Federal officials say an airborne drone nearly collided with an American Airlines jet over Tallahassee, Florida earlier this year, raising questions about aviation safety as the number of drones in American airspace is skyrocketing.
The near-collision occurred March 22 between a 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-200 airliner and a camouflaged drone near the Tallahassee Regional Airport, Jim Williams, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration's Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) said Thursday, CNN reports. The aircraft were both operating at an altitude of approximately 2,300 feet at the time of the incident.
"The airline pilot said that the UAS was so close to his jet that he was sure he had collided with it," Williams said. "Thankfully, inspection of the airliner after landing found no damage."
Current FAA rules require drones to be kept below 400 feet above ground level and flown a sufficient distance from other aircraft. FAA regulations also mandate that private individuals flying model aircraft near airports notify airport operators and air traffic control facilities of their activities ahead of time.
The FAA is working on new rules governing unmanned drones, which have become increasingly popular in recent years among hobbyists, police, journalists and others.
The identity of the drone operator in the Tallahassee incident is still unknown. If found, he or she could be penalized under federal or state law.