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FAA Report Says Near Collisions With Drones On the Rise 115

The Washington Post reports that Pilots around the United States have reported a surge in near-collisions and other dangerous encounters with small drones in the past six months at a time when the Federal Aviation Administration is gradually opening the nation’s skies to remotely controlled aircraft, according to FAA records. ... Many of the previously unreported incident reports — released Wednesday by the FAA in response to long-standing public-records requests from The Washington Post and other news organizations — occurred near New York and Washington. The FAA data indicates that drones are posing a much greater hazard to air traffic than previously recognized. Until Wednesday, the FAA had publicly disclosed only one other near-collision between a drone and a passenger aircraft: a March 22 incident involving a US Airways regional airliner near Tallahassee, Fla.
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FAA Report Says Near Collisions With Drones On the Rise

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    n/t

  • by koan ( 80826 )

    Funny how this revelation comes out just before they are about to release their regulations for "drones".

    Because every asshole out there with a DJI Phantom couldn't figure out flying around airports (or over 400 feet) was a bad idea.

    • Re:*sigh* (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gtall ( 79522 ) on Saturday November 29, 2014 @09:58AM (#48484681)

      I rather think the problem is that too many assholes can't figure out flying around airports (or over 400 feet) was a bad idea. Just look at the number of assholes who cannot figure out shining lasers at airliners on approach or leaving airports is a bad idea, yet they still do it; now why would that be....why, why, why?

      • by koan ( 80826 )

        I don't know, it's weird to me that people don't seem to grasp what they are doing.
        I'm sure some of the laser shiners and drone fliers know they are doing wrong, but a lot of them just don't get it.

        It puzzles me.

      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        I rather think the problem is that too many assholes can't figure out flying around airports (or over 400 feet) was a bad idea. Just look at the number of assholes who cannot figure out shining lasers at airliners on approach or leaving airports is a bad idea, yet they still do it; now why would that be....why, why, why?

        No argument, but banning drones is likely to be about as effective as banning shooting lasers at plans (which is already banned).

        They need to focus more on the technology for avoidance. There is no reason that the government can't sell a collision-avoidance module for $50 and make it mandatory on anything that flies. The problem is that the regulatory environment drives up costs without providing practical options which makes most of the pilots try to evade regulation to the greatest extent possible. ADS

      • by BLKMGK ( 34057 )

        I live near an airport and planes pass on approach. I'm interested in quadcopters, I might even graduate to planes someday. The planes that fly over my home are a good ways up, certainly not so close as to cause issues with noise, if I go closer to the airport the planes are still a fair ways up but common sense says yeah I might be interfering if I got stupid.

        Where I'm puzzled is just how these "drones" are getting that close to the planes. The quad would have to be a mere dot in the sky to interfere, why

    • Funny how this revelation comes out just before they are about to release their regulations for "drones".

      The biggest dangers that drones present from the perspective of those in government are that drones in civilian hands are a force-equalizer and also hamper the ability of those in government to operate without being observed.

      Any other reasons for government regulation of drones are secondary to those primary motivations and also serve as a smokescreen to cover for those primary motivations.

      Strat

      • by koan ( 80826 )

        I agree, you're the first one besides myself I've seen mention this.
        They have already been used to present evidence of corporate wrong doings.

        1 example.
        http://consumerist.com/2012/01... [consumerist.com]

        • I agree, you're the first one besides myself I've seen mention this.
          They have already been used to present evidence of corporate wrong doings.

          1 example.
          http://consumerist.com/2012/01 [consumerist.com]... [consumerist.com]

          Yes, they are a force multiplier for people against both public and private sector corruption, criminality, violence, and tyranny.

          That's why unelected bureaucrats creating regulations with the force and criminal penalties of a Federal felony are an unconstitutional abomination and a clear assault on individual freedom and civil rights, plus accomplishing further destruction of the separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative branches of the US government.

          Strat

  • Do the pilots fully comprehend the fact that even though there's nobody inside the thing that it's still being controlled. Couldn't this be more about human psychology than actual danger?

    If someone is deathly afraid of pit bulls and a totally tame one gets loose and tries to play with them, wouldn't they later talk about how they feared for their life from this beast, even though they were never in danger?

