The number of drone sightings by airplane pilots has “increased dramatically” in the last two years, according to a new report by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The FAA logged 583 separate incidences where planes saw drones flying in restricted airspace between August 2015 and January 2016. That means for all of 2015 there will have been 1,233 drone sightings by planes, as 650 were spotted between January and August 2015.
In all of 2014, there were only 238 of such sightings.
It is illegal to fly consumer drones above 400 feet or within five miles of an airport, but the reports show that message isn’t getting across to users.
There are several instances in the report where the pilot didn’t have to take any evasive action to avoid the drone, as well as a few sightings where it could have been either a drone, bird, or even a weather balloon that the pilot saw. However, there are plenty of frightening close calls listed in the report.
There’s one instance in December where a drone was just 100 feet below a plane flying over Orlando, Florida.
And in November, a helicopter was departing from the St. Louis Children’s Hospital helipad when it saw a drone less than 100 feet away. The helicopter “had to take evasive action with a 60 degree banking turn to avoid the drone,” the report notes.
The FAA made drone registration mandatory on December 21 last year to hold those who fly in restricted air zones accountable and “help protect public safety in the air and on the ground,” but it will take some time to see how effective the program is. More than 406,000 people have registered their drone with the government since the program went into effect.
People are devising creative ways to capture rogue drones flying in restricted areas. For example, a Michigan Tech professor is building a drone that can shoot a net at rogue drones to capture them. The FAA is also working on a new form of technology that can detect and identify drones and pilots flying too close to airports, according to a Motherboard report.
“Enforcement goes hand-in-hand with education, and we will take action against anyone who operates irresponsibly to the full extent of the law,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta wrote in a press release about the drone sightings report.