WASHINGTON (CBS SF) – With commercial rules slowly being put in place on the use of drones, Federal Aviation Administration records show an increase of near-collisions between the remotely controlled aircraft and passenger planes over the last six months.
According to The Washington Post, pilots and air traffic controllers have reported at least 25 episodes in which small drones came within a few seconds or few feet of crashing into much larger aircraft. The report was released by the FAA in response to public-records requests by The Washington Post and other news organizations.
Prior to Wednesday, the agency had publicly disclosed only one near mid-collision which occurred on March 22 near Tallahassee, Florida. Many of the close calls took place near New York and Washington, D.C.
The 25 near collisions were among more than 175 incidents in which pilots and air-traffic controllers have reported seeing drones near airports or in restricted airspace.
“In partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the FAA has identified unsafe and unauthorized [drone] operations and contacted the individual operators to educate them about how they can operate safely under current regulations and laws,” the agency said in a statement. The FAA has also issued fines on a handful of occasions.
Even though the drones are small, aviation safety experts said they still pose a threat if they were to strike a plane, especially if they hit a propeller or get sucked into a jet engine.
This all comes as the Federal Aviation Administration is facing pressure to open the skies to drones. The FAA is still developing regulations for the unmanned aircraft, but this week, the agency said they would require that commercial drone operators have a pilot’s license and that they would restrict flight times to daylight hours.
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