John Goglia FORBES Contributor
The FAA’s list of 194 drone sightings reported to it this year were obtained by the New York Times and published yesterday. Contrary to what one would expect from all the media hype about the risks posed to manned aircraft by today’s popular quadcopters, the FAA’s list of sightings does not support the position that these small hobby helicopters – including the most popular Phantom models manufactured by DJI – pose a significant danger to aircraft. What the list does support is that the FAA is keeping a record of all drone sightings it receives regardless of whether the reports indicate a safety problem or not. In fact, some of the reports listed conclude that there was no actual or potential safety impact. The list contains a number of reports of quadcopters operating overhead but no indication of any safety impact at all to persons, property or manned aircraft. It’s not clear to me what purpose this list serves the FAA.
One report included in the FAA’s list was made by the US Coast Guard in Hawaii and states that “an Admiral’s residence at Diamondhead Lighthouse was overflown by a DJI Phantom quadcopter UAS operated by a photographer. No property damage or impact on [National Airspace System]. No other aircraft involved.” Another report indicates an unidentified UAS flew over downtown Tampa – “the location is approximately 6 [nautical miles] from [Tampa airport]. No impact to [operations].” A number of other sightings are from people on the ground reporting overflights with no indication of any potential or actual safety hazard. These reports should not be included in a database that purports to reflect safety concerns with unmanned aerial vehicles.