Reports of drone safety violations continued to increase during 2016, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. There were 1,274 reports from February through September last year, compared with 874 for the same period in 2015 — a 46 percent increase.
The FAA has released an updated list of pilot, air traffic controller, law enforcement and citizen reports of potential encounters with unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) — more popularly called drones. The latest data cover February through September 2016.
Although the data contain several reports of pilots claiming drone strikes on their aircraft, to date the FAA said it has not verified any collision between a civil aircraft and a civil drone. Every investigation has found the reported collisions were either birds, impact with other items such as wires and posts, or structural failure not related to colliding with an unmanned aircraft.
“Safely integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system is one of the FAA’s top priorities, and the agency wants to send a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal,” the agency said in its news release. “Unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time.”
The latest FAA report, which covers February through September 2016, shows reports of drones being flown in unsafe areas, such as around manned aircraft and airports, in the Midwest states of Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin.
For current information on where unmanned aircraft can be flown safely, the FAA offers the free B4UFLY app which is available for iOS and Android smartphones.
Despite FAA restrictions on flying drones near emergency response efforts such as fires, that activity continues to occur. Authorities in Texas said a drone being operated near a wildfire southwest of Fort Worth forced aircraft carrying fire retardant to be grounded, hampering firefighting efforts, the Associated Press reported.
Authorities in other states have also reported similar problems with drones, according to the AP.
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