I came across this thread/topic today while reading this section of the forum. Obviously it is an older thread (2010) but a topic which should be of anyone today (or future).
The "Rescue Laser" IS designed to be seen at sea (or land) and is designed differently from the cheap pointer lasers that have a narrow beam (the cheap lasers kids buy at a store for fun).
As of this writing (July 2014) there are numerous videos on Youtube that show the Laser Flares in use on the water. Worth your time to view the videos? I think so. It may not be YOU that is using one of these new signaling devices in the future, but you might see one on the water some night/day and IF you know what it is, you might just save someone else!
There are different designs for these laser flares.
Here is a link to one device (ODEO) that is specifically designed for the marine use. It floats.
Odeo Flare :: #1 in eVDS
There is a very good test by Yachting Monthly mag on a youtube video.
ODEO Laser Flare Review - YouTube
Watch that. Seeing the light in actual use is better than reading about it in a mag article.
The "flash" of the laser light does look different.
Here is a review of only ONE device (ODEO) by respected magazine Practical Sailor (mag):
The ODEO Laser Flare - Practical Sailor Article
Here is another magazine review worth reading on this topic. However, this one is a bit dated and does not review multiple devices. But it does give very interesting TEST results from field testing (by pilots). Good info on the topic.
EQUIPPED TO SURVIVE (tm) - Rescue Laser Flare Review
NOTE: I do not sell these devices, I have no connection in any way with anyone that does. I am posting this information for purpose of discussion on a topic started earlier by someone else.
Will I buy one for my future yacht?
Most likely, yes. But, that same $250 or so could also buy a LARGE quantity of 26.5 mm parachute flares that each last 20 seconds and go up hundreds of feet and are VERY bright and very difficult to mistake for anything but a distress signal when seen at night (or day) when on the water.
That said, a "Laser Flare" is very small, compact, waterproof, does NOT cause fires, can be operated by anyone with ONE hand, and would pack well in a GRAB situation or Abandon Ship bag. AND, it is something one COULD take with one on a dinghy if taking any longer night trips by dinghy or kayak etc. And, it does have a longer "shelf life" and "burn time" than any single pyro flare. Choices, choices.