Pilot reports of close calls with drones rise enormously

The FAA says that pilots are now seeing drones at ever higher altitudes. One pilot, though, says it's all "much ado about nothing."

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

A danger? Thirteen/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszzcyk/CNET

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

As if pilots needed an extra hazard to contend with during takeoff and landing.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday released its latest report of close calls between planes and drones. It doesn't raise spirits.

Last year, there were 238 reports. This year to August 9 there have already been 650.

You can decide whether pilots have become extra-sensitive or whether drone enthusiasts and/or sheer numbheads have decided to fly their new gadgets with miserable abandon.

Many might feel it's the latter.

The FAA says that in June, for example, 138 pilots reported drones at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet. The number for July was 137.

The FAA's rules are fairly clear. Don't fly above 400 ft. Don't fly within 5 miles of an airport without talking to the airport and its control tower. Don't fly near people.

But dont's are boring, aren't they? Toys are fun. So these little flying objects are beginning to pollute the skies and giving some pilots the collywobbles.

In its statement, the FAA points out the sheer ludicrousness of those who are sending up drones to film wildfires, thereby preventing fire rescue helicopters from doing their vital job. There's now a $75,000 reward for anyone who can identify the miscreants.

But it's going to keep on happening, isn't it? Drones are now so inexpensive that anyone can send up there.

On the other hand, commercial airline captain Chris Manno said on his JetHead blog that pilots' fear of drones is "much ado about nothing." He said that there are hundreds of bird strikes reported too.

He explained that some of the seabirds planes strike might weigh as much as 30 pounds, whereas many drones don't weight the 50 to 60 pounds that's sometimes reported. Instead, he said, they weigh "a fraction of that."

He added: "Bird conflicts and even bird strikes dwarf the number of drone 'sightings' by airliners, but they're simply no longer news."

He described the result of an unlikely collision between a plane and a drone as "likely nada."

Ah, well. That's alright then.