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Drone reports by airplane pilots nearly triple over 2014

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may have loosened up its drone rules, but it'll come down hard on any pilots caught operating them near manned aircraft. The agency said that drone sightings by commercial and private pilots are up nearly triple so far this year from all of 2014, with 275 sightings in June and July alone. One of the more notorious incidents involved a drone operating over a forest fire, forcing water-bomber pilots to the ground. That in turn caused the fire to spread to a freeway, burning several vehicles.

Earlier this year, the FAA made it easier to get commercial drone permits for things like filming, and models like DJI's Phantom 3 are some of the hottest commodities out there. The agency is educating pilots of those craft with its "Know Before You Fly" campaign, and is promoting the National Interagency Fire Center's similar "If You Fly, We Can't" drive.

If you think it's nearly impossible to catch a drone pilot, there's another drone for that.

The FAA brought out a stick, however. It said it's "working closely with the law enforcement community to identify and investigate unauthorized unmanned operations," adding it has "dozens of open enforcement cases." Meanwhile, California's fire service is offering a $75,000 reward for the drone pilots who stymied forest fire-fighting operations. And if you think it's nearly impossible to catch a drone pilot, there's another drone for that.

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