FAA Drone Sightings Database

Much is made by the press about the FAA Drone Sightings Database,

but little of what the press says is based in fact.

Drone SIGHTINGS are not incidents.  They are just what the report says: Someone thought they saw a drone.

The vast majority of the reports included the words: “NO EVASIVE ACTION”. Hardly what the press is describing as: “There’s a drone – we’re all going to die”.

Keep things in perspective. Of course there will be more sightings, there are more drones. Duh!

But, as in their previous report (November 2014) the threshold of making the list is really low.  And some of the drones reported are clearly high performance aircraft unseen by anyone in the civil drone world, or at altitudes which are impossible for personal drones because their batteries would be exhausted by the time they got there.

There is also the pilot report of a collision with a drone. Complete with blood, guts and feathers. Does your drone quack?

The FAA database are unfiltered reports of sightings. Originally intended to be an internal document, they were forced to go public with it in a FOIA challenge in 2014. I am still reading through the reports to find the silliest one. Last year that crown went to the report of a drone in a tree.

Runner-up candidates:
“OBSERVED UAS WITH BLUE LIGHTS AT 12,000 FEET, 30 SE OF JFK.”
Uh, that’s over the Atlantic Ocean – 30 miles?  No civil drone can fly that high and that far.

Or this one:
“PRELIM INFO FROM FAA OPS: ILM/UAS INCIDENT/1203E/CMH ATCT ADVISED MILITARY SAM460, UNKN TYPE GULFSTREAM, REPORTED GREEN AND RED HOURGLASS SHAPED UAS PASSED 100 – 200 FEET OFF RIGHT SIDE OF ACFT AT 10,500 FEET 8 E ILM. NO EVASIVE ACTION REPORTED. LEO NOT NOTIFIED.”
A drone at 10,500 ft? How fast is the Gulfstream going which normally cruises at Mach 0.8? And he identified a drone with that much clarity.

And the third candidate:
“PRELIM INFO FROM FAA OPS: HAYWARD, CA/UAS INCIDENT/0359P/NORCAL TRACON ADVISED REDDING AERO ENTERPRISES 494, CESSNA C402, VNY – HWD, OBSERVED A UAS, 3-4 FEET OFF WING, 8,000 FEET 30 SE HWD. UAS PROCEEDED TO FOLLOW ACFT TO HWD. NO EVASIVE ACTION REPORTED. LEOS NOT NOTIFIED.”
Please, what UAS will be able to “follow acft to HWD” for 30 miles at more than 150 kts?

But the top contender for a silly report is:
“PRELIM INFO FROM FAA OPS: SFO/UAS INCIDENT/1340P/NO CAL TRACON ADVISED SOUTHWEST 638, B737, REPORTED A UAS OR BALLOON AT 10,000 FEET 6 NW SFO. NO DESCRIPTION GIVEN. NO EVASIVE ACTION TAKEN. SAN FRANCISCO PD”
I think saw something at 10,000 ft – it must be a drone.

The drone reports are being used to promote fear mongering. What is disturbing is how every report is called a “close call” even when the reported “drone” is hundreds or even thousands of feet from any aircraft.

Most disturbing for many reasons is the fact that most of the “sighted” drone activities apparently violated no FAA rules. There is no FAA rule that drones must fly below 400 ft – it is a guideline. There is no FAA rule that a drone operator must obtain ATC permission to fly near an airport – the policy is that the hobby aircraft operator only must notify ATC. There is a PROPOSED rule (Part 107) which would require registration of the aircraft and certification of the operators, but it is not the rule today. Yet the local FAA and Police personnel act as if Part 107 was already law.

Where’s the blood and mayhem to justify the perception that small personal drones are a threat to public safety?

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