An investigation has been launched by the Federal Aviation Administration after drone footage recently surfaced showing a drone flying shockingly close to a Frontier Airlines plane landing in Las Vegas.
The 27-second video shows the drone flying in the air near McCarran International Airport with a plane seen approaching from a distance. The video continues as the plane then flies toward the drone before being seen just below the device as the drone turns around.
According to CBS affiliate Las Vegas Now, the drone took off from Whitney Park but the date of the incident is not known.
“We became aware of this incident this afternoon and we are investigating,” said Ian Gregor with the FCC in a statement to CBS.
FAA regulations limit unmanned aircraft operators from flying their device to no more than 400 feet unless they’re flying within 400 feet of a structure, then you can fly no higher than 400 feet above the top of the structure.
People who fly a drone unsafely can face fines of $1,437 per violation, according to regulations, while businesses could see up to $32,666 per violation.
Regulations over unmanned aircraft also state unsafe drone piloting could see federal criminal penalties including fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to three years.
Stephen Ganyard, former deputy assistant secretary of state and a retired U.S. Marine colonel, told ABC News the video is concerning.
“This video would suggest that this drone operator intentionally was trying to intercept airplanes,” Ganyard said.
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The FAA reports it’s receiving more than 100 calls a month of drones getting too close to planes and commercial airliners, and close calls like the one in Vegas are being seen more and more both in North America and abroad, and just last October, one struck an aircraft for the first time in Canada.
In Quebec in October 2017, a collision between a Skyjet plane and a drone occurred near Quebec City’s airport.
The plane landed safely, but the plane carrying eight people was struck about three kilometres from the airport.
Canada’s own aviation rules concerning drones say it’s illegal to fly a recreational drone within 5.5 kilometres of an airport and 1.8 kilometres from a heliport without special permission. Anyone who endangers the safety of an aircraft could face a $25,000 fine or prison time.
A report released in November by the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) found due to their rigid materials, drones that collide with large manned aircraft “can cause more structural damage than birds of the same weight for a given impact speed.”
In the report, testing showed the “stiffest components” including the motor, battery or payload can cause the most damage.
“They have hard pieces. They have lithium-ion batteries that can chew up an engine and potentially bring an airplane down,” Ganyard said.
Investigators are still searching for the operator of the drone.