One hobby that is becoming increasingly popular is the flying of small and medium size drones in open fields and cities. After many dangerous incidents it appears this seemingly harmless play gets more and more out of hand.
The sightings and near collisions of drones next to airports has spiked up, people getting injured during recreational activities and recently a friend of mine had to call up the local firefighters to rescue his drone from a tree.
Pretty much anyone can buy and operate a drone, there are no restrictions on that. Nowadays you can add small cameras and other equipment to these devices and it has become very affordable at the same time. The captured images are sometimes absolutely stunning and I consider it a really cool hobby. I guess everyone who had a remote controlled car as a young child can relate to this.
The fun stops however when the drone becomes a security risk. This can either happen because the person operating it isn’t that experienced yet or when the power runs out. Wind or random malfunctions also play a role in these devices crashing.
In my residential area, yesterday a drone injured a child after it crashed into a group of people.
A larger scale of danger occurs when people fly these devices around major airports. CBS News New York (access here) reported about an incident which is already the third at JFK Airport in recent months:
Delta flight 407 flying from Orlando to New York’s JFK International Airport landed without incident on Friday after the crew reported an airborne object near the approach path to the runway.
The pilot reported having a close call with a drone. Talking with Air Traffic Control, the pilot reports seeing a drone on the southwest side of the plane about 100 feet below.
ATC warns two other planes of the drone sighting, but no other pilots reports seeing it. The incident took place at about 5 p.m.
The FAA is alarmed about this spike in drone operations and sightings. The online magazine nj.com (see their article here) wrote about the risks associated with this hobby, numbers of incidents and possible restrictions that are currently being considered.
Despite regulations that include a 400-foot altitude limit on drone flights, the FAA stated, “This year, 138 pilots reported seeing drones at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet during the month of June, and another 137 in July.”
The proliferation of drones flown remotely by people with no special training or expertise has raised concerns about safety and privacy, with reports of drones flying dangerously close to manned aircraft and interfering with emergency workers, and over private property otherwise concealed from prying eyes.
In February, the FAA proposed tighter rules for the unmanned craft, including a ban on evening flights and a speed limit of 100 miles per hour.
The Global Gateway Alliance, a Manhattan-based group that promotes improvements to the New York City area’s three major airports, called on the FAA to more strictly enforce existing rules limiting drones to a maximum altitude of 400 feet and airspace at least five miles from any airport.
From the world of show business comes another rather spectacular incident involving singer Enrique Iglesias. During a recent concert a drone approached the performer on stage and he reached out to it, the device cutting his hand severely (see NBC News article here) requiring surgery afterwards.
Enrique Iglesias underwent surgery on Monday and is expected to resume his tour next month after he injured his hand reaching out for a drone during a concert.
“Thank you to all for your concern and good wishes. Enrique is currently undergoing reconstructive hand surgery today. He will resume his tour July 3rd in Mexico City. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers,” said a representative from his team to the press.
On Saturday night at a concert in Tijuana, Mexico Iglesias grabbed a drone to show the audience a Point Of View shot.
All these incidents show that some sort of regulation concerning these devices is overdue. Maybe a license should be required to operate, in the very least restrictions put in place to prohibit flying them in crowded areas and restricted airspace such as around airports and airfields.
Are you flying a drone? What is your experience?