By: Joe Bartels
LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Federal Aviation Administration reports reveal a steady increase in possible illegal drone operations including several near-misses for aircraft headed to McCarran International Airport.
The reports cover a span of years between 2014 to 2018 and show 95 reported drone sightings in the Las Vegas area.
“It is a problem, the reports reflect the evidence that it is a problem,” said Dr. Chris Walach, Director of the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site.
Dr. Walach said the number of reported drone sightings to the authorities is on pace to double in 2018 compared to the previous year.
“If a manned aviator can see the actual rotor blades on a drone, that means that drone is fairly close and certainly within range of impacting its rotor blades, or if it has a jet engine, getting sucked into a jet engine which has catastrophic consequences,” said Dr. Walach.
The reports reveal a twin-engine jet reported a near-collision with a drone less than 5 miles from McCarran International Airport in September 2017.
In July 2017, an Airbus A-320 on a 1.5-mile final approach reported a drone fly approximately 200 feet or less above the aircraft.
In June 2018, McCarran operations staff found a drone on a taxiway at the airport, according to FAA reports.
In most of the 95 reported sightings, the reports were passed along to law enforcement.
“Both the education side and the enforcement side with technology has to close the gap,” said Dr. Walach.
Dr. Walach said drone pilot training is only part of the solution and adds technology to help identify rogue drone operators is quickly coming online.
NASA is also researching a system to track drones in the air and the system could be rolled out as soon as 2019.