Judging by the growing media reports of alleged near miss incidents between drones and manned aircraft, a casual observer could be led to believe that such nightmare scenarios are becoming commonplace. According to the Washington Post: “Pilots have reported a surge in close calls with drones: nearly 700 incidents so far this year [as of August], according to FAA statistics, about triple the number recorded for all of 2014.”
However, one of the largest UAV hobbyist groups says that number has been misreported and misunderstood.
Last week, the Academy of Model Aeronautics, a group for 180,000 hobbyists, released its own analysis of the FAA report and counters that the numbers just don’t add up.
“Our analysis found that the number of ‘near misses’ is substantially lower than the number that was previously presented,” said AMA executive director Dave Mathewson.
The AMA report found that only about 3.5 percent — or 27 out of the 764 records — were “identified with explicit notations as a near miss or near mid-air collision.”
“Only a fraction of the records were legitimately reported close calls and near misses,” the report states. “Some didn’t involve drones at all.”
Another area of concern is the fact that the FAA records include military UAV crashes and incidents – a fact that may be lost on many media reports often leading to assumptions that the incidents in the FAA report only involve civilian or commercial drones.
“Some of the most serious incidents in the FAA data including all actual crashes involve government-authorized military drones, not civilian drones,” the AMA report added.
Indeed many sightings and reports within the FAA’s “more than 700” data set were just that — sightings without further danger or any trouble at all. “Some sightings appear to involve people flying responsibly and within the FAA’s current recreational guidelines,” the AMA reported, adding that “many things in the air – from balloons and birds to model rockets and mini blimps – are mistaken for, or reported as, drone sightings even when they are not.”
Mathewson says his organization is dedicated to helping the FAA and the civilian drone community promote data-driven safety protocol backed by accurate statistics. “AMA has worked closely with the FAA for many years, and we continue to consider the agency a partner in promoting model aircraft and consumer drone safety,” he said. “We believe the FAA’s drone data could help guide policy conversations about drones and help all stakeholders identify solutions to mitigate true safety risks. But this is only possible if we take the time to analyze and accurately characterize the data.”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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