drone too close to commercial aircraft

Close encounters of the drone kind

California leads the nation with the number of potentially dangerous encounters between drones and other aircraft, according to a closely held state information fusion center report.

The state had more disclosed unauthorized unmanned aircraft system encounters than any other state between October 2015 and September 2016, according to an unclassified, for-official-use-only bulletin from the California State Threat Assessment Center.

The public safety bulletin, posted on the California Fire Chiefs Association website on Nov. 15, quoted Federal Aviation Administration data that determined the state accounted for 21 percent of reported encounters nationwide.

“These encounters continue to pose a direct risk to public safety air assets,” it said.

Of the 1,744 close encounters reported nationwide in the period, 358 of them were in California. Although 64 cities in the state reported encounters, not surprisingly, Los Angeles recorded the most with 74, accounting for nearly half of the encounters in those major metro areas.

Since June 2016, there have been at least nine FAA investigations of UAS interfering with firefighting efforts in California and Utah, according to the report. The Forest Service and most fire departments require airborne firefighting efforts to be grounded once a UAS is spotted in operational areas, the bulletin said.

The Forest Service reported in July that in the 2014-2015 wildfire seasons, 15 drone intrusions complicated aerial firefighting efforts in California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Alaska, Minnesota and Montana.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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