Drones are popping up everywhere, and as the holidays are approaching, shoppers may be considering picking one up for a gift.
However, as their popularity grows, pilots in Connecticut are worried about the dangers they could pose to others.
Erick Royer said he doesn’t mind letting his son periodically take control of one of his drones.
“It’s a great family activity,” he said. “I really like them because I like the ability to have an eye in the sky, being able to take high definition photographs in the sky.”
By Christmas, the Federal Aviation Administration said it estimates there could be more than one million drones in the sky. Part of the reason is how cheap they are. They can be bought at Walmart.com for under $50.
“The technology has made it so that they're super easy to fly,” Royer said.
The Consumer Electronics Association has called 2015 the “defining year for drones.”
Sales of drones are up 63 percent over last year.
However, pilots like Dr. Michael Teiger said the popularity of drones is worrisome.
“They could hit my wing. They could hit my windshield and cause a lot of problems,” Teiger said.
According to the FAA, more and more pilots are reporting seeing drones in the sky. Just this year alone, there have been seven reports of drone sightings.
“There's no way to avoid something that's up there,” Teiger said.
In June, a pilot flying near Groton told the FAA and Connecticut State Police that he was forced to take a sharp left turn after seeing a drone near his plane.
Police were unable to find the object.
“There's no ‘what to do’ procedure that we fly by. It would be really worrisome. I wouldn't want to see one when I’m flying,” Teiger added.
Right now, if someone has a drone, they don’t need permission from the federal government to fly it below 400 feet in the air.
If a drone user is going to use it to make money for a business, the FAA does require permission.
Recently, the Department of Transportation said it wanted to require drone operators to register with them.
A state task force is looking into how it would work and is expected to report back before Thanksgiving.
“Rule-making is slow and general and it can take months, even years to develop good strong policy. We're just not there yet,” Teiger said.
In Connecticut, drones have not caused any plane crashes so far.
Now, the federal government is hoping their latest move will prevent a tragedy from happening.
“I think there should be a punishment for somebody who is caught flying near an airport. I wouldn't want to be on a 737 and have an accident because a drone got taken into an engine,” Royer said.
“If drones notify Air Traffic Control that they're out there, which is what they're supposed to do, I wouldn't have any problem with them in the air space as long as we know where they are and they know where we are,” Teiger said.
Even if you see a drone, other than its color, there is no way to identify who it belongs to or where the operator is.
This is something the federal government is looking into, to see how to regulate them to keep pilots and enthusiasts safe.
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