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Thread: Lasers in a flight luggage

  1. #1

    Default Lasers in a flight luggage

    Hi everyone It's been a while since my last visit here, ehh full time job sucks :P

    I have a question to people who have any experience in travelling by airplane with lasers in their luggage. In particular, I am considering taking my self-built laser projector from Europe to the U.S. in check-in luggage. How risky is that in the matter of customs and airport safety staff? I've also heard stories about customs confiscating stuff from the check-in luggage without even noticing the owner (that's ridiculous!), but this is more likely on the way back from U.S. to Europe.
    https://n.ethz.ch/~kluszcz - If you like lasers, high voltage, x-rays and stuff like that, check out my website

  2. #2

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    eee, WTF happened to Steve's post? :|
    https://n.ethz.ch/~kluszcz - If you like lasers, high voltage, x-rays and stuff like that, check out my website

  3. #3
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    I've taken my laser projector on the plane a few times. I've even told them it's a laser projector and they don't mind. Be sure to pack it well, mine encountered a bit of a knock. Luckily everything inside was OK.



    Cheers,
    Dan

  4. #4
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    Both Jonathan, AKA Platinum, and I have traveled with our laser projectors, carry on, many times. Both of ours have no descriptive labels and have never had a problem flying with them. Even though they look like freaking bombs! The TSA are usually very friendly and pass their "Bomb sniffing" wands around the casings a couple times. We have never had an alarming incident flying carry on with a laser projector.

  5. #5
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    Out of curiosity, where do you put the projector on the plane? If it's your carry-on, it needs to fit under the seat or in the overhead bin. And I can't see Johnathan's 3 watt green projector fitting in either one of those two spaces. (Adam, your projector is smaller, so I can see it fitting no problem.)

    Adam

  6. #6

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    But were your flights domestic, guys? I am not a citizen and that may affect this I think, and I'm also worried about customs. Also, if there were any problems, it would be on a flight change, not at my primary departure airport, so in case they don't want to let me through I would have to just throw my beloved laser out I guess it's too much risk...
    https://n.ethz.ch/~kluszcz - If you like lasers, high voltage, x-rays and stuff like that, check out my website

  7. #7
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    mixedgas is offline Creaky Old Award Winning Bastard Technologist
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    I have never tried this.

    My instinct is to say NO, Dont Do it unless you are on a business trip, and the laser is part of your business. Perhaps bring your controller by shipping it, then borrow a projector once you get here. The have the US national who you are visiting return the gear to you via shipping.

    I would call the Airline first of all.

    The TSA has their underware in a real twist right now. The security powers that be have had a few incidents recently of people stuffing explosives with low vapor pressures into printer parts, plus a "test device" found at a African airport without a declared test.

    As a non US national, if you are on a business trip and your nation is a member of the organization (Poland appears to be) that supports ATA Carnets, you might be able to apply for a Customs Carnet for the projector. I have never used a Carnet for air travel, but I have used them for crossing land borders, and it makes things easy. Under certain conditions I have used a "Customs Manifest" on trips to Canada, which states I have had a US Customs agent inspect the gear and record the serial numbers, so I hand that to Canada customs on the way into Canada and to US Customs on the way out.

    Much also depends on your projector. If it looks like a commercial, quality, professional piece of gear, you may be better off. Especially if it has a nameplate and a serial number. As well as proper labeling. I would make sure it complies with US labeling requirements, as set forth in federal regulation 21 CFR 1040.1 subchapter J.

    Flights into the US from foreign airports are inspected to US Standards by overseas FAA, TSA, and US Customs staff, or by local staff working to US Standards.

    There is a form for temporary importation by US nationals of laser gear, but I am unaware of anybody ever using it for air travel. It requires pre-approval by the FDA before the unit enters the USA.

    Even if I carried it on or checked it, I would have massive documentation for what it is and what it does, maybe even have a way of firing it up, if needed.

    The only two people I know that perhaps fly internationally with laser gear are users DSLI_Jon and Pangolin.


    Ask yourself four questions:

    Can I afford to lose my projector?

    Am I at least 21 years of age? (US age of majority?)

    If I get it on the plane as checked baggage, can I risk losing it on the return flight?
    TSA/Customs are some times not uniform in how they act.

    Do I wish to return to the US in the future? Is it worth risking ending up on a NO=FLY list?

    I'm sorry, my nation, is at war right now, and different rules apply during wartime. If it helps you feel better, sadly we treat our own people as bad as we treat visitors at airports.

    Perhaps through the magic that is PL, if you tell us where you are going to be in the US, a projector might be made available on loan.

    Please enjoy your stay in the US, let us know where you are going to be, and if you are near northern Ohio let me know!

    However, again, I have never tried this, so treat my comments as a guess, not as fact. Ask Pangolin what he thinks.

    You might also ask the Germans on www.Laserfreak.de I do know German companies and individuals have brought gear to ILDA conferences in the States. Because we are a business minded people, it is easier when on business vs vacation to do certain things.

    Steve
    Last edited by mixedgas; 11-28-2010 at 13:29.

