A man has been arrested in Melbourne for pointing a laser at one of Victoria’s police helicopters on Wednesday evening.
The federal government banned laser pointers in 2008 primarily to reduce the danger to pilots from being blinded in the cockpit.
According to reports, the man locked himself in his home but officers were able to enter through the back door before a struggle ensued with a 43-year-old man. Police said the laser was found hidden in the freezer while two imitation firearms were also found in the house.
News.com.au reported that the man is expected to be interviewed for endangering the safe operation of an aircraft, reckless conduct endangering life, possessing a prohibited weapon, assaulting police and resisting arrest. He has yet to be charged.
Victoria Police’s Air Wing fleet currently comprises of three new Leonardo AW139s and one Beechcraft Super King Air 350ER, based at Essendon Fields.
New laws introduced in 2008 require Australians to hold a permit approved by police and customs to import laser pointers above one milliwatt.
Lasers blinding pilots has become an increasing menace to pilots over the last decade. In 2016, a New York bound Virgin Atlantic flight was forced to return to London Heathrow after being struck from a laser.
In June, Australian Aviation reported how Victoria Police took delivery of three new Leonardo AW139s fitted with high-definition cameras and infrared technology to read number plates from the air.
The new AW139s can reach speeds of 250km/h, fly for 1,000 kilometres without needing to refuel, and can also land atop police headquarters on Spencer Street, which opens later this week.
The force hopes the purchase will allow the hours flown by the air wing division to rise from 300 to 500 per month.
Air wing Inspector Craig Shepherd said, “The camera system allows us to zoom in and pick up registration numbers from a long distance, which enables us to fly a long way from the target and to provide support to the ground.
“For example, if you provide me with a location at 21 Smith Street, we’re able to type that into the system, the cameras will automatically slide to the target. And while you’re flying in that direction, the camera is on task.
“So we have advanced technology – with clear vision, high-definition capabilities – that is far more advanced than what we have now.”
The purchase is part of a huge $63 million investment by the government to increase of capabilities of Victoria’s air wing, which is called to around 5,000 jobs a year.