Pilot drone sightings continue to rise

Posted at 5:01 PM, Mar 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-26 17:01:25-04
(CNN) — The skies above continue to be a rogue drone zone.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement Friday that it now receives more than 100 reports of drone sightings a month from pilots, air traffic controllers and citizens, and reports of drone sightings have increased dramatically over the past two years.

In an updated list of sightings, the FAA detailed incidents across the country where pilots reported drones coming within feet of their aircraft. In one instance on January 30, the pilot of a medical helicopter in Miami reported a drone 100 feet below it and half a mile away from its position. Eight days earlier, a Southwest Airlines pilot reported seeing a gold saucer-shaped drone flying 100 feet below his right wing while the aircraft was at 5,200 feet.

Some of the sightings occurred during the most critical points of flight — and when most accidents happen — takeoff and landing.

In Atlanta on January 30, an Express Jet pilot reported a drone 300 feet below as the aircraft was descending to go in for landing.

It’s not just commercial pilots calling in the sightings. General aviation pilots are spotting them, too. The pilot of a Cessna c172 recently reported a drone as “big as a pizza box” operating 200 feet below him while the aircraft was flying at 3,200 feet.

Drone hobbyists are supposed to keep their drones below 400 feet, avoid flying within five miles of an airport and must keep away from aircraft.

The FAA and the Department of Homeland Security recently successfully tested a new prototype technology called SkyTracker, which is designed to find rogue drones flying near airports. The test is a key step toward a system that may help protect the hundreds of thousands of travelers who take to the air in the United States every day.