    • Do the pilots fully comprehend the fact that even though there's nobody inside the thing that it's still being controlled. Couldn't this be more about human psychology than actual danger?

      From TFA, these drones passed within a few feet of a/c during critical phases of the flight. Having something zoom by while you are landing or taking off increases the pucker factor and it's irrelevant wether or not the thing is controlled. The drone pilots, if found, need to be heavily fines and serve some time to let them and others know thi isn't just some minor thing but a serious matter that endangers people's lives.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I doubt this is accidental. Probably the same ignorant scumbag assholes (teenage boys and grown men who act like teenagers trying to be cool or impress the ladies) who aim laser pointers at aircraft. Fucking assholes should be tried for attempted murder, and we should focus more on finding these dickbags and arresting/shooting them before they actually do cause an accident.

      • Define a few feet please. And do pilots also report to the FAA everytime they pass "within a few feet" of a bird?

        The FAA has been hell bent on gaining government control over drones and they will make up any excuse they can, the scarier the better.

        • by RPI Geek ( 640282 ) on Saturday November 29, 2014 @01:13PM (#48485799) Journal
          Background: I am a student pilot, with ~35 hours in power planes and ~20 hours in gliders.

          Define a few feet please.

          The FAA has this [risingup.com] definition which seems especially relevant in this discussion.

          And do pilots also report to the FAA everytime they pass "within a few feet" of a bird?

          It's quite common for pilots to radio their controller when they encounter a hazard. That's how your pilot knows to turn on the "fasten seatbelt" light when you're approaching turbulence; the same goes for flocks of birds or unidentified aircraft. Even so, it's not really fair to compare birds drones, for the same reason that deer don't get jaywalking tickets.

          I can say through personal experience that just seeing other aircraft / birds takes a huge amount of my attention, even when the other gliders have 15-18 meter wingspans. Drones are much smaller than manned aircraft and they tend to move very slowly, making them even harder to see. The problem of seeing other gliders is a big enough issue where someone developed a technology called FLARM [wikipedia.org] to reduce the number of collisions by notifying pilots of other gliders within ~4km; it has already saved many lives despite being only 10 years old.

          So when I'm flying, I spend a large amount of my time looking for other aircraft. My eyes have much better resolution and FoV than a drone's camera, and I can swing my head around to look from side to side, and up & down - this gives me a better capability to look for hazards. Birds also tend to have good eyes & ears. There is a very good incentive for us to be vigilant: our lives are at stake.

          On the other hand, drone pilots only have a camera, hooked up to a low-resolution video screen, which they would need to aim all around in order to scan for other aircraft. The problem is magnified by the fact that have a poor incentive to look for collision hazards: they have a few hundred dollars at stake, and they're probably already using the same camera to look at something on the ground.

          The FAA has been hell bent on gaining government control over drones and they will make up any excuse they can, the scarier the better.

          Sorry, I just don't buy the regulatory overreach argument in this case. My life could be put in jeopardy by someone playing with their new toy while I'm already flying low and slow on final approach; the last thing I need is another distraction when I'll be touching down (one way or another) within 15 seconds.

          I would wager that most of the people writing the regulations are pilots of some capacity, and those who aren't certainly have ready access to many extremely experienced pilots; these people are just trying to protect the lives of millions of airline passengers, flight crew, and pilots.

          • by romons ( 2767081 )

            On the other hand, I'm a pilot (or was a pilot before the FAA took away my medical certificate) with 2000 hours of time in small aircraft. Other aircraft aren't the problem. They never were. The problem is distraction during busy times, fuel issues (like forgetting to switch tanks,) breaking weather minimums, flocks of birds, etc. The number of midair collisions every year is vanishingly small when compared to the number of operations.

            I'm all for increased air safety, but imagine an interaction between a d

        • And do pilots also report to the FAA everytime they pass "within a few feet" of a bird?

          Yes, if it's the kind of bird that can come through the windshield and kill you, like a goose...or the big flock of small birds that put Capt. Sullenberger's airplane in the Hudson River. Your FAA is very interested in where those birds are.

