Study cites 327 'close encounters' between drones and planes

Study cites 327 'close encounters' between drones and planes
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There were 327 "close encounters" between drones and airplanes between December 2013 and September 2015, according to a new study released on Friday. 

The study, conducted by The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, found that 327 of 921 incidents involving drones and commercial flights were close enough to be considered near-collisions, while 594 were better classified as just sightings. 

Ninety of the 327 close calls between drones and airplanes involved commercial flights on jets with multiple engines, according to the study. 

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Researchers said the data can be useful to regulators in the Obama administration. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering new rules for allowing drones to fly legally alongside commercial flights. 

“This report adds a critical layer of detail and context to the conversation on the use of drones at home,” said Dan Gettinger, who is a co-author of the study and co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone. 

“We are looking to furnish stakeholders and the public with a reliable, data-driven guide to the potential risks posed by drones to manned flight,” Gettinger continued. 

The FAA has been in the process of developing rules for commercial drones for the better part of three years. 

The agency has been working in recent works with a task force that was set up in October to craft a registration system for drones because of an increase in the number of aircraft pilots who have reported seeing the unmanned vehicles during flights.

The FAA is believed to be considering implementing a mandatory fee for drone users to register, against the advice of industry members of the task force. 

The drone center study released on Friday found "incidents were more likely to involve multirotor unmanned aircraft than fixed-wing drones, and predominantly occurred far above the Federal Aviation Administration’s 400-foot ceiling for unmanned aircraft, often within five miles of an airport." 

Gettinger said he hopes the FAA will consider the findings of the study as they finalize the new rules for increased U.S. drone flights. 

“With more and more drones entering our airspace, ‘Drone Sightings and Close Encounters’ will serve as a reliable resource for policymakers and the industry as they work to develop strategies and solutions to address the growing number of potentially dangerous incidents between manned and unmanned aircraft,” he said. “Our hope is that this study can help engender a collaborative dialogue among stakeholders working on this issue.”