Reports of drones and unmanned aircrafts have increased substantially this year according to an alert by the Federal Aviation Administration Wednesday.
The increasing incidents and concerns are also causing grave concern about the growing number of dangerous situations. In the western regions of the United States, firefighters were forced to ground their operations battling wildfires in July because of unmanned aircrafts interfering with, or being seen in their immediate localities. Drones have been seen in the Washington D.C. area causing serious alarms about national security, safety of citizens, government officials and landmarks/buildings. This month, drones were found carrying drugs into the U.S. from Mexico.
The FAA says pilots have reported 650 sightings of unmanned aircraft from Jan.1 through August 9, 2015. This compares to only 238 detections in the total year of the previous year.
“The FAA wants to send out a clear message that operating drones around airplanes and helicopters is dangerous and illegal,” a news release and public notification stated on August 12, 2015. “Unauthorized operators may be subject to stiff fines and criminal charges, including possible jail time.”
The contrast in dramatic with 16 and 36 unmanned aircraft spotted in respectively in June and July of 2014. Pilots from 138 various types of aircraft, including large, commercial air liners reported observing drones at “altitudes of up to 10,000 feet during the month of June, and another 137 in July.”
“The FAA will continue to work closely with industry partners through the ‘Know Before You Fly’ campaign to educate unmanned aircraft users about where they can operate within the rules,” the agency stated. They are “also supporting the National Interagency Fire Center’s ‘If You Fly, We Can’t’ efforts to help reduce interference with firefighting operations.”
Federal, state, and local law enforcement entities are currently working aggressively with the FAA to investigate unauthorized operations of unmanned aircraft types. Many civil penalties have been imposed unauthorized flights around the nation. According to the agency, they have dozens of open enforcement cases.
“The FAA encourages the public to report unauthorized drone operations to local law enforcement and to help discourage this dangerous, illegal activity,” the agency added.
As early as 2005, Aerial Surveillance Vehicles (ASV) drones, known as Predator B, have been surveying and patrolling the U.S borders. In ten years, the Predator B program has assisted in the apprehension of more than 8,000 illegal aliens and the seizure of over 25,000 pounds of drugs, by providing real-time intelligence information from cameras, sensors and radar systems to law enforcement.
The Predator B drones have the ability to track drug cartel movement, assess hurricane damage and view other illegal activity from as high as 19,000 feet.
Critics have expressed concerns with the Obama Administration stance to allow drones for spying on Americans.