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Authorities Should Ground Any Commercial Drone Operations’ – Ex-NTSB Head

© AP Photo / Kin CheungAn employee from DJI Technology Co. demonstrates the remote flying with his Phantom 2 Vision+ drone in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong province.
An employee from DJI Technology Co. demonstrates the remote flying with his Phantom 2 Vision+ drone in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong province. - Sputnik International
An ex-chairman of the US National Transportation Safety Board has lambasted the Federal Aviation Administration for not taking solid measures to prevent drone collisions with aircraft, the likelihood of which is increasing as drone sales grow.

A technician prepares an unmanned surveillance drone at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair at the ExCeL centre in east London, on September 10, 2013 - Sputnik International
US Pilots on High Alert After Several Near-Miss Flight Collisions With UAVs
Jim Hall, former long-term head of the US National Transportation Safety Board, slammed the FAA in a column for USA Today on Thursday. According to Hall, the agency has been too passive in responding to challenges posed by hundreds of thousands of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) sharing US airspace.

Referring to a recent incident in which a recreational drone nearly collided with a commercial aircraft, Hall criticized the FAA for its failure to address concerns of air traffic congestion in a timely manner.

“Officials still say they prefer public education campaigns. The FAA did propose rules in February, rules that have been in the works for years. There is no word on when regulations will actually be put in place,” the safety expert wrote.

Proposing measures to regulate drone use, Hall said US airspace needs to be closed to UAVs until clear rules have been put in place.

“Until drones are strictly regulated — including operating rules, registration requirements and penalties for interfering with other aircraft that have teeth — the FAA should ground any commercial unmanned aircraft operations,” Hall wrote.

“We’ve played Russian roulette with drones long enough,” he added.

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The FAA announced last week that there have been nearly 650 incidents of rogue drones endangering aircraft this year, already over twice as many as 2014.

This may be problematic, as a drone colliding with a jet engine could disable the aircraft. A collision with the body of a commercial jet could also potentially damage the surface of a plane. This could potentially affect airflow and make the aircraft difficult to control.

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In addition to near-collisions with commercial aircraft, recent incidents involving drones include security concerns when unidentified UAVs entered restricted airspace, and even several cases of drones interfering with firefighting operations in California.

Firefighters battling California wildfires were forced to ground their efforts at least 13 times after rogue UAVs interfered.

These examples have led many to call for structured regulation for hobbyists and stiff penalties for violators.

As US officials grapple with how to regulate drones, the Consumer Electronics Association expects drone sales to skyrocket in the country. 2015 could see the sale of over 1 million recreational UAVs.

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