AMA is pleased to see the FAA more accurately characterize its recent drone data as ‘sightings’ and ‘reports’ rather than the more inflammatory terminology that was used last summer. When the agency previously released this data in August 2015, AMA completed a detailed analysis of these reports. We found a more complex picture of U.S. drone activity than the agency and news reports initially suggested. Only a small number of sightings were legitimately reported as ‘near misses,’ the most serious reports involved government-sponsored military drones and some reports appeared to involve people flying responsibly. Meanwhile, the FAA’s drone data last August contained reports of many things in the air that weren’t drones, including balloons, birds, model rockets, mini blimps, something that ‘resembled a dog’ and even a UFO.
An overall increase in the number of sightings of consumer drones is not surprising given FAA’s projections last fall of an influx of nearly a million new such devices by the end of 2015, and presumably many of these sightings constitute legitimate UAS activity. A more definitive analysis of the data is needed to separate out the lawful operations from those that pose a true safety concern.
AMA will closely review the latest dataset of drone sightings. It is critical that the data be carefully analyzed given the timely conversations on Capitol Hill about UAS policies. Meanwhile, AMA reiterates its call for the FAA to release not just preliminary reports, but also investigative findings and any other information associated with these reports. The problem with preliminary reports is just that – they are preliminary.
AMA is committed to working closely with the FAA and other stakeholders to promote model aircraft and consumer drone safety. To ensure that everyone flying model aircraft and consumer drones have access to basic safety guidelines, in 2014 AMA helped launch the Know Before You Fly campaign with our industry partners. In 2015, AMA teamed up with retailer Best Buy to display safety information on store shelves and store receipts of drone purchases. In addition, Best Buy is offering one-year AMA memberships for purchase. AMA’s decades of experience demonstrates that an education-focused and community-based approach is the best way to manage recreational flyers.