Flight Zones
* Runway length varies per airport. AGL is based on published airport elevation
** To be determined by regional/service area office evaluation and/or local airport operations.