Drone Reports 2014: The Facts And The Fiction

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen the big news outlets reporting a spike in near misses between drones and manned aircraft. There are a few data sources that are feeding this frenzy, so Techenstein.com has drilled down into the reports and extracted some very interesting data. Let’s take a look.

First I should talk about where this data is coming from, because it makes an interesting part of the story. The FAA has a database that is accessible to us lowly taxpayers here. There are actually a couple of databases available there, one important one being the NASA database ‘ASRS’ because pilots can report all kind of things there to help improve aviation safety, without launching a whole FAA inquiry. Searching in all of these databases however turns up a relatively small number of reports.

Recently, the Washington Post published a list of 25 more incidents, seemingly attributed to the FAA’s database, however most of these reports are nowhere to be found. The FAA has also been publicly claiming ‘near daily’ incidents. So where’s the reports? Well the New York Times was just able to get a list of reports, and published it.

I’ve now combined the WP reports, the NYT reports, and all the reports I can get out of the FAA’s database, and correlated related incidents, de-duplicated everything, and I think I now have the cleanest report available. Some basic stats:

Total number of reports: 191
Unconfirmed (only from NYT or WP): 181
Confirmed (In FAA or NASA DB): 10

What I am calling ‘Unconfirmed’ are those reports that I can’t find in the FAA or NASA databases. If I can get my hands on the actual FAA released information, I can then confirm more of these reports.

The location of the reports is distributed as one would expect – mostly around the population centers where there are more ‘drones’ and more manned aircraft.

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