There’s a reason why unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aren’t permitted to fly beyond 400 feet and within a five-mile radius from airports: they could cause a disaster if they smash a plane’s windshield or get sucked into its engine. Unfortunately, some drone operators don’t follow protocol, and their numbers have only increased since June 1st this year. According to a document that the FAA has just released, pilots and air traffic controllers have reported 175 incidents in which a drone was seen flying in restricted airspace since mid-2014. Out of those 175 incidents, 25 describe drones almost colliding with either a plane or a helicopter.
On Wednesday The Washington Post reported that the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has seen a considerable uptick in the number of complaints from pilots and air traffic control personnel about near-collisions with drones. Specifically, the FAA data says that since June 1, small drones “came within a few seconds or a few feet of crashing into much larger aircraft” 25 times, and that pilots have reported seeing drones in restricted airspace more than 175 times. Many of those near-collisions happened near an airport, and a bulk of the previously unreported incidents occurred in the New York and Washington, DC areas. Regulations governing drones are still being pieced together by the FAA, but current guidelines allow hobbyists to fly drones as long as they fly no higher than 400 feet and at least five miles away from airports. In many of the near-collisions, drones were flying at altitudes of over 1,000 feet. In one incident that occurred at LaGuardia on September 30, a drone flying at 4,000 feet almost hit a passenger plane descending to land. In another incident, also at LaGuardia on September 8, three different passenger planes taking off within minutes of each other all reported “very close calls” with a drone at about 2,000 feet.
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