        • "A few feet" is probably "less than 50". But when even a boring plane like a Cessna 172 is going twice the speed of your car on the highway, and normally has nothing around it for miles, 50 feet is more than enough to make you change your pants. Hell, even 500 feet gets a pretty good pucker going.

          And yes, generally pilots do report to the FAA (control towers) when they're near birds. It's a safety issue, and the tower will relay it to other pilots. You may recall a small issue with bird strikes a few years

    • Do the pilots fully comprehend the fact that even though there's nobody inside the thing that it's still being controlled.

      Yes, controlled into a close approach with an aircraft.

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        Depends on what you mean by 'control'.

        If you maneuver a lightweight craft into the proximity of a much heavier, faster one your ability to maintain control of it may be reduced to near zero. It could easily be flipped into an engine intake or control surface by the turbulence of the larger craft.

        Or the turbulence could just damage the drone, rendering it uncontrollable and dropping it on the public below.

        • Point is, the simple presence of the drone in front of an airplane pretty well settles the issue of being "controlled"...

          • by PPH ( 736903 )

            Maybe not. We don't know if the drone was being flown by an inattentive idiot, a jackass that thinks buzzing planes is good fun, or someone with more destructive motives.

  • The only thing of interest how the FAA is spinning this and how much they are going to try and regulate.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You wanna fly your drone with no IFF, no communication and anywhere you want? Oh, because America and Freedom and stuff. Okay, good luck with that.

    That's a recipe for collisions. Now, I realize you got your SHINY NEW THING delivered from Amazon and want to use it any way you want but there's this thing we have called public safety. Grow up the lot of you.

  • Ok, I get that we're entering a brave new world of technology with drones, and just like any other life changing tech, they can be used for both useful and nefarious purposes. Drones can be used to do useful things that can aid mankind, uch as conveniently deliver a varied number of products/ food/ life saving medications, and more mundane everyday uses will easily be available to people. Such as returning borrowed library materials. Your friend needs to borrow an item from you, just drone it over to them
  • Is this really a problem or just a ruse to have more regulation?

    Consider that most 'drones' are very tiny light weight items more akin to a good old fashion toy R/C model airplane than what people think of as 'DRONES' as in war planes. When a real drone gets hit by a full size airplane, such as the 767 mentioned in the article, the real drone is destroyed and the 767 will not even notice the gnat with the possible exception being if a big drone went through the engine which would possibly cause damage but b

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Bird don't know any better, people do yet they still think it is acceptable to act as thought they had the brain the size of a peanut. Wait until your airliner goes down because of one of these.

    • Birds, the organic things that flap their wings, are a far greater hazard to aircraft.

      By that logic, there'd be no point legislating against murder because heart attacks are a far greater hazard to people.

    • Re:Birds (Score:5, Informative)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday November 29, 2014 @10:40AM (#48484885) Homepage

      Yes, the FAA is going to use this to drum up business. Never let a crisis go to waste. But it's still a problem. And the likelihood of a Phantom sized drone actually crashing a commercial jet is low, but nothing on the order of non zero. Airports spend millions of dollars a year on bird mitigation despite the fact that most strikes are just fatal to the bird.

      Some strikes hit the engines which, at the very least, cause the plane to be pulled from service and inspected. Sometimes they wipe out both engines. Oops. A bigger concern for me, as someone who spends a lot of time in little planes, is said Phantom womping into the leading edge of a Cessna or Beaver - planes that aren't constructed a whole lot heavier than the drone. That could ruin your day.

      So yes, it's being hyped but the underlying problem is real. It would, however, be nice if the FAA actually did something about it. However, the FAA is a government entity for whom speed is an unknown quality. They probably think they're going balls-to-the-wall here and both interns working on the problem haven't been able to go to lunch for weeks.

      (An as aside, a pilot friend of mine thinks the answer to this issue is to arm the planes. A small gatling type gun with say, hard plastic bullets would take down any drone in existence. Think of the fun! You could hook them to an airliner's video feed and charge passengers to look out and possibly shoot drones and birds and UFOs. Better than an in flight magazine any day.)

