In the past few months, alleged drone sightings have stalled operations at Gatwick, Heathrow, and Newark airports. While the culprit at Gatwick turned out to be a construction crane, drone sightings at Newark could not be substantiated.
Every month, hundreds of UAS sightings are reported to the FAA. In this blog post, we have consolidated all of this data (from Q4, 2014 – Q2, 2018) and presented it transparently.
Analyzing the data revealed several interesting trends. First of all, total drone sightings have shown a steep YOY increase from 2015 onwards. From 1,210 sightings in 2015 to 1,762 in 2016, the total reported sightings climbed to 2,121 in 2017. This rise in sightings, however, does not seem alarming when we factor in the massive increase in drone registrations. With total drone registrations swelling to a million, we certainly expect to witness a proportionate rise in drone sightings.
Analyzing Data - When Do You Stand a Higher Chance of Being Reported to the FAA?
When we segmented the data to do analysis by quarter, we found that higher sightings were reported in Q2 and Q3 compared to Q1 and Q4. So, when you fly in the cold, you have a smaller chance of being reported to the FAA.
A statewide analysis revealed that there were more sightings reported in the more populous states like California, New York, and Florida. Interestingly, as per the Center for the Study of the Drones at Bard College, ten states – California, Texas, Florida, New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Virginia – account for 55% of all registered non-hobbyist drones. Most of these states reported a high number of sightings too.
A citywide analysis revealed the top 5 cities with the maximum UAS sightings – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Miami.
Not really. First and foremost, there are many enthusiastic bystanders with superficial knowledge about drone laws who tend to report sightings that shouldn't be reported. And secondly, this rise in sightings is in line with the massive surge in drone usage. For instance, in 2016, people bought 2.4 million hobbyist drones – a 100% increase over 2015.
However, if you witness someone flying without a license or behaving irresponsibly AND you have solid evidence to back up your claim, you should report it to the FAA immediately. Check out our previous blog post, “How to Effectively Deal with Irresponsible and Unlicensed Drone Pilots”, for detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to do so.
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