Drone Sightings Data: The Truth About What the Reports Show

Drone sightings data is just that – it’s a sighting, not an accident.  Reporting rules, however, don’t differentiate between legal and unauthorized flights – and as legal commercial flights increase, that leaves a lot of question as to the connection between drone sightings and rogue or unauthorized drones.

That’s just one issue that Rupprecht’s report points out.  The detail is worth reading: but in summary, Rupprecht finds that drone sightings over time are decreasing, not increasing – and that they follow some very logical patterns.  There are more drone sightings in warmer weather, for example, and in populated areas rather than unpopulated areas.  Data reported by the FAA is inconsistent based on which report you read, says Rupprecht: and any conversation about drone sightings data should deal with actual numbers, not percentages or perceptions.

“Regardless of where you come from in the industry and your motives, we need to accurately understand the drone sightings data,” says Rupprecht.  When it comes to drone sightings data, Rupprecht points out that information needs to be clearer – and kept in perspective.

“Before any more laws are created to regulate drones, we need to step back and see if we really need them. Furthermore, they are just mere sightings which are not scrubbed for lawful flights,” Rupprecht points out. “The FAA has approved thousands and thousands of flights near airports. How many of the sightings are of lawful flights?”

“Moreover, when we compare the sightings data to the number of actual animal strikes that have happened against manned aircraft, it seems disproportionate to place so much emphasis on mitigating unmanned aircraft rather than mitigating for bird strikes and ground animal strikes. During the period of drone sightings I studied, we had 24 people injured from medium/large birds and animals hitting manned aircraft while 0 people were hurt due to a drone mid-air collision,” Rupprecht says.  “I’m not discounting the bad drones, just bringing them into proportion with the rest of the risks manned aircraft face.”


Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.


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