Broward News

Drone Nearly Collided With Airliner Over Florida

The Federal Aviation Administration says an unmanned drone nearly collided with a commercial US Airways jet over Florida several weeks ago.

The FAA says the possibility of drones and planes crashing into one another is becoming more and more a threat.

According to reports, on March 22, the 50-seat airliner almost crashed into the drone as the plane approached the Tallahassee Regional Airport at about 2,300 feet.

The FAA has no idea who was piloting the drone over Florida or where it came from.

The US Airways pilot told the FAA that his plane came so close to the drone, he was sure he had hit it. He described it as a camouflaged F-4 fixed-wing aircraft.

The FAA also isn't sure if it was a privately owned or military drone, though the U.S. government says it's drones aren't camouflaged.

So far, 500 public entities have permission to use police drones. Drones for commercial use exist only in Alaska. According to the FAA, a drone pilot is required to notify the airport operator and air traffic control when a drone is in the sky within five miles of a respective airport.

US Airways says it's investigating the March incident.

The FAA says that it investigated but that efforts to identify the drone's pilot proved futile.

"Our challenge is to integrate unmanned aircraft into the busiest, most complex airspace in the world," the agency said in a statement released Friday. "Introduction of unmanned aircraft into America's airspace must take place incrementally and with the interest of safety first."

At a San Francisco drone conference last week, the head of the unmanned-aircraft division of the FAA, Jim Williams, said that the results of a drone being sucked into a jet's engine during midflight would prove to be destructive.

"Imagine a metal-and-plastic object, especially that big lithium battery, going into a high-speed turbine engine. The results could be catastrophic."

Williams also said the likelihood of this type of accident is becoming more and more prevalent.

"The risk for a small UAS to be ingested into a passenger airline engine is very real," he said at the conference.

You can watch video of Williams speaking at the conference below.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph