Over 1,000 Airport Intrusions Expected In 2015 According To The FAA

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Over 1,000 Airport Intrusions Expected In 2015 According To The FAA

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I felt compelled to write about the alarming rise in drone sightings near airports. This trend is being reported by aircraft pilots and airports alike. Last years 137 sightings we reported, 650 sightings have already been reported this year. The FAA projects 1,000 sightings by the years end. According to a recent FAA press release, private airplane and helicopter pilots, as well as crews aboard airliners, are seeing more and more drones in the air. According to industry groups, there are as many 500,000 drones sold in America, all capable of flying thousands of feet in the air.

“Regulators are concerned that a collision between a drone and a plane, which could easily occur at a speed of 200 miles (320 kilometers) an hour or more, may damage an aircraft or its engines. Encounters with drones can also cause pilots to be distracted from other critical tasks.”

“In recent weeks, drones have been spotted by airline pilots near airports in Newark, New Jersey, New York and Minneapolis, according to the FAA. Last month, there were about a dozen cases of drones flying near aircraft attempting to fight wildfires in California, forcing groundings and delays in battling the blazes, said Lynnette Round, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire, as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is known.”

Plane-Drone Encounters to Top 1,000 This Year: FAA 

This raises major concerns if this trend continues and it’s clear there will be significantly more safety incidents year after year. For more information on rules, regulations and professional airmanship education visit a UAV college like Drone Universities.

By |2017-08-31T15:24:34-08:00September 2nd, 2015|Drone Law, Drones, FAA, Safety|3 Comments

About the Author:

Michael Robbins
Mr. Michael Robbins, who resides in Northern California, is our drone tech expert with over 30 years of experience. He started his career building gas powered UAVs at age 12. He has since earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in Design and Engineering and is AutoCAD certified. He has worked with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, Hearst Castle, CNN, Adobe, Oracle, HP, Cisco Systems, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and NASA. With a passion for aviation, Mr. Robbins spends his spare time studying for his Commercial Pilot’s License.


  1. Matt Elyash September 4, 2015 at 10:47 am

    Personally I find the increase most likely a figment of media frenzy and pilot ignorance. I believe that the vast majority of these supposed drone sightings are something they saw, that they could not identify so now it must be a drone!!! I am not talking UFO’s I am talking about all sorts of stuff that gets thrown into the air, it could be trash thrown in the air by a dust devel, it could be a couple of large birds, it could be a flash from a mylar balloon.

    Given the average approach speed for an airliner is around 160 knots, I doubt anybody gets a clear look at what it was that flashed by. In the past, these were unidentifiable, and so they generally were not reported. Now since there is a push by both the FAA and others to report any possible conflict with drones or other small unidentified objects, the pilots report everything they see as a drone. Two seagulls flying close, but flash past so fast you can’t turn your head fast enough to track it, “Wow that must be a drone”.

    Think of it as trying to identify a couple two by fours nailed together on the side of a NASCAR Track from the drivers seat at the speeds they approach on a straightaway. Before somebody says it yes they do the signboard stuff in some races but only in the slower areas of the track, and you know what your looking for, and approximately what it will say, and more importantly you are ready for it. Contrast this to a last second glimpse of something that was only large enough to see it before it was gone for a fraction of a second, add in motion blur due to relative speed differential and every Canada goose turns into a Phantom 2.

    Thin about this, Visual acuity tests are not even discussed by the FAA with regards to bringing sUAV’s into the National Airspace, let alone scientific Frangibility Tests to see what actual damage contact with various size drones would do to an aircraft, either civilian or airliners, and yet we worry that drones will take down an airliner in a sky full of MILLIONS and MILLIONS of birds.

    The other thing we need to think of is what is the reporting criteria? Is a police helicopter flying at 500′ near a known RC field that has a night flying area who sees pilots legally flying their foam combat aircraft below the 400′ suggested ceiling grounds to file an FAA report? How about Model Sailplane pilots who routinely push WAY above the AMA guidelines of 400′ in contests on a daily basis? If a pilot saw one of these is it a drone in their eyes?

    How many of these 650 sightings were actually Drones? How many were actually within an airport traffic area as this article seems to purport. How many were sightings of illegal fireworks or just unidentified lights? How many of these 650 sighitngs are actually Drones. Were ANY of them actually near misses?

    Black Helicopters and Tin Foil time.
    If your looking for a conspiracy theory, as many are want to do, well The Airline Pilots Association has a long track record of anti drone sentiment, fighting sUAS technology at every FAA organized meeting, conference or panel. Why, it is simple fear, because they are afraid Drone technology will sooner or later replace maybe a handful of cargo jobs in 30 or so years. Yes pilots have a right to be worried about technology replacing them, with the vast majority of accident investigations these days either rightly or wrongly leaning to pilot error as a leading or contributing cause, they feel under the gun and possibly with good right.

    Finally I am NOT, repeat NOT defending any idiot who flies an sUAV within an airport traffic area, or in close proximity to know low altitude operating areas, or near aircraft operating on the ground or in the air, or for that matter willingly violating community guidelines for safe operation. IN the more severe cases these people should face stiff fines and JAIL time for these actions, and I REALLY REALLY hope they get caught and then get hammered by the courts. At the same time, we need to have a sensable response instead of this chicken little the sky is falling attitude. We need COMMON SENSE laws, not knee jerk reactions like the recent California Senate Bill on the Governors desk which will effectively criminalize model aviation in the state.

  2. Matthew Elyash September 4, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Oh by the way, It does not say that all or even the vast majority these were airport intrusions. Some Intrusions obviously happened but of the 650 reports how many actually were reports by pilots who saw something 5 miles away from the airport. The article does not say.

  3. Sam Estrin
    Sam Estrin September 15, 2015 at 11:42 pm


    I think you might enjoy the following follow-up article: https://www.droneuniversities.com/drones/did-we-have-764-or-just-27-near-misses-between-drones-and-airplanes/


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