Drones are increasingly venturing into restricted airspace and flying dangerously close to aeroplanes and helicopters, with the Federal Aviation Administration reporting hundreds of drone incidents during the past six months.
Among the incidents catalogued in a new FAA report that runs from Augsut 2015 to January 2016 are several reports by airline pilots of “near misses” with drones.
In one incident in November, a helicopter departing the Children’s Hospital in Saint Louis had to take evasive action with a 60 degree banking turn to avoid a black, four-propeller drone at 1,400 feet altitude. In another incident in August, a pilot flying at 7,000 feet near JFK airport reported seeing a “black UAS with a purple fin thing” passing by in the opposite direction, a mere 20 feet to the right of the aircraft.
Consumer drones have become increasingly popular among hobbyists, tech aficionados and media organisations in recent years, and tech companies including Intel, GoPro and Samsung are racing to cash in on the trend. Amazon and Google are developing drones they hope could whisk packages directly to consumer doorsteps, bringing near-instant delivery to their e-commerce services.
But the proliferation of drones is raising all sorts of new safety and security concerns, particularly as drones fly into parts of the sky that have traditionally been subject to strict air traffic control systems. Some companies are even developing innovative ways to shoot down or disable unauthorised drones.
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