Dangerous laser strikes topped all previous records in 2021, according to officials with the FAA.
They report that the FAA received 9,723 reports from pilots last year, a 41% increase over 2020.
Shining a laser at an aircraft is a serious safety threat, agency officials said, noting many types of high-powered lasers can incapacitate pilots. Pilots have reported 244 injuries since the FAA began recording data on laser strikes in 2010, officials added.
People who shine lasers at aircraft face fines of up to $11,000 per violation and up to $30,800 for multiple laser incidents. The FAA reports it issued $120,000 in fines for laser strikes in 2021.
Violators can also face criminal penalties from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, officials said.
To identify laser-strike trends, the FAA developed a visualization tool, using the Tableau software platform, that shows laser-strike data from 2010 to 2021. It highlights trends by geographic area, per capita data, time of day, and year.
The FAA also encourages the public to report laser strikes to the FAA and local law enforcement agencies.