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Study: Hundreds of Close Encounters Between Drones and Aircraft

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By Amanda Vicinanzo
HSToday

As the number of drones in U.S. national airspace continues to rise, with projections of as many as one million drones sold during this Christmas season, the number of close encounters between unmanned and manned aircraft is increasing as well, according to a new study.

Although there has yet to be a collision between a drone and a manned aircraft, a new study, Drone Sightings and Close Encounters, released Friday by The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College identified 327 close encounters involving drones flying dangerously closed to manned aircraft.

Using data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Interior, the report explored 921 incidents in the national airspace from December 2013 to September 2015. Of these incidents, 594 involved drone sightings near manned aircraft flight paths, but not close enough to pose immediate danger of collision.

In 28 instances, pilots “maneuvered to avoid a collision with a drone.”

The report defined “close encounters” as incidents where a drone comes within 500 feet of a manned aircraft, when a pilot declares a “near midair collision.” A sighting, on the other hand, is when “a drone is spotted above its legal ceiling or in the vicinity of an airport or aircraft, but does not pose a clear potential for a collision.”

The majority of all incidents occurred above 400 feet, the maximum altitude at which drones are allowed to fly, according to FAA regulations, and within five miles of an airport, which is prohibited airspace for all drones.

“This report adds a critical layer of detail and context to the conversation on the use of drones at home,” said Dan Gettinger, codirector of the Center for the Study of the Drone, and coauthor of the report. “We are looking to furnish stakeholders and the public with a reliable, data-driven guide to the potential risks posed by drones to manned flight.”

The proliferation of drones has spurred serious safety concerns. Homeland Security Today recently reported that with the surge in drone popularity, pilots have reported an increase in close calls between planes and drones, with nearly 700 incidents reported in this year alone. In 2014, the number of close calls was only at 238.

According to the report, eight times as many incidents were reported in the first seven months of 2015 than in the same period in 2014.

Read the full article at HSToday.

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