Recent reports suggest many near-misses involving drones and airplanes. More needs to be done to keep close calls from resulting in full-blown head-on collisions.
There’s not much preventing collision between UAVs and civilian airplanes mid-air.
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A report revealed that 241 near-misses between UAVs and manned aircraft have been avoided. Pilots have had to change directions in order to avoid incoming drones in 28 of incidents meeting the Federal Aviation Administration’s definition of a near-collision.
Bard’s College Center for the Study of the Drone discovered that 90 out of the close-calls involved commercial jets, as contained in their analysis of the incidents.
The incidents call for an overhaul of current regulations of drones in airspace in favor of new effective ones. Something has got to change before it gets even worse. New methods are said to be on the way.
The co-director of the drone center, Dan Gettinger, said, “It’s hard to say if or when there might be a drone crash, but certainly we’ve seen an increase in the number of reports and an increase in the number of close counters.”
The current regulations prohibit drones from flying within five miles of an airport or higher than 400 feet. Ironically, most of the incidents are said to have happened within the drone-prohibited zone.
It has yet to be ascertained for a fact what might happen should an aircraft collide with a small drone. Major concerns border on drone interfering with aircraft engines or cockpits, although airplanes have had collisions with birds in the past.
Reports said, “With sufficient speed, bird strikes have been known to penetrate the cockpit. It’s entirely possible then that a drone could also break through into a cockpit, potentially causing serious harm to the pilots or other occupants.”
Helicopters have been said to be more vulnerable as they have been accounted for 38 near-misses.
With growth in the popularity of drones, some hope to create an air-control system that will capture the influx of drones.
A system is being developed by a team at Stanford University that can act as a warning signal to multiple drones before they come into violent contact with each other and reroute them. The system is similar to the technology currently used in aiding commercial airplanes avoid mid-air contact. It was developed by Mykel Kochenderfer, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University, while he was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The system is still undergoing rigorous testing and is likely to form a part of an air-traffic control system established by NASA in 2019. In the meanwhile, the best bet may involve counting on drone producers and sellers.
Chinese and bestselling UAV producer, DJI, produces a small drone at a cost of $1,000 each. They have recently rolled out updates that reveal users who are within the prohibited airspace around airports, parade and sporting areas. Should the users decide against staying out of the prohibited airspace, the UAV will refuse to move.
DJI’s Michael Perry reportedly said, “It’s like flying into an invisible wall.”
Cities with the most reported incidents include New York/Newark, N.J., 86; Los Angeles, 39; Miami, 24; Chicago, 20; Boston, 20; San Jose, Calif., 19; Washington, 19; Atlanta, 17; Seattle, 17; San Diego, 14; Orlando, Florida, 13; Houston, 12; Portland, Ore., 12; Dallas/Fort Worth, 11; and Denver, 10.