This is incredibly important. There is no point maintaining a noble vision for peace in space whilst risking harm [or worse] to aircrew and air passengers. Thus we have standard operating procedures and a risk register in place. We perform outdoor laser activity when the ONLY airport within 40Km is closed for business. It is worth noting that even for this closest airport, we are outside the UKs defined notification zone (CAA: CAP 736 notification zone) . If we applied rather stricter US guidelines to our practice, we would define our laser site as a “normal flight zone”. However, with our laser specifications, we would also clearly satisfy the safety requirement for laser use in a “sensitive zone”.
Dr Davies and the core team are amateur astronomers and so also spend time studying other celestial features in the night sky, but it is for the use of lasers that we need to observe strict standard operating procedures. His/our use of these very powerful lasers is entirely legal. We use a flight-radar app to raise awareness of approaching aircraft. We check ISS position and in-the-sky satellite position data (from Celestrak). We target and lock on Mars via the astronomical telescope with auto-tracking mount. The powerful laser is precisely pre-aligned to the telescope field-of-view and so tracks Mars, thus leaving our eyes free to roam the skies (and flight-radar) in search of anything moving or blinking. If anything moves or blinks in the sky (or anyone approaches on ground) the laser goes off.
The CAA are aware of our activity. The UK Space Agency is especially aware of our activity: they have confirmed that we do not need a license for this.
We routinely use a laser mounted to a GOTO telescope, which means it automatically follows the target planet, leaving more human focus directed at safety [night sky monitoring together with flightradar24]. If using a class 4 [poweful] laser in a large open area, we will also use a knowledgeable assistant to act as spotter [for people and planes]. Note also that we generally avoid using green laser beams (v bright and potentially hazardous), the exception being the 100mW EVO laser that we employ for laser “Morse Code” signals (short durations only).
See the ABOUT section for more detail on this important subject.