  8. #8

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    Well, this is just some cheap stuff like diodes ripped out from optical drives with Cinese DPSS green and Chinese galvo set, all stuffed together into a cheapo aluminum case. It definitely doesn't look like professional equipment. I have a "danger" sticker on it with class and max power spec, that's all. If this is how it looks like (like I thought) I'd rather leave it home :P

    I live in Camarillo, CA right now and will stay here till August, except short trip home for Christmas I also plan to buy some laser stuff (like SSY-1 and 445nm diodes) and take it to Poland, but this is another story :P I'm not worried about the diodes, but the yag laser which is in fact a piece of U.S. military equipment might be a problem if they found it :P We'll see.
    https://n.ethz.ch/~kluszcz - If you like lasers, high voltage, x-rays and stuff like that, check out my website

  9. #9
    mixedgas's Avatar
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    Exporting, from the US, to never bring it back? Fine, stuff it in the checked bags. Expect it to be swabbed at check in.

    I thought you were importing from Poland. Which would be difficult.

    Steve

  10. #10
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    Hi c4...

    #1, Don't ever use your 'PL moniker' on your customs' form... (joke...)

    Couple thoughts: In general, I have to agree with Steve - overall, I'd say, if this thing is, like, your 'lifeblood' / bread and butter - don't risk it. Looks like you're (based on your profile desc.) possibly visiting Cali? (I have good friends in Camarillo, too... I'm quite sure I can get you 'hooked up' with a projector to play-with, while yer here, worst-case...

    However, I / others have certainly successfully, many times, flown internationally with laser-gear. What makes the difference, is, indeed, 'perception', as Steve alludes-to - ie: YES, your projector must look as professional and 'clean/neat' as-possible. It should have all the proper labels - basically, it needs to look like a 'commercial product', like something you *bought* vs something you *made*, as 'rightly-proud of your handiwork' as you may-be...

    ...But, characteristics like: Tape holding stuff together, a mass-of tangled wires (even-inside), no-labels / all-black, and switches with no labels, etc, will most-likely-be a first-class ticket to the 'next-level' of Customs-inspection, where you'll have all-manner of questioning, etc - and, depending on how 'cool' / confident / knowledgeably you handle it, could *potentially* be a risk for 'seizure'.

    Now, I think, in all probablility, it would *not* get seized (unless *somehow* your stuff tripped the chem. sensors, or, like you 'freaked-out' on them - ie: DON'T do THIS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVn7mIHog68 ... but then, again, like you said, you're flying in, on a Visa, etc.. So, certainly, none of us could make any 'guarantees' for ya...

    Now, one other thing that could make a difference, is if you're trying to board it with you, as 'carry-on', vs checked-luggage. I'd say - all the above advice, withstanding (neat / professional / nothing 'straggly' / handmade-looking, pro-labels, etc) you'd probably have less 'risk' with it as checked, vs carry-on. At least, then, you don't add-in the risk of 'interaction' with the agents, where, if you're the *least bit* tense or edgy or 'nervous' (cause they're about to 'touch your junk' ), they could say: 'Sorry, not allowed on-board' - and, like you said, if this happened at the port of arrival (ie: JFK or Atlanta, etc) you'd not exactly be able to 'go-back into the airport, and hand it off to your friend', to safely take back to your house...

    ...But, if you 'checked'-it - and, again, everything looked nice and professional - especially, if you just went the 'extra mile' and slipped one of these, in the case:

    http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AboutFD.../UCM080778.pdf

    ... and I'd check Declaration 'A, #4', since, that is the 'most-true', in this case... I'd also 'ditch' the IEC (power cord) so it can be 'demonstrated' (not-likely, but, if-asked...) 'non-functioning'... That would most-likely 'satisfy' them.. but, again, I could not 'guarantee' success - might depend, to some degree, how you 'reacted', in-person, too...

    An 'example' of this is having one of our Clients' Techs, fly one of these:



    ...onboard, as carry-on, along-with a '2877', there, filled-out as I suggested (in that-case, he *was* coming to have it serviced, and flying-in/out was faster than round-trip shipping, etc...), and he was coming-from El Salvador, whic is generally-viewed by the US State Dept / Customs / TSA as a bit 'wilder of a country' than Poland...

    ...other than a good wipe-down / explanation as-to 'what is it?'-session, at the checkpoint, he had no problems, either in or out... I honestly think the 2877 had a lot to do with it (plus, he is a pretty 'cool cat' - nada of 'nervousness / edgyness', etc) because seeing a Document like that, no TSA-agent would really know 'what it was', just that, it 'looked right' and, thus, 'ok, move-along'...

    So, really, in the end, it's 'your call', but, I concur with Steve - the more professional it looks / neat, wirewrapped-work, all 'pro-grade' - especially NO 'duct-tape'!! the better chance you have, and as-checked, vs carry-on...and I'd slip a 2877 in there, would be my 'approach'...

    Hope this is some good 'food for thought'...
    cheers...
    j
    Last edited by dsli_jon; 11-28-2010 at 16:21. Reason: add 2877 link
    ....and armed only with his trusty 21 Zorgawatt KTiOPO4...

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