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New Investigation Discovers Rogue Drones are Buzzing Commercial Airplanes

June 24, 2014 at 4:42 PM | by | ()

Just posted online: part 3 of the Washington Post's "Hazard Above" investigative series on drones. Based on the premise that drones are "set to become a widespread reality in American skies," the Post spent a year investigating whether pilotless plane thingys will accidentally kill everybody. Over 50,000 pages of accident and other records were apparently examined and, indeed, it does turn out that we're all going to die.

We're paraphrasing and exaggerating for effect, of course, but not really.

Today's article conveys FAA records documenting a couple of incidents that happened just last month. Pilots flying into LaGuardia and LAX reported that there were drones hovering at high altitudes where - in those pilots' humble opinions - drones had no business hovering. These weren't model airplanes either. The LAX one was the size of a garbage can, the LaGuardia one may have had a wingspan as wide as 15ft. Which is to say, maybe the pilots had a point.

Those incidents turn out to be among the 15 times, in just the last two years, when the FAA says drones got way, way too close to commercial airplanes. A NASA database cataloged around 50 close calls that occurred in midair. And none of that counts the possibility that drones are also accidentally crashing now and again.

Ultimately this is more of a travel politics story than a travel safety story. Congress has been pressing the FAA to open up the skies to commercial drones, which everyone expects will put thousands of remote controlled airplanes in the sky. The FAA says it's trying to meet lawmaker demands without endangering commercial flights, and is taking heat for not moving fast enough. In the meantime rogue drones are buzzing dozens of commercial flights.

We've got a great feeling about this.

[Photo: Washington Post]

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