On March 25, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a new list of 582 “drone sightings” covering the period August 21, 2015 through January 31, 2016 (“March 2016 data”).
The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) is pleased to see the FAA more accurately characterize its recent drone data as “sightings” and “reports” rather than the more inflammatory terminology that was used last summer.
AMA’s updated analysis of the new 582 FAA records continues to show that the number of “near misses” and “close calls” is a small percentage of the overall data set.
- The number of reported near misses and close calls in the March 2016 data is very small – just 3.3%. The vast majority of the reports are sightings, which even the FAA’s language acknowledges.
- Despite estimates that as many as one million drones were sold during the 2015 holiday season, the number of sightings has not increased as one might expect. In fact, the number of sightings appears to be declining after peaking in August 2015.
- A number of sightings may involve people flying responsibly and within the FAA’s current guidelines. In the 2 March 2016 data the AMA identified 38 reports of drones flying at or below 400 feet.
- Like the August 2015 data, the March 2016 data contains reports of several objects other than drones, including balloons, birds, a rocket and even a jet pack. The FAA’s drone data continues to be a “catch all” for any object spotted in the sky.
- Despite the FAA’s intent to find and punish careless and reckless operators, law enforcement notifications appear to be on the decline.