After a spate of recent news articles about drone and passenger aircraft interactions, the AMA has offered their help in investigating the incidents to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Recreational drone operators have taken a lot of negative publicity in recent weeks. An incident reported in Quebec city involved a drone and a passenger jet. A reported incident between a Blackhawk Army helicopter and a drone resulted in an embarassing interview with an operator clearly unaware of the rules. The crash landing of a student-flown small helicopter in South Carolina last week was blamed on a drone. And footage released on YouTube seemed to indicate that a drone actually dive-bombed a passenger jet flying into a Las Vegas airport last month.
While not all of the incidents have been proven – and many alleged drone incidents were later found to be completely false – the sheer volume of reports has caused a problem for drone operators. All of the bad publicity has led to heavy condemnation by the commercial drone industry. Licensed operators who feel that drones are getting a bad name have called repeatedly for strong punitive action by the FAA against “rogue drones.” But the AMA, advocating for both commercial and recreational drone operators and representing members who are flying under their community-based organization safety guidelines, is calling for a reasoned response and careful investigation.
In a letter sent to Robert Sumwalt, the Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, the AMA offered to lend assistance and expertise in investigations.
“In light of recent incidents involving drones, the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) would like to offer our expertise and resources to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to assist in the investigation of any potential manned and unmanned aircraft incidents,” says the letter. Emphasizing that AMA members have coexisted with passenger aircraft without incident for over 80 years, long before the advent of drones, the AMA says that the entire community needs to fully understand the reported incidents. “…There’s a great deal of media sensationalism surrounding these incidents, but what we really need are facts.”
While asking for careful investigation, the AMA also asks for serious action against drone operators shown to be flying recklessly. “In addition to offering our expertise, AMA urges the NTSB to recommend tough and severe penalties for any drone operator endangering the safety of other aircraft and/or people on the ground. Tougher enforcement, including civil and criminal penalties, and possibly jail time,will serve as a deterrent to others who flaunt existing drone laws.”