One of the biggest fears holding drones back from widespread adoption is fear of drones crashing — and interfering with manned aircraft.
A recent report from the Federal Aviation Administration stated that 3,714 drone sightings were reported between November 2015 and March 2017. The FAA closely tracks reported drone sightings, which could potentially lead to interference with a manned aircraft.
So how worried should you really be about all those drone sightings?
The Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team (UAST) Drone Sightings Working Group, which is an industry-government partnership group co-chaired by Ben Marcus, Co-founder & CEO of AirMap, and Earl Lawrence, of the FAA’s UAS Integration Office, found out. The team released a new analysis on the FAA’s report
And it turns out, 3.19% of drone sightings were potentially dangerous enough to manned aircraft that it caused the aircraft to reroute.
That being said, don’t freak out when you hear that thousands of drones have been sighted by pilots. The vast majority of them — more than 96% — are totally benign. Additionally, it’s not even certain whether those drone sightings really happened, given that anyone can make a report; it doesn’t have to be verified or proven to be simply reported. Reports are documented whether or not there is any sort of evidence, and often times, objects initially reported as drones turn out to be balloons or trash bags.
However, it’s worth taking those 3% of drone sightings seriously.
“There’s no doubt that some of the sightings are problematic – about 3 percent of the sightings included in the dataset caused manned aircraft to change course or take evasive action,”said Chad Budreau, Director of Public Relations and Government Affairs at AMA in a prepared statement. “That is 3 percent too many and needs to change. At the same time, we must remember that the vast majority of the drone sightings are just that – sightings.”
Here are some key takeaways from the analysis from UAST’s analysis of the FAA’s drone sightings report:
- 16.01% of drone sightings were described as being less than 500’ away from the aircraft (though few to none of those drone sightings were confirmed)
- 3.29% of the above sightings resulted in the manned aircraft changing flight or course
- 70.41% of the sightings indicated the drone was over 400’ feet (which is where you shouldn’t be flying!)
But some drone industry experts even question the accuracy of the FAA’s drone sightings report completely.
“The FAA has issued over 14,000 airspace authorizations for drones to fly near airports,” said drone lawyer Jonathan Rupprecht in a blog post. “There is no way to tell which of these sightings is actually a lawful or unlawful sighting or not. All the lawful and unlawful get lumped into one big number.”