AP Reports drone sightings up! …

Wednesday, Nov. 12th, the Associated Press reported that drone sightings are up dramatically and that, “The government is getting near-daily reports — and sometimes two or three a day — of drones flying near airplanes and helicopters or close to airports…” (Click the link below to read the full story.)

There’s no doubt that thousands of small radio control unmanned aircraft, often referred to as “drones”, have been sold in the U.S. over the past 2-3 years. And, tens of thousands of these aircraft are now in the hands of individuals that by and large are not traditional model aircraft enthusiasts and have little to no knowledge of the safety considerations and best practices involved in operating these platforms. One could certainly surmise that the numbers alone account for the growing number of reported encounters. However, the mere sighting of such a device does not necessarily signify that its use poses an imminent threat to life and property.

By the accounts underscored in the article there should now be a long list of reported unmanned aircraft sightings on file. However, to date no information has been made available regarding the nature of these sightings or any investigative findings, leaving the public to believe that a catastrophic event is imminent. In July 2014, the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) filed a request with the FAA through the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of the reports of all such sightings as well as the investigative findings. To date, this information has not been provided; yet anecdotal and inflammatory comments regarding the number of sightings continue to be publicized.

Also, not mentioned in this story is the fact that the FAA proactively solicits the reporting of unmanned aircraft sightings. In a message to its field personnel in July the FAA mandated that Air Traffic Control report all sightings, reported or observed, of unusual or unauthorized unmanned aircraft and remote controlled aircraft activity, or activity considered suspicious or viewed to be a safety hazard. This mandate alone would account for the recent increase in reported sightings. (See the FAA telegraphic message entitled, “Reporting Unauthorized Unmanned Aircraft”)

These circumstances are exacerbated by the fact that these small unmanned aircraft are marketed as requiring little to no skill/training to fly and there’s no mention of the safety concerns associated with their operation. And because these platforms are being operated for a specific purpose, mainly aerial photography, they are showing up in locations where you would not normally find traditional model aircraft.

As with any group of individuals, there are a few who willfully act in a careless and irresponsible manner. For the most part, however, UAS enthusiasts are individuals that are otherwise conscientious and well-intended but are ill-informed regarding the safe and responsible use of this technology. It could well be argued that the perceived problems with the growing interest and use of this technology is not caused by a community of self-indulging irresponsible operators but rather a lack of safety related information and educational outreach.

As the nationwide community-based organization for this activity, the AMA has created the relevant safety guidelines, best practices and operating principles that allow the sUAS enthusiast to operate their aircraft and use this technology in a safe and responsible manner. The Academy is partnering with the industry, special interest user groups and other membership associations such as the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) in developing and establishing an educational outreach to this growing community of sUAS (Drone) enthusiasts.

Rich Hanson
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government is getting near-daily reports — and sometimes two or three a day — of drones flying near airplanes and helicopters or close to airports without permission, federal and industry officials tell The Associated Press. It’s a sharp increase from just two years ago when such reports were still unusual.

Many of the reports are filed with the Federal Aviation Administration by airline pilots. But other pilots, airport officials and local authorities often file reports as well, said the officials, who agreed to discuss the matter only on the condition that they not be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Michael Toscano, president of a drone industry trade group, said FAA officials also have verified the increase to him.

While many of the reports are unconfirmed, raising the possibility that pilots may have mistaken a bird or another plane in the distance for a drone, the officials said other reports appear to be credible.




  1. It is certainly in our/the public’s interest for the FAA to publish these sightings so we can better understand if they really are threats to the National Airspace, or just sightings in, say, a public park. The reports should also include the altitudes of both the vehicle and the manned aircraft. UASs flying at low altitude, say, under 400 ft should not be considered a threat to the NAS, since full scale a/c have no business flying so low (except for medical choppers, etc). Sightings that low are properly the concern of local authorities where there might be public safety or personal privacy issues.

    1. AMA has to come up with a way to control the sale of drones to (those) who have no regard for people that have been in the RC hobby for 40 or more years and live by the rules.These are the ones that will bring the hobby to a stop, because it was fun or cool for a week!!

  2. Well yes but, report them as what? The general public doesn\’t know a sighting from a near-miss and the media is sensationalizing every sighting as if it were a near miss. If they are going to report them they need to include all pertinent information such as exact location, circumstances involving the sighting, who was the pilot, and what is the purposed of the flight?
    This smells like a government propaganda campaign to demonize model aircraft flights. The term drone is purposely misleading to obscure the fact that they intend to restrict ALL of model aviation. The FAA has already declared their intent to regulate the all of model aviation via FAR 91. If you want to know the truth about how they intend to govern model aviation, read the rules and you should be sitting down when you do.

  3. Hmmmm… Get your tinfoil hats, everyone.
    FAA tells it pilots to step up “drone” sightings, in all situations.
    The information goes to the media and is construed negatively due to its vagueness (not something bureaucracies are known for)
    The public panics and pushes for regulation of these crazy taliban bombing, malevolently spying, infinite camera resolution, super clear image, indestructible, heavy lift, long duration, baby killing drones from hell.
    FAA obliges.
    Now you have to certify with the FAA, FAA gets fees from that.

    That last one might be far fetched, but it’s a shame that even the notion of anything other than controlling a swarm of extralegal Predator drones from every living room is out of the public eye is just a shame.

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