Plane almost hit drone in midair, says FAA

In the skies over Florida, the FAA says, a US Airways flight, just 2,300 feet from the ground, narrowly avoids a drone.

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A CRJ similar to the one involved in the incident. Namerifrats/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

New technology and old don't always come together in harmony.

Try following a Nissan Leaf uphill and watch it seem to be coming toward you, rather than going away from you.

Then there's all those things flying around the sky that have no pilot in the cockpit -- and perhaps no business being up there at all.

In what some say is the first incident of its kind, a US Airways Bombadier CRJ2 was in the skies above Tallahassee, Fla., when, according to the pilot, it narrowly missed a drone.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the incident happened on March 22 with the US Airways flight just 2,300 feet from the ground.

Jim Williams, head of the Federal Aviation Administration's unmanned-aircraft office, told the Journal: "The airline pilot said that he thought the [drone] was so close to his jet that he was sure he had collided with it."

No damage to the plane was found.

The incident happened very close to Tallahassee Regional Airport. It's against the law to fly model planes of any kind within 5 miles of an airport, without first reporting to local air traffic control and airport operators.

The pilot described this drone as looking like a fighter jet in design: "a camouflaged F-4 fixed-wing aircraft that was quite small."

The FAA is investigating but hasn't yet discovered whose drone this might have been.

Because, as so often happens, regulations have lagged behind technological development, there seems to be something of a free-for-all in the skies when it comes to drones.

The potential risks to commercial airplanes are palpable. It's bad enough when a plane suffers a bird strike. Drones have lithium batteries and can be made of metal and plastic. The damage those materials could do if sucked into a plane's engine could be deadly.

Accidents might be waiting to happen in so many spheres of life. In the case of drones, it seems that regulation needs to be accelerated, so that everyone knows where they stand and where they can fly.

 

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