FAA WARNS OF INCREASED DRONE SIGHTINGS
Model aviation guidelines, published by the FAA, urge hobbyist drone pilots to operate at least 5 miles from airports, and never more than 400 feet above the ground. Despite its recommendations and awareness campaigns, earlier today the FAA released a statement saying that in 2015, helicopter and airplane pilots have already reported more than twice as many close calls with drones as they did in all of 2014. In November, a helicopter serving as an aerial ambulance encountered a drone, and had to take evasive action to avoid it. The helicopter was flying at 1,000 feet, just two miles from Fresno Yosemite International airport, and the pilot reports that the drone was at the same altitude.
Pilot reports of unmanned aircraft have increased dramatically over the past year, from a total of 238 sightings in all of 2014, to more than 650 by August 9 of this year. The FAA wants to send out a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal. Unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time.
Even as hobbyists and industry groups coordinate with the FAA to make sure that unmanned aviation is safe and fun for all in the sky, there are visible frustrations with a lack of clarity or progress on the rules that govern drones. The question isn’t whether people are going to keep flying drones; that seems pretty inevitable. The question is whether the law will be finalized in time to effect human behavior.
Meanwhile the FAA has apparently published a ‘No Drone Zone’ sign (top), although it is not yet confirmed whether it is ‘official’. Ultimate Symbol has developed a new ‘Drones Not Allowed’ symbol (below), which is based on the most ubiquitous current drone designs. It will be available as a vector download in early 2016 as part of ‘Official Signs & Icons 3’.