Drone vs plane incidents set to quadruple in US this year, says FAA

17 Aug 2015

There have been 650 incidents involving drones flying too close to aircraft this year, compared to 238 for all of 2014, according to a statement released by the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).

The statement, released to US media, states that, should incidents continue apace, this will lead to a quadrupling of pilot-reported incidents involving drones in just one year.

Looking at June and July as standalone cases, incidents reported in those months were at 138 and 137, respectively, up from 16 and 36 last year.

In one case, cited by Blooomberg Business among others, an emergency medical helicopter was forced to take evasive action to avoid a drone flying at 1,000ft.

In another widely-reported incident, drones flying above wildfires in California forced the grounding of fire-fighting aircraft, delaying fire-fighting procedures and leading to the fire jumping a highway.

Reports of incidents have come in from pilots of private aircrafts and helicopters, and from crews on commercial airlines.

Some of these cases involve drones flying as high as 10,000ft.

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In the statement, the FAA said that it wants “to send out a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal.”

Existing regulations require drones to fly no higher than 400ft and prohibits their use within 8km of an airport.

Collisions between drones and aircraft could occur at speeds of 320km/h, or greater, causing serious damage to an aircraft’s fuselage or engines.

Even without a collision, near-flying drones can distract pilots.

According to Bloomberg, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) is calling on the FAA to step up attempts to catch and punish those infracting regulations, and urges the Aviation Authority to move faster to finalise drone regulations that would place further restrictions on private drone use.

So far this year, the FAA has settled only five cases against those who have broken drone regulations.

Main image via Shutterstock

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic