AMA’s Response to the FAA’s Drone Sighting Report

Dear Members,

As many of you are aware, there has been a marked increase in sensational media reports of drones allegedly flying too close to manned aircraft. The alarm this has caused was compounded by the FAA’s August 12 press release, “Pilot Reports of Close Calls with Drones Soar in 2015.”

In order to better understand what’s actually occurring, and what role AMA could play to advance safe flying, our organization closely analyzed each of the 764 records in the FAA’s dataset. AMA’s analysis, “A Closer Look at the FAA’s Drone Data ,” reveals a more complex picture of the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS/drone) activity in the United States than the initial headlines would suggest. From military crashes to a UFO sighting, only a fraction of the reports were legitimately reported “close calls” or “near misses.” You may have already seen the report in this morning’s USA Today (“Drone hobbyists find flaws in "close call" reports to FAA from other aircraft”) or on VICE News (“ Drones are the new UFOs”).

While AMA works closely with the FAA, and we continue to consider the agency a partner in promoting model aircraft and consumer drone safety, our report concludes that the FAA could have done a better job of presenting their data in a more factually accurate manner. By using misleading language in its press release, releasing only preliminary reports and not critically analyzing those reports, the FAA’s report only served, at best, to paint a cloudy and less than accurate picture and raises concerns that simply may not be realistic.

Today, AMA distributed a press release to the media with its findings. Additionally, AMA sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. AMA also sent a letter to members of Congress.

As you read through the report, please feel free to contact us should you have any questions. Also, please make sure to share this report on your Twitter, Facebook and any other social channels.

Dave Mathewson
Executive Director

Views: 1064

Comment by John Bond on September 14, 2015 at 6:34pm

We haven't seen any rigorous analysis from the FAA concerning sUAS.  That would be part of their job if they are going to regulate it right?

Any real professional aviation organization would have started something back in the 1990s as that's when the technology for modern sUAS came of age.  GPS, smaller "good enough" inertial systems, sufficient computing power in a small package (PC104 format), etc.

Did the FAA do anything back then?  No. They weren't interested in "toys".  sUAS industry startups tried to expand in the early 2000s, but when they started asking for millions in investment traditional aviation and, therefore, the FAA panicked and shut them down.

Wait nearly a decade for the first FAA sUAS ARC report - dated most appropriately April 1, 2009 - and they admit that it is basically a "perceptions" document and a formal risk analysis will be done later.

Anyone know of any formal risk analysis from the FAA concerning sUAS?

I've missed it if it exists and would really appreciate a pointer to it.

Assuming it doesn't exist then why not?  Perhaps because a formal risk analysis would not support what the FAA management currently wants.  If reasoned argument and analysis don't support your agenda then start throwing mud.  That's a time-honored political approach and that's what the FAA management are - politicians. That's why it has been all "imagine the carnage" from the FAA for the last several years.  Don't let facts and analysis get in your way.  Look at all the close calls!

The FAA's approach is pretty sad really.  Most definitely not professional from a risk management point of view and they should be called out for that.

Comment by Gary McCray on September 14, 2015 at 6:55pm

Thank You for bringing us this Thomas,

It is good to see a thoughtful, objective and worthwhile analysis and response from the main supportive body we have to work with - the AMA.

I have shared the feeling that the FAA has been capitalizing on excessively sensationalist and non-verified incidents to promote it's at times heavy handed control over UAVs.

Their justification is likely that if they don't do that and something bad happens they will be held accountable.

Normally their job involves very detailed investigation and reporting of very specific data regarding manned aircraft incidents, here with UAVs it seems to be fanning the flames of dissension rather than factual analysis.

Still the FAA has become a great deal easier to work with and much more reasonable in their approach recently than they were just a few months back.

Lets hope that trend continues.

Best Regards,

Gary

Comment by JB on September 15, 2015 at 12:30am

Agendas distort perceptions. The FAA is made up of people with both. It's up to the public to keep the government honest. Good on the AMA, but the job ain't finished yet!


Developer
Comment by John Arne Birkeland on September 15, 2015 at 2:59am

UAS -> FAA not interested -> Increasing financial potential -> FAA interested -> Public mistrust -> Increased FAA mandate.

Do you see a pattern?

Comment by Pedals2Paddles on September 15, 2015 at 11:22am

Sadly, the only people that will see the AMA response are people like us that already know.  The general public, the news media, the politicians, and everyone else will never see or read it.  So the general public still only sees and knows "OMG DRONES EVERYWHERE!! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!"

Comment by Monroe King on September 16, 2015 at 10:37am

There is no reason a manned aircraft should ever even see a hobby drone of any kind. EVER! there just is no reason or excuse for that. If a manned pilot ever sees a hobby drone it's a threat! Period. Why? because they are so small that if you can see it it's too close! At that point it is a hazard to navigation. I wonder why the hobby community refuses to see that simple fact?

Stay away from air traffic period! Do not let a pilot spot your drone. It's that simple, why is this so hard to understand? 

Comment by Pedals2Paddles on September 16, 2015 at 12:38pm

@Monroe King, That entire rant is wrong. I'm glad you're on the side of not interfering with manned aircraft. But all of that logic is simply wrong.  They are visible, even when operating at legal altitudes and legal locations.

Comment by Monroe King on September 16, 2015 at 1:03pm

I've never seen one and I hope I never do. They are not visible if they are following the suggestions outlined UNLESS the pilot of the GA aircraft is at 500ft pushing the edge of his regulations and has eye's like a hawk. at 2 or 3000ft where most GA aircraft fly it's almost impossible to spot a model plane.

The most likely spotting of a drone is during take off or on approach for landing. Drones should not be flying close enough to airports for a pilot to spot one.

Comment by Pedals2Paddles on September 17, 2015 at 8:00am

You just shot down your own argument.  Thank you.

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