Congressional hearing addresses drone safety

On October 7 the House Transportation and Infrastructure Aviation Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss how the increasing use of relatively inexpensive drones is impacting aviation safety. A representative from the FAA testified that more than 600 drones have been reported by commercial pilots so far in 2015, which is up from 238 in 2014.

Below is an excerpt from an article at Government Technology:

…A representative from the United States Forest Service also testified at the hearing about incidents between firefighting aircraft and UASs. While Deputy Chief of State and Private Forestry James Hubbard said close encounters are not to the same scale as passenger aircraft, the frequency of incidents was enough to prompt concern within his agency.

“Our challenge is incursions. I wouldn’t say that our statistics are significant compared to everybody else’s, but the trend is a little worrisome,” he said in his testimony.

According to Hubbard, fire crews in 2015 saw 21 drone incursions in firefighting airspace, up from only 2 incursions in 2014. Of the 2015 encounters, 12 of them grounded aircraft until the drones were removed from the area.

Because of the low operating elevation of airtankers, Hubbard said UASs pose a real threat to firefighting crews and fire operations in general.

“Our risks are significant, I believe, if something were to happing in the air with a drone and our aircraft,” he said…

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