Drone Sightings to Quadruple in 2015

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there have been more than 650 reports this year through Aug. 9 by pilots of drones flying near manned aircraft. There were 238 reported drone sightings in all of 2014.

So, just how frequent are drone sightings near planes?

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), drone sighting are on pace to more than quadruple in 2015. The FAA says there have been more than 650 reports this year through Aug. 9 by pilots of drones flying near manned aircraft. There were 238 reported drone sightings in all of 2014.

As The Boston Globe points out, “there were 16 drone sightings reported in June 2014, and 36 the following month. This year, there were 138 reports from pilots flying up to 10,000 feet in altitude in June, and 137 reports in July.”

“It’s a startling number,” says Steve Marks, a Miami aviation lawyer, who says airline pilots might not see all the drones flying around them while concentrating on landing at 150 to 200 mph. “It’s going to exacerbate an already dangerous situation.”

The Global Gateway Alliance, an advocacy group for New York airports, urged the FAA to better enforce no-fly zones. “When it comes to our airports, safety has to come first,” says Joe Sitt, the alliance’s founder and chairman. “It is past time for the FAA to step up and protect the nation’s most crowded airspace for the 117 million passengers who use it every year.”

Some recent drone sightings include one coming within 10 feet of the windshield of a seaplane in Vancouver. And three drones were spotted within three days at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The pilots of Delta, JetBlue, and Shuttle America flights all radioed into air traffic control to report what they saw.

As a result, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning that drones could be used by terrorists.

“The rising trend in UAS incidents within the National Airspace System will continue, as UAS gain wider appeal with recreational users and commercial applications,” the statement reads. “While many of these encounters are not malicious in nature, they underscore potential security vulnerabilities … that could be used by adversaries to leverage UAS as part of an attack.”

The question on everyone’s mind is whether a drone strike could cause a plane crash. You knew it was only a matter of before Sullenberger, serving as a CBS News Aviation and Safety Expert, weighed in on the matter. Here’s what he told CBS News:

“We’ve seen what a six-pound or an eight-pound bird can do to bring down an airplane,” Sullenberger said on “Face the Nation,” referencing the cause of the Miracle on the Hudson. “Imagine what a device containing hard parts like batteries and motors can do that might weigh 25 or possibly up to 55 pounds to bring down an airplane. It’s not a matter of if it will happen. It’s a matter of when it will happen.”

All of these incidents highlight the importance of knowing the rules before you fly a drone. The FAA recently launched its “Know Before You Fly” campaign to help drone users understand where you can and can’t fly. The campaign isn’t endorsed by the FAA, but it has certainly backed it and encouraged users to check it out.

So here are the basics you need to know:

  • You have to fly your drone below 400 feet at all times
  • Don’t fly your drone beyond your line of sight
  • Don’t fly within 5 miles of any airport
  • Don’t fly near any manned aircraft
  • Don’t fly within 25 feet of people
  • Between an hour before and after an event, all aircraft aren’t allowed less than 3,000 feet above and within three miles of stadiums
  • Don’t fly anything that weighs more than 55 pounds
  • Don’t fly for payment or commercial services unless you’ve been authorized to do so by the FAA
  • Don’t conduct surveillance or photograph people without their permission in areas where there is an expectation of privacy
  • Don’t be reckless
  • Do fly with local drone clubs
  • Do inspect your drone before you fly

The FAA’s guidelines are in line with the National Model Aircraft Safety Code of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). It’s also not a bad idea to avoid flying near power lines, water treatment facilities, military bases, national parks, schools, heavily traveled roadways or government facilities.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.


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