Air Force Testing Dangerous Drone Lasers Above North Dakota

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If you're planning on flying around Devil's Lake, ND anytime soon, you might want to check in with the FAA—the government is locking down a big chunk of the sky to fire off eye scorching UAV lasers.

The restricted zone will be reserved for drones and drones alone—civilian planes will have to fly at a different altitude, or around the area altogether, which the FAA admits is "vast." So why does any of this matter? Drones are just tiny lil' things, right? And it's not like the they'll be shooting hellfire missiles down into Bismarck. But even something that doesn't explode can be risky in the sky (and down below): the drones will be firing targeting lasers from high altitude, lasers with enough power to be deemed "non-eye safe." How non-eye safe is non-eye safe? Enough that "Personnel working at the [targeting] range will use proper protective gear." It's safe (but not eye-safe) to assume these beams could seriously screw your retinas.


And given the fact that these military-grade lasers can extend for miles—even the little ones you yourself can buy—an errant shot at the ground, or one that hits a civilian cockpit, could have serious results. Let's not forget that just today, a pilot over New York sustained an eye "injury" from a handheld laser below—the kind of accident that can down a plane with a little bad luck thrown in. If you find any of this disconcerted, it's best to get used to it quick. The government won't losing its drone lust any time soon.


You can read the FAA plan in its entirety below. [FAA via Slate]