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Close calls between drones and airplanes on the rise, leaving pilots and instructors concerned

Posted at 10:19 AM, Mar 18, 2019

Close calls between drones and airplanes are on the rise. Researchers now say drones could be more deadly than collisions with birds.

Pilot Jake Fredericks was coming in for a landing when he says a drone shot up right in front of him, coming up through the clouds when he was on instrument approach.

He estimates it was only 200 feet in front of him.

"I felt like my life flashed before my eyes, you know if we would have hit that thing, that could have potentially been death for us," he said.

Pilot Jeff Munford told us last year about his close call with a drone as he flew over the Georgia-Florida line.

Nationwide, reports of drone sightings by pilots has shot up nearly 91 percent since 2015.

FAA rules prohibit people from flying drones within five miles of an airport or above 400 feet without permission.

The I-Team found Florida pilots reported 288 close calls with drones last year, including two dozen in the Tampa Bay area.

Kevin Poorman of the University of Dayton's research institute has been doing bird strike testing for more than two decades.

His researchers fired both a replica bird and a two pound drone at a wing.

"If you look from the exterior, it looks like the bird does more external damage, but the drone had the ability to immediately puncture right through and carry farther to do more damage," Poorman said. "If you go to a 10 pound drone, that's five times the energy."

Pilot and Drone instructor Jason Lorenzon believes it's important to teach drone pilots the rules of the sky, especially as the FAA expects the number of drones to approach 3 million by 2022.

"You can go and pick one of these up off Amazon and it doesn't come with that extensive of a pilot operating handbook, let alone rules of the national airspace system. How do you expect Joe Consumer who just purchased it to know the rules?" he said.