In an “all show, no action” press release the FAA said today that recent incidents where unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also known as “drones,” interfered with manned aircraft involved in wild land firefighting operations. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is supporting a U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service message to drone operators: If you fly; we can’t.
What is it going to take – a commercial airliner knocked out of the sky by a drone that was sucked into a jet engine before the FAA exercises its right to actually controlling national airspace? Already drones have been reported on the approaches to dozens upon dozens of large airports, including LAX – Los Angeles. It’s just a question of time before disaster happens.
“Flying a drone near aerial firefighting aircraft doesn’t just pose a hazard to the pilots,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “When aircraft are grounded because an unmanned aircraft is in the vicinity, lives are put at greater risk.”
Really – so what are you doing about it?
While a so-called temporary flight restriction (TFR) is put in place around wildfires to protect firefighting aircraft, the unlicensed, unregulated drones are now routinely violating the order. No one other than the agencies involved in the firefighting effort can fly any manned or unmanned aircraft in such a TFR. Yet there is no enforcement.
Anyone who violates a TFR and endangers the safety of manned aircraft could be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties, although not one enforcement case to AutoInformed’s knowledge has been pursued. Even if there is no TFR, operating a UAS could still pose a hazard to firefighting aircraft and would violate Federal Aviation Regulations.
It is time to clean up this mess. Drones should be registered as small aircraft, have transponders aboard and the operator should have a pilot’s license.