U.S. report: 241 near collisions between drones, manned aircraft

WASHINGTON -- There have been at least 241 reports of close encounters between drones and manned aircraft that meet the government's definition of a near midair collision, including 28 in which pilots manoeuvred to get out of the way, according to a report released Friday.

See Full Article

Ninety of the close encounters involved drones and commercial jets, the majority of which had the capacity to carry 50 people or more.

Two aircraft must fly within 500 feet of each to meet the Federal Aviation Administration's definition of a near midair collision. In 51 of the incidents, the drone-to-aircraft proximity was 50 feet or less, according to the report by Bard College's Center for the Study of the Drone in Annandale-On-Hudson, New York.

The report is based on an analysis of government records detailing 921 incidents involving drones and manned aircraft between Dec. 17, 2013, and Sept. 12, 2015. Researchers cautioned that when flying at high speeds it can be difficult for a pilot to judge the distance between themselves and another object.

The majority of the incidents, 64.5 per cent, were sightings of drones in the vicinity of other aircraft with no immediate threat of collision.

The FAA has previously released data on reports of drone sightings, but the Bard report is the first comprehensive analysis of the sightings by researchers outside the aviation community. Its findings are likely to fuel more debate over how much of a threat drones are to manned aircraft as the government struggles with how to reap the benefits of unmanned aircraft without undermining safety.

Most of the sightings analyzed in the report occurred within 5 miles of an airport and at altitudes higher than 400 feet even though the FAA prohibits flying most drones near airports or over 400 feet.

The locations with the most incidents were New York/Newark, New Jersey, 86; Los Angeles, 39; Miami, 24; Chicago, 20; Boston, 20; San Jose, 19; Washington, DC, 19; Atlanta, 17; Seattle, 17; San Diego, 14; Orlando, 13; Houston, 12; Portland, Oregon, 12; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, 11, and Denver, 10.

There have been no confirmed collisions between drones and manned aircraft in the U.S. thus far. Government and industry officials have expressed concern that if a drone -- much like a bird -- is sucked into an aircraft engine, smashes a cockpit windshield or damages a critical aircraft surface area, it could cause an air crash.

"With sufficient speed, bird strikes have been known to penetrate the cockpit," the report said. "It's entirely possible, then, that a drone could also break through into a cockpit, potentially causing serious harm to the pilots or other occupants."

Helicopter blades are considered especially vulnerable. Thirty-eight of the near collisions identified by researchers involved helicopters.

Aircraft engine manufacturers currently test the ability of engines to withstand bird strikes by firing dead birds at the engines at high velocities. The FAA hasn't yet said when it will require engine makers to conduct tests with drones, but officials have unofficially acknowledged they are working on the issue, the report said.

The report cited research by engineers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, that used data on bird strikes to create computer simulations of drones striking planes in order to identify the riskiest impact locations. They concluded that hobby drones weighing between 2 and 6 pounds "can potentially cause critical damage."

The FAA is in the process of finalizing rules for the use of commercial drones weighing less than 5 pounds. The agency is also expected to shortly issue rules requiring the registration of small drones, including those used by hobbyists, in an effort to help create a "culture of responsibility" among drone operators. The agency is trying to get the registration rules in place before Christmas.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Chimpanzee beds are cleaner than ours, study finds

    Tech & Science CBC News
    This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven't subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here. Who knew that our closest animal relatives, the great apes — specifically chimpanzees — keep tidier bedrooms than we humans do? Source
  • Legend of Loch Ness monster facing DNA testing

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WELLINGTON, New Zealand - The stories seem as tall as the lake is deep. For hundreds of years, visitors to Scotland's Loch Ness have described seeing a monster that some believe lurks in the depths. Source
  • Amazon urged not to sell face-recognition tool to police

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy activists are asking Amazon to stop marketing a powerful facial recognition tool to police, saying law enforcement agencies could use the technology to "easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone. Source
  • Russia's 1st sea-borne nuclear power plant arrives in the Arctic

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Russia's first floating nuclear power plant arrived in the Arctic port of Murmansk over the weekend in preparation for its maiden mission: providing electricity to an isolated Russian town across the Bering Strait from Alaska. The state company behind the plant, called the Akademik Lomonosov, says it could pioneer a new power source for remote regions of the planet, but green campaigners have expressed concern about the risk of nuclear accidents. Source
  • Black bear kills dog that jumped out car window in Jasper National Park

    Tech & Science CTV News
    JASPER, Alta. -- A black bear is being watched in Jasper National Park after it killed a dog that jumped out of a vehicle. Parks Canada officials say the encounter happened on Wednesday when a car pulled over to the side of the road to view the bear and the dog jumped out of an open window. Source
  • ACLU: Amazon shouldn't sell face-recognition tech to police

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SEATTLE -- The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy activists are asking Amazon to stop marketing a powerful facial recognition tool to police, saying law enforcement agencies could use the technology to "easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone. Source
  • Siri winning battle of the virtual assistants in Canada: poll

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- In the heated battle between Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft to get consumers hooked on their virtual assistants, Siri seems to be enjoying the first-mover advantage. Just shy of 40 per cent of Canadian adults recently used a virtual assistant, according to a report by the Media Technology Monitor, which polled almost 8,200 Canadians by phone late last year. Source
  • Hawaii volcano generates toxic gas plume called laze

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PAHOA, Hawaii -- The eruption of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii sparked new safety warnings about toxic gas on the Big Island's southern coastline after lava began flowing into the ocean and setting off a chemical reaction. Source
  • Wolves adjust sleeping habits to avoid human contact, research suggests

    Tech & Science CBC News
    New research has found some carnivores in Kananaskis Country have altered their behaviour in response to the presence of humans. The results come from a University of Victoria master's student, who studied data from motion-triggered cameras in Kananaskis and the more remote Willmore Wilderness Park north of Jasper. Source
  • EU lawmakers to press Zuckerberg over data privacy

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- European Union lawmakers plan to press Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday about data protection standards at the internet giant at a hearing focused on a scandal over the alleged misuse of the personal information of millions of people. Source