A little drone sure can cause a lot of trouble. (Thinkstock)
Whether using them just for fun or to take cool aerial photos, people are obsessed with drones these days. There’s just one problem: With so many amateur users, the unmanned aviation systems (UAS) are wreaking a bit of havoc on air safety. And it’s a growing problem.
According to Federal Aviation Administration documents, there have been 193 incidents reported this year of drones spotted flying close – sometimes dangerously close – to aircraft. And there has been an uptick in the frequency: in the beginning of the year, the F.A.A. was receiving a handful of reports a month; there were more than 40 logged in September and October of this year alone.
In some instances, airplanes nearly missed colliding with UAS. For example, in October in Oklahoma City, an aircraft reported having to take “evasive action” to avoid a small drone at 4,800 feet. Just a couple of weeks earlier, a small passenger jet almost hit a drone at about 4,000 feet. Three weeks before that incident, three small commercial passenger jets had a close call with a drone on their approach to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport at about 1,900 feet.
It’s a serious concern, according to F.A.A. chief, Michael Huerta, who says the agency is focused on education and enforcement of drone guidelines. Currently, drones are legal for recreational use but are supposed to fly below 400 feet, stay away from airports, and avoid traditional aircraft. “These are very high performance aircraft and they are difficult to see,” Huerta said of drones. “This is one of the big challenges and so that’s why the rules require that people stay away from airports.”
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