There has yet to be a confirmed US collision between a drone and a manned aircraft, but there's a growing number of close calls as drones fly where they least belong—near airports. A report released Friday counted at least 241 reports of close encounters between drones and manned aircraft that meet the Federal Aviation Administration's definition of a near-collision, including 28 incidents in which pilots had to veer out of the way. The analysis by Bard College's Center for the Study of the Drone found that 90 of the close drone encounters involved commercial jets. The FAA defines a near-collision as two aircraft flying within 500 feet of each other. In 51 of the incidents studied, the drone-to-aircraft clearance was 50 feet or less, the report said.
Most of the sightings occurred within 5 miles of an airport and at altitudes higher than 400 feet. Those are spaces in which the FAA prohibits drones from flying, raising questions about the effectiveness of the rules. The cities with the most incidents were New York, Newark, Los Angeles, and Miami. The report is based on an analysis of government records detailing 921 incidents involving drones and manned aircraft between Dec. 17, 2013 and Sept. 12, 2015. Researchers cautioned that it's hard for pilots to judge their distance from another object when flying at high speeds. The majority of the incidents, 64%, were sightings of drones in the vicinity of other aircraft with no immediate threat of collision. The Bard report is the first comprehensive analysis of the sightings by researchers outside the aviation community.