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article imageFAA reports civilian drone safety incidents are soaring

By Karen Graham     Dec 5, 2017 in Technology
The number of reported drone safety incidents has grown dramatically this year, with close to as many mishaps in the first nine months of 2017 as there was in all of last year, according to the FAA.
As of last month, the FAA said drone-safety incidents, including flying improperly or getting too close to other aircraft, now average about 250 a month, up more than 50 percent from a year earlier. That's quite a jump from February 2014 when the agency started keeping records on drone safety incidents.
There have been a total of 4,889 incidents reported in less than four years. However, in response to the October study results, the FAA says it wants to make it easier for drone enthusiasts to get permits to pilot low-level flights in restricted airspace. The agency claims that with so many people wanting to pilot drones today, they are willing to break the law just to get their drones flying.
Most of the incidents involve drones flying outside legal boundaries, which require flying them within 400 feet of the ground and within sight of the operator. Also included are near-collisions described by pilots on airliners, law-enforcement helicopters or aerial tankers fighting wildfires.
Gerardo Olivares, a researcher at Wichita State University in Kansas who helped lead the study, said, while aircraft are designed to withstand most bird strikes, "it doesn't mean they are going to be able to withstand a 4-pound or an 8-pound UAS impact." He refers to drones as unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
According to the FAA, 2.3 million drones will be sold for recreational use in the U.S. this year. As of Nov. 3, more than 838,000 people had registered with FAA as owners of small, civilian drones. Current regulations in the U.S. and Canada have provisions that prevent drones from operating near airports, wildfire zones, and other places.
But with the upswing in the number of safety incidents being reported, it is apparent that unmanned drone operators are either ignoring the rules or just don't know them.
Nikolas Kubli is the local UAV expert in the FAA’s Richmond, Virginia offices. Kubil says "drones are so cheap and easy to obtain, many people assume they don’t need extra permissions to fly. We’re continuing to have quite an issue with rogue commercial operators."
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