Report: Documents reveal nearly 700 close calls between drones and planes

From Mashable

By Chris Perkins

If for some reason you think the lack of drone regulation in the U.S. isn't a problem, read this.

The Washington Post obtained records from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) detailing nearly 700 close calls between drones and airplanes in the U.S. in 2015. Over 70 close calls have been recorded between Aug. 1-17.

A government official anonymously provided the Washington Post with these documents because they disagreed with the FAA's level of secrecy. The report notes that the FAA has declined to release public reports on these incidents.

The near-700 close calls between drones and airplanes is three times higher than the same figure in 2014.

Drones aren't legally allowed to fly above 400 feet or within five miles of an airport, but the FAA is mostly powerless to enforce this.

While there hasn't yet been a collision with a drone and an airplane, it doesn't take much imagination to explore the potential hazards. A bird strike has the potential to bring down an aircraft, as was the case with 2009's "Miracle on the Hudson", so one could reasonably assume a small drone could do similar damage.

The issue here is that unmanned arial vehicles (UAV), in their current state, are almost impossible to track: they aren't detected by radar and many aren't equipped with devices to transmit their location. It's nearly impossible to catch the culprits, too, since they are likely flying their UAVs from a distance.

Much of the work towards developing a practical system has actually been carried out by NASA and other private entities like Verizon and Amazon, not the FAA.

Image: Amazon

Many of the regulation plans being floated involve the use of "geofencing" in some capacity. With geofencing, all drones would be required to connect to the Internet and certain areas would be virtually fenced off, preventing UAV flight. Drones would also be required to register with a central governing agency.

The main issue with the NASA/Verizon and Amazon plans is that not all drones are Internet connected, so older drones would need to be retrofitted or banned outright. Of course, geofencing wouldn't prevent rouge operators to fly unconnected drones, but it'd be a step toward bringing order to the current situation.

Full article here

Views: 1107

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on August 25, 2015 at 6:44am

Is the FAA really covering up the actual number of done/aircraft close calls as this author suggests or is he just trying to grab headlines in relation to the building public drone hysteria?



Comment by John Wiseman on August 25, 2015 at 7:32am

Why post a Mashable summary of the original Washington Post article, and not a link to the Washington Post article, which is better and has more detail (and did the original reporting)? And even though the Mashable article is from yesterday, it's somewhat out of date because it's reporting on a WaPo article from the 20th and on the 21st the FAA released the records to the public:

The Center for the Study of the Drone has already done some analysis of the FAA data:, incuding the fact that "in about two out of five cases, a drone was not within an airport’s no-fly zone when it interfered with manned air traffic."  They also pulled out some of the data for each incident, including altitude, distance between vehicles, and location.

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on August 25, 2015 at 7:46am


I believe that if you look again at the Mashable original post, you will see the link to the original Washington Post article.

The idea behind my blog post is to get some dialogue going concerning the validity of Perkins' original article as to its content.



Comment by John Wiseman on August 25, 2015 at 7:58am

Do you mean the part about "The Washington Post obtained several hundred of the rogue-drone reports from a government official who objected to the FAA’s secrecy", which is a line that appears in the Washington Post article?  You've copy & pasted an article that is essentially a copy & paste of the Washington Post article; Mashable didn't add any new information, and didn't mention the very relevant news that the FAA has since released the records, as of 4 days ago.

I'm just trying to elevate the quality of the posts here beyond copy & paste of a diluted, out-of-date aggregator post.

Comment by Rob Dunbar on August 25, 2015 at 8:05am

I also wonder how many of these sightings are one of the 102 weather balloons released daily by NOAA? It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! … No! It’s a NOAA Weather Balloon!

Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on August 25, 2015 at 8:09am


I believe that this is the link to the original Washington Post article as it appears in the original Mashable post Washington Post obtained records

I believe that Perkins was using information gleaned from the Post article for the basis of his Mashable post. 

We all have opinions and this was just Perkins' opinion on the subject at hand.


TCIII Admin 

Comment by DavidJames on August 25, 2015 at 8:24am

What is surprising to me and what I find remarkable is that drones are being flown over 400 ft.     1500 ft?  I know that they can be flown that high but they become very difficult to see.

Perhaps all drones should come with an FAA flight rules card.   Fly under 400 ft and within the operators direct line of sight.   

Comment by George Kelly on August 25, 2015 at 8:53am

"in about two out of five cases, a drone was not within an airport’s no-fly zone when it interfered with manned air traffic." 

I've wondered about this myself lately - how many of these 'near misses' are no such thing?

Very human to over-dramatise for maximum attention. A drone spotted off in the distance (maybe exactly where it should be) becomes 'we nearly collided with a drone', or nobody cares about our story.

My club field is right under the circuit for my local (small) airport. When I'm at 50 ft, they're passing nearby or overhead at 1000' (max). I find myself wondering when the cops are going to pull up to investigate a 'near miss with a drone' (followed by the 6 o'clock news')

Come to think of it, I could probably prank the local news with a photo of one of these 'near misses'. (but I won't)


Comment by Pedals2Paddles on August 25, 2015 at 9:55am

The news media is a business.  A business exists to sell a product and make a profit.  That product they sell is advertising space on their websites and commercials on the TV stations.  The actual news reporting is just fill to attract views to their advertising.

HUNDREDS NARROWLY AVOID DISASTER IN DRONE CONFRONTATION creates far more business for their advertising revenue than "FAA reports no major problems today"

Comment by David Drysdale on August 25, 2015 at 10:16am

just a few days ago on diydrons someone looked through the FAA report and even the FAA thinks most drone spotting's are thought to be wither balloons. As for drone strikes let look at birds.

In the United State alone, over 10,000 wildlife strikes are reported each year

Drones strikes = zero

Since 1988 in usa

Killed by bird strikes=200

Killed by Drones=Zero

We would need a craze number of plain drone strikes to even have a chance to kill one person. My math is for every 1350 or so bird strikes we kill one person. Soooooo we have a long way to go before a drone kills someone. But good news USA has unlimited money so let regulate something less dangerous than  buckets.(kill five people a year)


You need to be a member of DIY Drones to add comments!

Join DIY Drones

© 2019   Created by Chris Anderson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service