The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently released a list of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flights flagged by air traffic control this year, but, according to several reports, it does not accurately depict how the technology operates in national airspace.
The New York Times reported what it calls the FAA’s “tally of drone misbehavior,” which comprises UAV sightings relayed from air traffic control centers to the agency. It does not include sightings from other sources, such as police.
The article says the FAA explained, in a statement, that there have been around 25 incidents per month from airplane pilots who spotted a UAV.
The New York Times writes that the tally “provides a good idea of why” there is a rising safety concern for the technology. However, a Forbes article says it is merely a “compilation of unsubstantiated reports.”
According to Forbes, out of the 194 reported incidents, 48 were large, high-altitude UAVs; 85 were an unknown type; and 61 were “likely a small model helicopter.”
The Forbes article also points out that not every sighting on the list was even proven to have an “actual or potential safety impact.” For example, a reported DJI Phantom flight listed “no property damage or impact” and “no other aircraft involved,” but it was still included in the tally, among others with no conclusion of a safety concern.
The Small UAV Coalition said in a statement that the list demonstrates how UAV technology development and consumer and commercial demand for UAVs is outpacing regulation, creating an even more urgent need for clarity from the FAA.
The draft of the FAA’s rules for small UAV operations – which will be followed by an opportunity for the public to provide input – is expected to come out soon. Recent reports claimed the proposed rules will mandate that operators obtain a flying license and fly only during the daytime. The agency is also reportedly planning to lump together all UAVs under 55 pounds and subject them to the same rules.
In a recent letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, several U.S. senators said they are “concerned that [these] proposed regulations … will be costly [and] needlessly restrictive.”
Forbes says it would be “particularly disturbing” for this data to have an impact on the regulations.