      • ....(An as aside, a pilot friend of mine thinks the answer to this issue is to arm the planes. A small gatling type gun with say, hard plastic bullets would take down any drone in existence. Think of the fun! You could hook them to an airliner's video feed and charge passengers to look out and possibly shoot drones and birds and UFOs. Better than an in flight magazine any day.)

        Do you really think that armed combat going on in public airspace is a good idea?

      • by romons ( 2767081 )

        Some strikes hit the engines which, at the very least, cause the plane to be pulled from service and inspected. Sometimes they wipe out both engines. Oops. A bigger concern for me, as someone who spends a lot of time in little planes, is said Phantom womping into the leading edge of a Cessna or Beaver - planes that aren't constructed a whole lot heavier than the drone. That could ruin your day.

        Most drones weigh less than 5kg. They probably wouldn't even dent your leading edge. It would be like a kite strike, I suspect. The shipping weight of a phantom drone is 6.6lbs (3kg)

        Also, it would be pretty easy to avoid. I've encountered BIG birds on final, and been able to get around them with ease. Now, birds are pretty predictable (they always dive). However, I've never had a bird strike in 2000 hours of flying cessnas.

        Kites are illegal near controlled airports. I could see making it illegal to fly d

    • Are you retarded? Bird strikes are a real problem (remember Chesley Sullenberger landing that plane on the Hudson river?). Once you consider general aviation aircraft (which outnumber "full size airplanes") it becomes much more serious.

      Protip: if you're flying a drone/rc aircraft/whatever near a fucking class B airport you're violating several existing regulations, which is to say it has been a restricted activity for decades.

      • >if you're flying a drone/rc aircraft/whatever near a fucking class B airport you're violating several existing regulations...

        And the answer to this flouting of regulations is more regulations? If I ignore one law why would I abide two?

    • Consider that most 'drones' are very tiny light weight items more akin to a good old fashion toy R/C model airplane than what people think of as 'DRONES' as in war planes. When a real drone gets hit by a full size airplane, such as the 767 mentioned in the article, the real drone is destroyed and the 767 will not even notice the gnat with the possible exception being if a big drone went through the engine which would possibly cause damage but be unlikely to disable the large aircraft.

      Most 'drones' of that description don't have enough range to be a threat to aircraft unless you're actually standing on the airfield, so who cares? Meanwhile, lots of drones under $500 have big pieces of metal in them which would definitely eat an engine and which would possibly crack a windshield or puncture the skin of the aircraft. They're not made out of all that much, you know.

    • Birds may be heavier, but the various pieces of the many types of drones are harder and sharper; I don't know how you can say with such certainty that birds are more dangerous. Do you have any evidence to back up your claim? I know of no studies regarding drone strikes, let alone comparing them to bird strikes.

      Also, birds are animals and can't really be regulated. People are - in theory at least, I'm beginning to doubt the practical applications - smarter and ought to know better.
    • by sabri ( 584428 )

      Consider that most 'drones' are very tiny light weight items more akin to a good old fashion toy R/C model airplane than what people think of as 'DRONES' as in war planes. When a real drone gets hit by a full size airplane, such as the 767 mentioned in the article, the real drone is destroyed and the 767 will not even notice the gnat with the possible exception being if a big drone went through the engine which would possibly cause damage but be unlikely to disable the large aircraft.

      I've seen (and reported to ATC) a drone flying at 3500ft over Palo Alto. I was flying a 172 at the time. Do you have any idea what happens if I would hit that thing at 140mph? It could severely damage flight controls (image the tail being hit), engine, prop or air intake. Not to mention the damage if it somehow got through the windscreen (they're not bulletproof, you know).

      As far as I am concerned, drones are aircraft and should be regulated as such. Manned or unmanned. If someone is flying an aircraft (w

  • so dangerous, and yet no accidents. Sounds like a PR campaign before another FAA power grab.

    • I really don't like calling people I cant look at in the face names but idiots like you really piss me off. SO, Ya know what? your an idiot. Why are idiots like you so hell bent on having people killed before you take action? RC operators have no right to put anyone at risk to play with there toys. And FYI the FAA IS the power, they have the power, there is no power grab, they own the skies so get over it.
  • We are past the point where the avionics that planes have is small enough to be integrated into any drone capable of flying over a hundred feet up. I know it would add cost but as someone else said why doesn't the FAA require a license and transponders on drones so that everyone knows what's in the air and who owns it?

