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Handheld Laser 'Not a Deathray'

Photonics.com
Jan 2005
CORVALLIS, Ore., Jan. 7 -- The New Jersey man who admitted to shining a laser device at an Atlantic Aviation airplane last week used a Jasper laser manufactured by Bigha, an Oregon-based company that says the laser is "a thousand times less powerful than a standard 100-watt household lightbulb."
    David Banach, of Parsipanny, described in news reports as a tester of fiber optic cables, was questioned by the FBI about laser beams that struck aircraft in the area and has been charged under the Patriot Act with deliberately targeting a private jet. Banach told the FBI he bought the laser for his job and used it at home to view the skies with his 7-year-old daughter, news reports said. He reportedly used a Jasper handheld Class IIIa, 5-mW green laser, which he had bought online for about $100. The cigar-shaped lasers are legal in the US (their use is restricted in Britain) and are regulated by the FDA.

Bigha's Web site describes its laser as "the most powerful Class IIIa laser money can buy." It says it is useful for astronomy and other pointing purposes but warns users not to aim at aircraft, cars or people.

John Acres, president of Bigha, which also makes the Bigha "recumbent" (ridden in a semireclining position) bicycle, said green lasers are safely used by birdwatchers, astronomers, botanists and lecturers.

"Personal responsibility is key," he said. "Like a kitchen knife or power saw, the laser is a wonderful tool when used with care and common sense."

According to Acres, "The handheld laser is an amazing tool, not a deathray. Our laser, while powerful, is carefully manufactured and tested to meet government regulations and is perfectly safe when used responsibly."

Bigha also said in a statement, "The green laser beam is incredibly bright when viewed head-on and will cause temporary blindness if shined directly into the eye from close range. At longer distances, the beam is still bright enough to startle a person that is concentrating on another activity such as driving a car or flying an airplane. The beam is easily visible for several miles under the right conditions though it rapidly dims as distance increases."

Banach, 38, also reportedly admitted to pointing his laser at a Port Authority police helicopter in the area last Friday but was not charged in connection with that incident. He also faces charges of misleading investigators in early interviews. The FBI has ruled out terrorism as a possible motive, according to reports, and said Banach is not connected to the other laser incidents around the country.

For more information, visit: www.bigha.com



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