Drone Reports 2014: The Facts And The Fiction

Another telling piece of information is where, vertically speaking, these reported UAVs are.

Some of these are quite high, as high as 25,000 feet. What this shows is that we are not completely talking about out of control hobbyists. These reports include military UAVs that lost control links, deviated outside of their airspace, and were otherwise spotted by airline pilots. The median altitude turns out to be 2,000 feet. Not all reports had altitudes however;

PRELIM INFO FROM FAA OPS: WASHINGTON, DC/UAS INCIDENT/10005/DC PD REPORTED ARREST OF INDIVIDUAL STUCK IN TREE AT FREEDOM PLAZA, INTERSECTION OF 14TH ST AND PENNSYLVANIA AVE, NW, AFTER HE CLIMBED UP THE TREE TO RETRIEVE HIS UAS THAT HAD CRASHED INTO THE SAME TREE.

So yea, one report is a guy stuck in a tree…
You can see that over time, the reports have been more frequent. This can either be from an increase in UAV activity, or can also be from an increase in reporting. It’s difficult to see much change in the reported altitude however, although it is reasonable to expect a trend down due to additional reports coming from stadiums and sporting events, and local law enforcement.

Now here is where we get into some of the more important factors in these reports. Many of the reports are simply a pilot reporting having seen a drone, UAV, R/C aircraft, or whatever from some distance. They may have reported something that was at a safe distance or even at tree top level, just in case. In other cases they reported a miltary drone above them at a higher altitude. And in some cases, the drone was in fact very close to them. In the cases where the drone was within a few hundred feet of the manned aircraft, I counted it as a near miss. There were a few other cases where a drone overflew an airport, so I counted those as well even though they did not come close to an aircraft.

So we can start to see that these ‘daily’ incidents are not quite as bad as the FAA has lead the media to believe. The problem is that the media usually doesn’t dive into the numbers, so they go with the headline that will get the viewers/readers.

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