    • We are past the point where the avionics that planes have is small enough to be integrated into any drone capable of flying over a hundred feet up.

      What happens at a hundred feet? The atmosphere doesn't get thin enough to notice difference until a thousand or so.

    • I know it would add cost but as someone else said why doesn't the FAA require a license and transponders on drones so that everyone knows what's in the air and who owns it?

      With identity information, you're talking about a mode S transponder. These things are more expensive [ebay.com] than you probably think.

      Also, because the USA is really big, and (lesser, mode C) transponders aren't even required [faa.gov] for flying in most airspace: you need one in class A airspace ( > 18,000ft MSL), in or above class B & C airspace (near large airports, with larger radii at higher altitudes), in the mode C veil around class B airports (an even bigger cylinder around the biggest airports), and > 1

      • Maybe as ADS-B gets less expensive, that'd be the way to go. However, at present, ADS-B pricing is utterly ludicrous for hobby. As it is, the ATCRBS is antiquated and cumbersome for drone use.

        I know of one state that specifically regulates R/C, rockets, and kites within the vicinity of an airport. I don't see why the FAA couldn't address the issue and make a uniform rule across the country.

        On a tangent: I have hit birds, had more RAs than I care to count (thank my lucky stars for TCAS), and just a few month

        • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

          Maybe as ADS-B gets less expensive, that'd be the way to go. However, at present, ADS-B pricing is utterly ludicrous for hobby.

          An ADS-B is just a GPS, a microcontroller, a modem, and a radio. Guess what is present in every disposable $30 feature phone?

          Regulation is the only reason that it is expensive. The government could bid out a contract to design a reference model with open specs, and then sell the resulting modules for $50. Then you might actually see ADS-B adoption everywhere.

          • by Agripa ( 139780 )

            The government could but delaying a standard or making sure it is expensive is a way to prevent legal UAV use.

            • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

              The government could but delaying a standard or making sure it is expensive is a way to prevent legal UAV use.

              Not sure what the point of that is. Do you think that commercial outfits which likely have money and are interested in hanging onto it are going to be flying drones around airports or in the way of other aircraft (which will cost them drones likely carrying expensive gear which is traceable and lawsuits)? That sort of nonsense is strictly amateur hour, and if every Radio Shack $30 UAV came with anti-collision gear that would make a real dent in the risks there.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      I know it would add cost but as someone else said why doesn't the FAA require a license and transponders on drones so that everyone knows what's in the air and who owns it?

      The FAA has proposed just that - currently for commercial use. Right now commercial use of a drone is restricted, but the FAA is planning on requiring a licensed pilot be in control of a commercial drone.

      They haven't gotten around to regulating recreational use just yet - given the commercial variety tend to be able to carry more mass and

  • Anyone here can tell us the technical specifications for drones available to customers. I don't mean specifialized commercial drones, I mean mass market drones.

    I am asking because the article reports altitudes as high as 4 000 feet. As far as I know, DIJ and Parrot drones have a battery autonomy of about 15 minutes and I wonder if they can actually reach 4 000 feet altitude and land within 15 minutes. What about the radio communication module, can it still control the drone at such an altitude? Because I be

  • Our skies are riddled with commercial airliners, and a few private planes, owned by people who could afford them. Perhaps quads are the next thing in personal aviation and perhaps also the FAA should give recognize this and give people some airspace, too.

    I live in Silicon Valley, where you can hear airliners every few minutes, and police helicopters every weekend, So what really is the difference?

    I also fear that the FAA is going to tighten private use, just so they can auction off the airspace rights to co

    • by kyrsjo ( 2420192 )

      The difference is that commercial airliners, private planes, and police helicopters are piloted by people with the training to do so safely. Not a teenager which just got the cool new toy he/she ordered off Amazon.

