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27 Nov, 2014 05:41

Drone near-misses with piloted aircraft surge in US airspace – watchdog

Drone near-misses with piloted aircraft surge in US airspace – watchdog

Pilots and air-traffic controllers have reported a sharp rise in near-collisions with drones in the past six months, the Washington Post reports, citing Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) records.

READ MORE: FAA proposes widespread civilian drone use in US airspace by 2015

Since June 1, drones “came within a few seconds or a few feet of crashing into much larger aircraft” 25 times, FAA records showed. Pilots also reported spotting drones in restricted airspace more than 175 times.

The data was released following numerous public-records requests by the Washington Post and other news organizations.

READ MORE: Drones nearly collide with NYPD helicopter, two arrested

Most of the near-collisions were reported during takeoff and landings at America’s busiest international airports, with a large number of sightings concentrated in New York.

The new revelations highlight that unmanned aerial vehicles pose a greater threat than previously thought. Prior to the records being made public, FAA mentioned only one near-collision around Tallahassee, Florida, which took place on March 22 and involved a US Airways regional airliner.

According to the records, eight of the close misses happened in September and five in November. The latest one was on November 19 and involved “a Life Flight V helicopter” that was “descending to the Schuylkill County airport,” FAA records show. A nurse saw “a drone flying toward the aircraft ‘at a high rate of closure.’ Pilot made an evasive right bank turn, missing the drone by 50 to 100 feet.”

READ MORE: Amazon applies for approval of delivery drones

The closest a drone came to an airplane was 10 feet on November 16 in New York, when a Delta Airlines Boeing 737 on Flight 838 was descending toward John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“The Delta pilot reports that the drone came within 10 feet of his left wing,” the FAA records state.

Earlier in November, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled that the FAA has the authority to apply its standing rules against alleged reckless or careless use of manned aircraft to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones.

READ MORE: In groundbreaking ruling, FAA empowered to enforce regulations against drones