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“The FAA Has Been Playing Whack-a-Mole Across the Skies”

“The FAA Has Been Playing Whack-a-Mole Across the Skies”
Jeff Edwards

The true scope of incidents involving illicit drones and commercial aircraft may be much more serious than the public has been led to believe.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is refusing to release reports documenting near-miss encounters between rogue drones and commercial aircraft. Although these reports are ordinarily public records, the agency has declined to release them in the face of a soaring number of close encounters.

The Washington Post obtained hundreds of pages of the unreleased reports from a government source “who objected to the FAA’s secrecy” on the matter and found they contained some troubling facts. According to the documents, pilots have reported nearly 700 close calls with radio-operated aircraft so far this year, with reports of drone encounters coming from nearly every major airport in the U.S. Perhaps even more concerning are a number of reported drone encounters that took place at altitudes as high as 12,000 feet above sea level.

New York City airports had by far the greatest number of incidents involving drones. The skies around the largest city in the U.S. have seen a staggering 33 encounters between commercial aircraft and drones, just since March of this year. The fact that these incidents occurred in one of the busiest air corridors on the globe compounds the risk of disaster substantially.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) believes he may have a solution to the growing dilemma of unauthorized and illegal drone use. Senator Schumer is sponsoring legislation to require drone manufactures to install so-called “geo fencing” technology in the small unmanned flying devices to ensure that drones cannot be operated in no-fly zones around airports or potential terrorist targets and would also limit the drones to an altitude of less than 500 feet.

“Near-misses between drones and passenger airliners are spiking and we must act now, before a real tragedy occurs,” Schumer said in a press release announcing the proposed legislation. “The FAA has been playing whack-a-mole across the skies, and that’s certainly not good enough.”

[Photo: iStock]

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