    • Having spent many hours flying in your region, I can tell you the commercial aviators are talking to someone that is looking at a RADAR screen. Transponders are in heavy use, and someone is INSIDE the aircraft looking OUTSIDE. Drones have extremely limited field of view, and no identification system to allow for inclusion in the air traffic system.

      Can't say much about the private flyers other than, I really wish they would take advantage of the ATC system more.

  • I see FUD... Sigh....

  • Planes hit birds all the time. Have we been smart enough to pass a bunch of laws to keep the birds from flying around planes? But in all seriousness--planes strike birds all the time and rarely encounter any issues. Of course there the was the Landing on the Hudson, but that was a flock of geese. Geese tend to be much larger and heavier than any hobby type drone.

    But hey, before folks have a chance to think logically, might as well pump out the FUD to get these toys out of the hands of potential ter
    • by itzly ( 3699663 )
      Maybe drones are capable of causing more damage, even though they are light, because they're made of metal. Possibly someone could even deliberately try to cause harm to an airliner by letting the drone carry titanium rods or some rocks.
      • Now that I think about it.... You think the flock of geese that brought down US Air 1549 was just maybe caused by a bunch of nefarious characters flying loads of birdseed to the ends of the runways...

        When we make drones illegal, only criminals will fly drones. How many commercially available drones are made from titanium? Folks do know that drones didn't exist a decade ago like they do know, right? Hobbyists built the first drones from readily available R/C parts and motors. i.e. The terrorists will
      • Easy: provided a maximum allowable weight and altitude for unlimited flying. Rockets are goverened that way - under 3.3 lbs (1500g) and H impulse (approximately - about 2500-3500' AGL for the lightest capable, and maybe 1000' feet for a 3.3lb bird) and you can fly pretty much anywhere you have landing clearance and clear skies.

        Make the maximum drone 1500g and limit operations to 1000', exclusive of glide slope for mapped airports.

        And, fwiw, I'd bet that a payload intended to disable an aircraft is probably

    • I can cover that. Ban drones because predator use them to tract kids and see when they are alone. Anyways it is a legit concern. Wait till you are on a flight that is downed due to a hobby drone
    • Planes hit birds all the time.

      Birds are not people and therefore can not be regulated. As someone else said "We don't ticket deer for jaywalking". We make regulations where we can to safeguard people. By your logic we should not have laws against hunting out of season because wolves hunt all year around.

      Also, there are millions spent to mitigate bird interaction especially around airports.

    • Planes hit birds all the time. Have we been smart enough to pass a bunch of laws to keep the birds from flying around planes?

      Laws? Not so much. But we have done a lot to keep birds from flying around planes, namely making the areas unattractive to them in even more ways than commercial air flight.

    • Jet engines are designed to "ingest" a certain number of birds of a certain size. Not drones, which have pesky metal bits. And even then, it turns out that hitting birds can still ruin your day [wikipedia.org].

      Not to mention that small GA planes aren't even rated for bird strikes. If I'm flying my Cessna 172 and I hit your drone and survive (which is pretty doubtful), I will be coming for you. Every pilot and person who "does" aviation feels the same way - and guess what/who the FAA is made of/for?

  • At least 5 airliners in the next decade will be brought down 'accidentally' by cop drones aka drunk fucking assholes fucking around with their buddies.

  • As I said in a previous article on the same subject, just hire Bubba and his friends to take target practice on any drone anywhere near an airport.

    Problem solved.

  • That the FAA is made up of pilots is why they should NOT be making policy calls. Flying is scary, exhilarating, complex... Nobody learns to fly because they're just looking for any ol' job. Its an emotionally charged activity and people pursue it because they're the sort who's motivated by those sorts of emotions.

    So when one of these people is asked about dangers, they aren't going to look at statistics, or make a single calculation. They're going to answer off the top of their head that "there is a non-zer

  • Traditional powers always want to hold the turf. The FAA wants to keep its authority. But this will distill into a solution that the FAA may not like. Drones are proving to be very useful and are rapidly becomming more and more useful. If the skies can not tolerate both drones and traditional aircraft it may well be time to ground planes almost completely as drones have more to offer most people. Keep in mind that passenger carrying drones can easily exist. The Air Force is more than slightly awa

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